Vietnam Activists Want Association to Address Public Complaints

vietnam-le-hien-duc-may-2013.jpg Le Hien Duc speaks to a reporter at her home in Hanoi, May 16, 2013.

A group of activists in Vietnam are moving to launch a nationwide association to help address public complaints against government land grabs, police brutality, and corruption among officials in the one-party Communist state.

The activists expressed their intention to form the Association for Victims of Injustice in an open letter to Interior Minister Nguyen Thai Binh and National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung on Dec. 31, asking for guidance and permission to operate.

They said if the minister did not respond to their request by March 2, they will go ahead and form the organization without official sanction.

The association will be aimed at helping victims of land disputes, people mistreated by police, relatives of those who died in custody, or others to file complaints against official government organs and seek redress for their grievances, they said.

Le Hien Duc, a prominent 84-year-old anti-corruption campaigner nominated to head the association, said Friday the group has received no response so far and was not optimistic about getting one.

“We are waiting for their acceptance of what we recommended but we don’t have much belief that will happen,” she told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

“But we’re acting in accordance with the law, since we sent a letter to the National Assembly and legal agencies, letting them know our recommendations,” she said.

Growing complaints

Duc, the recipient of an award from the global advocacy group Transparency International for her activism, has worked for years help the public file complaints with government offices on behalf of land grab victims and other petitioners.

A gray-haired retired schoolteacher, she has received requests from residents in all 63 of Vietnam’s provinces and municipalities to help fight official injustice.

Duc said there was a great need for the organization because of the increasing number of people finding themselves in the position of having to fight official injustice.

She said that with a growing volume of requests for her help, she was running out of room in her house to keep all the files she received from people asking for assistance in their cases.  

“It means that there are more victims of injustice,” she said, “This is because the [problem of] corruption is getting worse,” she said.

“Their complaints are only kicked from one level to another and in the end get nowhere. They are like balls kicked around, from one court to another,” she said.

Fighting injustices

Since announcing their plans for launching the association, the organization has received a flood of interest from people wanting to join it, activists said.

Trinh Kim Tien, who has campaigned for redress for the death of her father in a police station in Hanoi in 2011, said petitioners like her needed such an association to help avoid official intimidation they face when fighting for their grievances.

“Many victims don’t fight for their justice. Many families can’t afford it or don’t know the law,” she said.

“Others were intimidated and so they just accept what happened to them. So we need to have an association for them.”

Nguyen Thi Thanh Tuyen, who has campaigned for compensation for her husband’s death after she was told he committed suicide while in police custody, said it would be helpful for victims of injustice to work together and share their experiences.

“If our society had justice and the rule of law, then we wouldn’t need this association,” she said.

“But obviously there is increasing frustration among the people and nobody is addressing these problems,” she said.

Reported by An Nguyen and Mac Lam for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.


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