Police Suppression Tops List of Violations

A rights group says Vietnamese police increasingly used violence to stifle dissent in 2011.

2012-03-07
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police-305.jpg A policeman tries to stop a journalist from taking photos outside an activist's trial in Ho Chi Minh City, Aug. 10, 2011.
AFP

Vietnamese police violently suppressed protests in the worst human rights violations by the authorities in 2011, according to a new report released Wednesday by a rights watchdog.

The report, released by the California-based Vietnam Human Rights Network (VHRN), outlined a list of “violations” by the country of basic human rights according to standards set forth by several international treaties.

“The Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) 11th Congress reaffirmed that only the Party could lead Vietnam. So the Party made use of everything in its hands to reinforce its power [in 2011], and human rights are one of the areas that it suppressed,” said Nguyen Ba Tung, who chairs the organization’s coordinating committee.

“In many occasions, police resorted to violent approaches to suppress the legitimate aspirations of the people. That has become policy, and we call it a policy of ‘ruling by police,’” he said.

“It’s the worst [example of] human rights violations by the State of Vietnam last year.”

“More than ever before, the violent means of the police state apparatus have been strengthened and directed against the citizens,” the report said, in an effort to suppress protests against Chinese territorial claims, to restrain land petitioners’ gatherings, and to put down resistance to forced evictions.

Tung said the VCP increasingly suppressed the right of Vietnamese citizens to participate in all levels of the government in 2011, in contrary to a clause in the constitution that guarantees that right.

He also slammed the Vietnamese government for curtailing the people’s freedom of speech and assembly, pointing specifically to arrests of prominent bloggers who sought to publish their opinions.

Tung said the VHRN listed 163 political prisoners still jailed in Vietnam as of March this year, a number greater than that recognized by most other rights organizations.

He said the political prisoners included those who had used “unarmed” violence to defend themselves against the authorities and to protect human rights. The government had classified such prisoners as “terrorists.”

“Some other reports don’t accept those who resort to violence as prisoners of conscience, but as terrorists, while we think terrorism is totally different from the use of legitimate violence,” he said.

“Secondly, how can one know whether they are terrorists or they were simply labeled terrorists by the State?”

“When you use violence while unarmed and are sentenced to 20-30 years in prison, you cannot be labeled a terrorist. That’s why the number in our report is greater than others.”

More rights restrictions

The VHRN said in its report that despite being a member of the UN since 1977 and having signed on to several international human rights documents, the Vietnamese government continued to “crush” people’s basic and legitimate rights in 2011.

It said communist authorities in the one-party state monopolized information, intensified controls on the media, and hunted down those who dared to express views different from their own, or advocate for victims of abuse of power.

VHRN called the country’s parliamentary election in May last year “a means to legalize and embellish the dictatorship of the VPC,” which deems all political activities outside of its control “reactionary” and destroys them.

“Vietnam's legal system continued to be highly exploited as an essential means to protect the regime,” the group said, instead of acting independently and impartially to protect citizens against official misdeeds.

VHRN said that the communist party denied Vietnamese people religious freedom, the freedom to form trade unions, and land ownership rights in 2011.

It said that the government did nothing to fix the problem of human trafficking in the country and instead allowed the situation to worsen for export workers, foreign brides, and child sex slaves.

The group said “active intervention” on the part of the international community, foreign governments and international organizations concerned with human rights would lead to significant improvements in these areas.

Reported by Chan Nhu for RFA’s Vietnamese service. Translated by Viet Long. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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