The Vietnam Interfaith Council has joined forces with four organizations representing overseas Vietnamese in a renewed call on Hanoi to respect its commitment to improving its human rights record.
The civil society organization fights for religious freedom in the country but is not recognized by the government.
It issued an open letter with the international groups on Tuesday, ahead of Saturday’s 74th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“According to domestic and international NGOs the human rights situation in Vietnam continues to deteriorate,” the letter said.
“Politically, the country remains a one-party system under the communist party, and the Vietnamese leadership has no intention of considering nor accepting any change to its authoritarian model.
“This situation leads to clear and concrete consequences for the people, specifically arbitrary detention, non-transparent and arbitrary death sentences, and measures that impede civil society’s activities.”
Vietnam Interfaith Council member Le Quang Hien is a senior official of the Pure Hoa Hao Buddhist Church. He told RFA the government needs to do more to uphold religious freedoms.
Pure Hoa Hao is not under State control, unlike the Hoa Hao Buddhist Church, which is permitted to hold religious ceremonies. As a result, he said the government of An Giang province – where the religion was founded – always prevents followers from attending Church events.
“The situation of human rights, as in previous years, is not respected, particularly for my religion. The Pure Hoa Hao Buddhist Church is always harassed,” he said.
As well as criticizing Vietnam’s failure to uphold freedom of religion the letter’s signatories called on the government to respect workers’ rights, saying the country has shown “great reluctance to facilitate the establishment of an independent union.” It called on authorities to ratify the International Labor Organization convention on Freedom of Association and the Protection of the Right to Organize.
The five organizations said Vietnam needs to do more to justify its admission to the United Nations Human Rights Council for its 2023-2025 term, ending their letter by calling on the government to:
“Fully respect and implement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the two International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
“Immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners held or convicted solely for peacefully expressing their views and positions; immediately end all repressive measures against individuals and organizations that exercise and protect fundamental freedoms such as speech, assembly, belief, association, etc.
“Accept the essential role of independent civil society organizations in areas such as religion, environment – climate change, union activism, and media; create conditions for civil society organizations to contribute to the development process of the country without being hindered or repressed.
Truong Minh Tri is chairman of the Canadian Association of Vietnamese People, one of the four overseas organizations that signed the statement. He said the international signatories represent the largest Vietnamese communities in the world and have the power to influence Hanoi.
“The overseas community wants to speak out to remind the public at home and abroad that Vietnam still commits serious human rights violations. We demand that Vietnam improves its human rights situation,” he told RFA.
“We also raise the issue of human rights to remind the world that Vietnam needs to be more deserving of being a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council.”
Tri said, in order for the Vietnamese government to improve its record, the overseas Vietnamese community needs to closely monitor the situation and lobby the government and politicians when it sees rights violations.