The U.S. ambassador to Vietnam on Tuesday expressed concern about recent reports of harassment and detentions of human rights advocates, including the recent arrest of a prominent rights advocate in the repressive Southeast Asian country.
Ambassador Ted Osius cited the Dec. 16 arrest of dissident lawyer and blogger Nguyen Van Dai on charges of conducting “propaganda against the state” and information that Hoang Duc Binh and Do Thi Minh Hanh and other peaceful labor rights activists had been assaulted by police in Ho Chi Minh City on Dec. 25 as part of a troubling trend.
“This disturbing trend, at this time, threatens to overshadow Vietnam’s progress on human rights in recent years,” he said in the media release. “I urge the Vietnamese government to investigate reports of these assaults immediately and to hold accountable any officials responsible.”
More than two dozen police officers took Dai, 46, into custody a week after masked assailants beat him and other activists in what he said was retaliation for educating members of the public about their human rights.
On Dec. 17, Bruno Angelet, head of the European Union delegation to Vietnam, joined ambassadors to Vietnam from EU member states in voicing “serious concern” over Dai’s arrest.
The U.S. also called on the Vietnamese government to ensure its laws and actions are consistent with its international obligations and commitments, unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience, and allow individuals in the country to express their political views without fear of retribution, the U.S. statement said.
Vietnam appears to have stalled on progress toward democracy and human rights despite joining the U.S. Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which activists hoped would improve broader human rights issues in the country.
Twelve Pacific Rim countries — Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S. and Vietnam— signed the TPP on Oct. 5, agreeing to lower tariffs and establish a dispute settlement mechanism for trade.