THE TRUTH - JUSTICE - LOVE
VN Human Rights Bulletin
A Cooperative Project of NCVA and BPSOS
(French edition is at the end.)
Vietnam Human Rights Bulletin
A Cooperative Project of NCVA and Boat People S.O.S.
June 2012 Vol I, No 3
Australian Senate unites in support of Vietnam human rights
After years of venting their outrage in demonstration after demonstration against violations of human rights inVietnam, the overseas Vietnamese have recently found a way to mobilize their voices through the Internet. In February, for instance, Vietnamese Americans across the nation managed to gather nearly 150,000 signatures on a petition to the White House on the "We, the People" page of the White House website. This led to a meeting on March 5, 2012, in which representatives of the community could share with Assistant Deputy Secretary of State Michael Posner and White House officials their frustration at seeing no progress toward human rights in Vietnam.
This petition drive was so successful that Vietnamese in Australia and in Canada followed suit with their own petition drive. The one i nAustralia gathered over 55,000 signatures in two months, which led the Australian Senate on 21 June to pass unanimously a Motion that calls on the Government to improveAustralia's human rights dialogue withVietnam.
The Motion, moved by Queensland Labor Party Senator Mark Furner and Queensland National Party Senator Ron Boswell, states:
"I give notice that on the next day of sitting Senator Mark Furner and myself, Senator Ron Boswell, will move-That the Senate:
(a) notes that:
(i) since 2002, Australia and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) have held nine rounds of the Australia-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue, and
(ii) the Australian Government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, considers the improvements in human rights in SRV `a high priority of the Australian government'; and
(b) calls on the Australian Government to:
(i) encourage the Minister for Foreign Affairs to ensure parliamentary supervision of the Australia-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue by appointing Members to take part in the Dialogue,
(ii) encourage more active community awareness of the work of the Dialogue,
(iii) ensure Australia's overseas development aid to SRV includes a focus on promoting human rights, and
(iv) improve the effectiveness of the initiative by encouraging a more whole of government approach.
"It's rare to get both sides of government to agree on something. It goes to show Australia's strong commitment to human rights and to the strong and brave people of Vietnam," Senator Boswell said.
June 26: International Day in Support of Torture Victims
June 26 of each year is "International Day in Support of Torture Victims." It marks the anniversary of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, also known as CAT.
CAT came into force on 26 June 1987. So far 147 countries have become parties to this UN convention.
In late 2010, on the occasion of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit,Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung requestedUSassistance to prepare his government to sign and ratify CAT.
In recent yearsVietnamhas witnessed increased use of violence and torture by the public security police against citizens and prisoners, including political prisoners.
Through interviews with former political prisoners who have managed to escape from Vietnam, advocates against torture have collected growing evidence of the scope and types of torture used in Vietnam's police stations, detention centers, and prisons.
Despite threats of reprisal, a growing number of Vietnamese victims have spoken out against torture.
"The police hung me to the ceiling beam of the interrogation room. They stripped me naked and took turn hitting my chest and head. They then applied electric shocks to my vagina until I went unconscious." Ms. Tran Thi The, September 2011.
"They took a wooden stick, the size of my arm, and hit me nonstop. They hit me at the waist. They took out a pair of metal handcuffs, made me spread out my ten fingers on the table, and smashed them with the handcuffs. They then told me, 'We haven't applied to you the tricks of the [criminal] underworld yet, otherwise in the next three days, your fingernails will fall off.' At that moment I was so much in pain that I passed out." Ms. Phan Thi Nhan, September 2011.
Testimonies of victims on youtube:
Bishop's Office protests violence against Catholics in Vinh Diocese
In an official letter to the People's Committee of Vinh Province, the Catholic Bishop's Office of Xa Doai, Vinh Diocese, protested "the many regrettable conflicts between the government and the Catholics in the districts located in the western part of Nghe An Province." The letter dated June 16 calls on the government to investigate violent beatings against Catholics while highlighting consistent efforts by the provincial and local governments since 1999 to hinder the formation of a Catholic parish inChauBinhVillage, Quy Chau District.
According to a report posted on the Diocese's website, in the morning of June 11, 2012, the local government sent public security agents from Quy Chau District andChauBinhVillagealong with approximately 50 government-supported vigilantes to disrupt a religious event organized by local Catholics. The attackers prevented a Holy Mass that was to have taken place at the house of Mr. Nguyen Van Vi. The attackers turned off power to the house and threw rotten eggs at the area where Mass was to be celebrated. The two attending priests had to call off the religious ceremony and leave.
Along with the public security agents and vigilantes, the local chair of the Fatherland Front and the local chair of the Women'sUnionwere also present at the scene.
A number of attackers showed up later at the homes of some participants and beat them badly, causing severe injuries to at least five people: Mr. Tran Van Luong, his wife Mrs. Tran Thi Ru, Mr. Tran Van Phi, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Thoan, and Mr. Vi Van Anh.
Since 1999, the Catholics in Chau Binh village have petitioned the provincial authorities for the formation of a parish but to no avail. In the meantime, this community of some 120 Catholics conducts prayers at the homes of members.
"In light of Article 17 of the Ordinance on Belief and Religion, we do not understand the reason why the authorities deny the request of these Catholics and their priests," wrote Rev. Nguyen Van Huong, the Vinh Diocese Bishop's Chief of Staff.
The Ordinance on Belief and Religion, issued in 2004, allows a legally recognized religious institution to establish an affiliated entity.
Apparently the June 11 incident is in line with the official communique 03/UBND-NV dated June 4, 2012 of the People's Committee of Quy Chau District: "...instructing the Chair of the People's Committee of Chau Binh Village not to allow anyone to organize religious activities in the district without approval by the person with appropriate authority."
The diocese's communication emphasized that the local authorities' action was a serious breach of the law and a violation of the right to freedom of religion.
The government's recent attack against Catholics in Quỳ Châu is the second incident of religious suppression in Vinh Diocese. On November 13, 2011, local authorities in Con Cuong ordered public security agents and vigilantes working for them to disrupt Mass in Con Cuong by yelling, throwing rocks at the chapel, and attacking churchgoers with tear gas while Mass was being celebrated. Public security agents even used home-made bombs that damaged the chapel at Con Cuong in the night of November 30, 2011.
Vietnamese Government Targets Hmong Christians
Information has been emerging in recent months about a particularly harsh crackdown on Hmong Christians by Vietnamese security forces in Muong Nhe district, Dien Bien Province, in May 2011. The incident began with an attempt by several thousand Hmong Christians to demand that the government return their ancestral lands that had been confiscated without appropriate compensation and allow them to practice their religion freely.
According to eyewitness testimonies gathered from refugees from the incident, starting on or about March 25, 2011, news that there would be a gathering began to spread in several Vietnamese provinces, including Dien Bien; Lai Chau; Son La; Lao Cai; Yen Bai; Ha Giang; Cao Bang; Dak Lak; Dak Nong; Binh Phuoc; and Lam Dong.
"On April 30, 2011, thousands of Hmong began to gather nearHuoiKhonVillagein Muong Nhe district of Dien Bien." (Human Rights Watch, 17 May 2011). This date and location have been confirmed by Hmong Vietnamese asylum seekers.
On May 2, 2011 local government officials arrived. Authorities spoke to individual protestors, asking for the reasons behind their protest. They demanded the protestors' identification cards and papers, with the promise that their demands would be taken into consideration. The police, government officials, and/or military personnel recorded the information they had requested from the applicants, but on 2 May 2011 military and police presence at the site was still minimal, probably no more than 40-50 individuals.
On May 4, 2011, two helicopters arrived at the area where the Hmong were gathered. The first helicopter broadcast a warning - some of the refugees said the announcement was in the voice of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung -- ordering the Hmong to leave. The second helicopter started spreading a colored powder or liquid over the area where the Hmong had gathered. This unknown substance is believed by some of the participants to have resulted in the deaths of two Hmong children and an elderly Hmong woman who had eaten rice cooked with the infected water. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) report confirmed that "[o]n May 4 and 5, Vietnamese military troops and helicopters moved in to suppress the assembled people." (HRW May 17, 2011).
The Hmong asylum seekers also reported that May 4 and 5, 2011 an increase in the presence of Vietnamese armed forces, estimated at "over a hundred" on 3 May and "over a thousand" the next day. An official proclaimed that the Hmong people should go home because there were about 10,000 armed personnel surrounding the area.
On May 6, 2011, Vietnamese military troops began to use force to disperse the crowd. Several eyewitnesses recall that batons, short guns, and long AK guns were used. There have been varying reports from news outlets and non-governmental organizations of the number of injuries and deaths. Hmong asylum seekers confirmed that many deaths and injuries resulted from the clash between Vietnamese armed forces and Hmong gatherers.
Many of the participants managed to escape and to return to their homes. However, it appears that the identification records collected by government officials were later used to track and arrest protestors, including many who had returned to their home villages in other provinces. A number of the asylum seekers report that security officials came looking for them in their villages and that the security forces did arrest other participants in the May gathering, as well as their associates and family members.
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