Even as the United States and Vietnam cooperate to expand the scope and depth of their relations, concerns remain over a lack of progress on human rights issues in the Southeast Asian nation. The government continues to use vaguely worded national security laws to intimidate and in many cases imprison peaceful activists. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top U.S. officials have stressed repeatedly that significant improvement is needed to build closer relations between our two countries.
These issues were again highlighted by the recent sentencing of a high school teacher in Vietnam’s Central Highlands region to six years in prison on charges that he produced anti-government propaganda. Dinh Dang Dinh, 49 years old, was arrested in October 2011 and has been in police custody ever since.
Mr. Dinh had written articles questioning the government-supported development of a bauxite mine in an environmentally sensitive area of the Central Highlands. He was questioned by authorities and his laptop computer was found to have hundreds of pages of what authorities labeled “anti-state” content. The articles allegedly rejected the communist party of Vietnam and the ethics of the state’s founder, Ho Chi Minh.
The United States is concerned about the sentencing of Mr. Dinh Dang Dinh and the suppression of political speech. The peaceful expression of political views is protected under international law, including treaties to which Vietnam is a party. We urge Vietnam to respect freedom of expression for all of its citizens, including the freedom to express political opinions and to criticize their own government.