Vietnam’s relations with the United States have improved dramatically in the past few years, but a key problem remains: human rights. Vietnam continues to arrest people for peacefully exercising their right to free expression. This suppression of basic freedoms brands Vietnam a human rights violator in the eyes of the international community, and undermines the country’s progress in opening to the world, including to the United States.
Recent dissident cases in Vietnam highlight this problem. On November 27, a court rejected appeals to release jailed human rights lawyers Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan. The pair were arrested in March and charged with “spreading propaganda.” Mr. Dai had conducted human rights training seminars in Hanoi, documented land rights grievances by rural petitioners, and helped launch a democracy newsletter. Ms. Nhan was spokeswoman for the Vietnam Progression Party, one of several opposition parties that appeared in 2006 when the Vietnamese government temporarily eased restrictions on freedom of expression. For these activities, their prison terms were reduced to four and three years respectively.
A series of arrests on November 17 of Vietnamese, U.S., French, and Thai citizens, reportedly for distributing leaflets on how to organize peaceful demonstrations, provides another example of Vietnam’s deviation from international standards on human rights.