August 11, 2014
August 4 – August 10 Defender’s Weekly: Ho Chi Minh City Police Strive to Halt Meeting of Civil Societies
Defend the Defenders | 11/8/2014
Independent Journalist Pham Chi Dung Summoned Several Times by Ho Chi Minh City Police
One day prior to a regular meeting of the Independent Journalist Association of Vietnam scheduled on Aug 4, the Security Investigation Agency of the Ho Chi Minh City police sent a request to summon Pham Chi Dung, co-founder of the newly-established association, to work on issues of his online posts on the morning of Monday. However, Mr. Dung refused, arguing he is busy with family affairs.
On the afternoon of Aug 4, the police continued to send the second summon request to Mr. Dung with the same purpose.
Defend the Defenders: Nhà báo Phạm Chí Dũng bị triệu tập hai lần liên tục
Blogger Me Nam- Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh and Her Son Detained
On the afternoon of Aug 4, blogger Me Nam- Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh and her 18-month-old son were detained by Khanh Hoa province’s police when they were walking in street of Nha Trang city.
Earlier, at 3.00 pm, the local police sent a letter to summon her to a police station at 4.00 pm to work on Facebook writings with “bad content.”
The mother and the son were illegally held by Khanh Hoa’s police.
Representative of the Vietnamese Women for Human Rights Association Visit Hmong People in Tuyen Quang
On Aug 3-4, Huynh Thuc Vy, a representative of the Vietnamese Women for Human Rights Association visited Hmong ethnic people in the northernmost province of Tuyen Quang. This is the first visit of a representatives of the association since the last visit of Nguyen Ngoc Lua and Huynh Phuong Ngoc in May which aimed to observe an appeal trial of three Hmong people named Ly Van Dinh, Duong Van Tu and Thao Quan Mua.
Passing hundreds of kilometers of mountainous routes, Mrs. Vy visited families of the three prisoners of conscience. Her trip was closely monitored by security forces.
Dinh, Tu, Mua and Hoang Van Sang are jailed as they protested local authorities to protect their belief. The imprisoned trio encouraged Hmong people to abandon bad and unhygienic funeral habits which are also costly.
Duong Van Minh, a founder of modern religion, was sentenced with a five-year imprisonment. He is under medical treatment for kidney failure in Saigon as hospitals in Hanoi and other northern province refused to provide medical services for him.
Lao Dong Viet- Independent Labor Trade Union Goes Publicized in Saigon
On Aug 5, at a Justice and Peace office in the Saigon-based Ky Dong Redemptory’s Church, nearly 40 representatives of local civil societies held the third meeting on which the Lao Dong Viet (Viet Labor), an independent labor trade union, officially declared its existence with Vietnam’s public, with duties to protect workers’ rights and interests.
The Lao Dong Viet was established six years ago but its existence is still unpopular for Vietnamese workers.
A number of social activists couldn’t take part in the meeting due to local police’s blockage, , including Dr. Pham Chi Dung from the Independent Journalist Association of Vietnam, former political prisoners Pham Ba Hai and Nguyen Bac Truyen, representatives of Cao Dai and Protestant as well as Nguyen Nu Phuong Dung, a member of the Vietnam Path.
Con đường Việt Nam: SÀI GÒN HỌP MẶT CÁC TỔ CHỨC XHDS – CÔNG BỐ TUYÊN CÁO CỦA LAO ĐỘNG VIỆT
Discussion on Removal of Lethal Weapon Embargo Imposed on Vietnam Warmed in U.S.
Senator Bob Corker, a ranking member of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations, informed that Washington is considering lifting a ban on lethal weaponry imposed on Vietnam.
The U.S. senior senator unrevealed the news at a meeting in Hanoi on Aug 4 with Vietnamese Deputy Defense Minister Senior Lieutenant General Truong Quang Khanh.
The U.S. lawmaker made his first visit to Vietnam. He continued his ASEAN tour to stop in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Lao Dong Viet Asks Puma and Asics to Solve Labor Disputes with Diamond
On Aug 6, the Lao Dong Viet (Viet Labor), a newly-established independent labor trade union, sent its letter to Puma and Asics asking the two companies to involve in settling labor disputes with Diamond to demand the latest not to fire workers and pay reasonable compensations.
Earlier, in late July, Diamond, contract of Puma and Asics, issued an announcement to fire 138 workers without eligible reasons. The fired workers called the Lao Dong Viet to help them.
After receiving emails from the Lao Dong Viet, Dr. Reiner Hengstmann, Puma’s executive on Safety responded that the company is launching investigation on the case while Lillian Tseng, an official from Asics pledged to open investigation to bring justice for the fired workers.
Lao động Việt: Lao Động Việt yêu cầu Puma và Asics can thiệp với Diamond
Lao Dong Viet: VL asks Puma and Asics to intervene in Diamond case
Son of Social Activist Bui Thi Minh Hang Arrives in U.S. to Promote Her Release
Mr. Tran Bui Trung, a son of a social activist and land rights advocate, arrived in Los Angeles to start his campaign to promote her unconditional release. He plans to ask the U.S. Congress to give pressure on Vietnam’s communist government on the issue.
Mrs. Hang is a social activist who regularly participated in anti-China protests in the 2011-2014 period. She was arrested together with two other friends in late February this year and is scheduled to go to trial on Aug 26 on charge of conducting social disorder activities which are fabricated by police in the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap.
Blog Đoan Trang: Đi tìm công lý cho mẹ
Hanoi Asks U.S. Congress to Support Vietnam’s Membership in TPP
Vietnamese President urged the U.S. Congress to promote bilateral ties on economics, trade and investment at a meeting in Hanoi on Aug 5 with Bob Corker, a ranking member of the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, who was on his official visit to the communist nation.
Vietnam is determined to conclude negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and hopes that the U.S. will create favorable conditions to design a suitable roadmap for the deal, the president said.
He urged the U.S. to support Vietnam’s stance on the East Sea issues.
Vietnam is ready to discuss with Washington on issues that the two sides have different views of in order to strengthen the two countries’ comprehensive partnership, he noted.
Lao Dong Viet Campaign Publicizes First Statement
On Aug 5, Do Thi Minh Hanh represented the Lao Dong Viet (Viet Labor) to publicize its first statement to reaffirm to continue its activities to build and develop independent trade unions in Vietnam, request unconditional and immediate release of Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung, Doan Huy Chuong and other prisoners of conscience.
The Lao Dong Viet is a member of the Free Federation of Lao Dong Viet which was established on Jan 17 this year in Thailand. The latter consists of the Vietnam Independent Trade Union, the Lao Dong Viet Campaign, and the Committee for Protection of Vietnam Workers.
Dân làm báo: Lao Động Việt công khai ra tuyên cáo tại Việt Nam
Vietnam Petrol Price Sees Sharpest Year-to-date Fall, by 1.98%
Petrolimex, Vietnam’s biggest fuel distributor, on Aug 7 cut the retail price of gasoline for the second time this year by VND500 (2.36 U.S. cents) or 1.98% a liter, but the current price remains VND500 higher than the level at the beginning of the year.
This has been the sharpest petrol price reduction since early 2014 and the second cut over the past ten days. The petrol price was lowered by VND330 or 1.29% a liter on July 28.
Accordingly, the price of 92-octane gasoline is now sold at VND24,810 ($1.16) a liter, down from VND25,310.
Petrolimex also slashed the retail prices of diesel oil and kerosene by VND160 and VND140 a liter to VND22,170 and VND22,320. A price cut of VND70 a liter is also applied for fuel oil with a content of 3.5S and 380, not for 3.0S grade.
Other firms also announced fuel price reductions following Petrolimex. The move followed a request from the ministries of Industry and Trade and Finance, which attributed the price cuts to a drop in global oil prices, especially in Singapore.
The ministries asked local fuel firms to reduce the money they can get from the price stabilization fund to VND300 per liter from VND600.
Within 30 days, from July 8 to Aug. 6, prices of 92-octane gasoline fell and fluctuated at around $116.8 per barrel. Diesel and kerosene also fell to $118 per barrel in Singapore.
It is the first time Petrolimex reduced fuel prices twice within ten days. Is the company’s intention to share difficulties with local consumers or the price reduction is driven just by price decrease in the global market?
It cannot make a conclusion that PetroVietnam reduced prices of fuel due to the reduction of fuel prices in the global market, since the paradox existed many times in the past as fuel prices increased despite price reduction in foreign countries. The continuous increase of fuel prices in Vietnam has made prices of other good rise sharply.
Maybe the fuel price reduction of Petrolimex is driven by recent criticism against the monopoly of some state-owned companies, including Petrolimex and Electricity of Vietnam Group (EVN).
U.S. Senators John McCain, Sheldon Whitehouse Visit Vietnam on Aug 7-9
U.S. Senators John McCain, Sheldon Whitehouse visited Vietnam on Aug 7-9 in a bid to strengthen the two countries’ comprehensive partnership.
Their trip focused on security, trade and human rights issues between the two nations as well as regional situation.
Their visit is among a series of the visits of officials from the two countries amid tensions in the East Sea where China is conducting numerous aggressive moves which violate Vietnam’s sovereignty.
Ms. Do Thi Minh Hanh joins the Vietnam Association of Former Prisoners of Conscience
On Aug 8, former political prisoner Do Thi Minh Hanh joined the Vietnam Association of Former Prisoners of Conscience.
Ms. Hanh was released on June 26 after spending four years in prison. She was arrested in 2010 and sentenced with a seven-year imprisonment for assisting local workers in a Chinese-invested apparel factory in Vietnam’s southern province of Tra Vinh to ask for higher salary and better working conditions. She, together with co-partners Doan Huy Chuong and Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung, was accused of “causing social disorders which aim to undermine the people’s government” under Article 89 of the Criminal Code.
The Vietnam Association of Former Prisoners of Conscience currently has 91 members, including 61 founding members. It was established on Feb 18 this year to protect jailed political dissidents as well as former prisoners of conscience.
Vietnam Should Improve Human Rights Before U.S. Arms Ban Removal: McCain
Vietnam should improve its human rights situation if it wants the U.S. to lift the lethal weapon embargo, said Senator John McCain.
Senator McCain, who visited Vietnam on Aug 7-11 in companion with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, said it is time for the U.S. to begin easing the lethal weapon embargo on Vietnam, however, this should not, and will not happen all at once, but should be limited at first to those defensive capacities purely for external security, such as coast guard and maritime systems.
However, the U.S. arms export to Vietnam will depend on additional action by Vietnam on human rights, said Senator McCain, who is a former prisoner during the Vietnam War.
Vietnam has made positive steps to improve its human rights, including signing the Convention Against Torture and registering more places of worship, however, there is more to be done for its stability, prosperity and success, said the pilot who spent five years in Vietnam’s prison between 1967 and 1973.
“It is our hope that Vietnam will translate these remarkable words into bold actions, such as releasing prisoners of conscience, creating space for civil society, and ultimately by making it clear in law and policy that state power is limited and universal human rights – the freedom to speak, associate, worship, publish, and access information – are protected for all citizens,” he said.
He expressed his hope that the U.S. and Vietnam will build a strategic partnership based on common goals and shared values in the near future.
The U.S. is ready to conclude a high-standard Trans-Pacific Partnership with Vietnam as a full partner, said Senator McCain.
Washington is ready to increase its military cooperation and ship visits as much as Vietnam permits, he said, adding that his country has not sought to establish military bases in Vietnam.
The U.S. is willing to increase its security assistance to help Vietnam improve its maritime domain awareness and build its capacity to defend its sovereign rights, he added.
During their stay in Vietnam, Senators McCain and Whitehouse met with Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh as well as communist leader General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, who affirmed that Vietnam considers the U.S. a leading important partner.
Vietnam Opposes Aussie Gag Order Regarding Polymer Bribery Scandal
The Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has handed over a diplomatic note to the Australian ambassador in Hanoi to oppose a censorship order by the Australian Supreme Court regarding a multi-million dollar bribery case involving several foreign political leaders, including those from Vietnam.
The gag order has harmed the personal dignity of Vietnamese leaders and the Southeast Asian country’s image, the ministry said in a statement posted on its website on Aug 8.
In the statement, the ministry added that Vietnam demanded a serious explanation of the order and to report the case openly for the public to access the truth.
The Australian Embassy in Hanoi confirmed the receipt of the note, saying that the Australian government would seriously examine the matter.
The case is now at the eye of a political storm as the gag order dated July 17 prohibits the naming of 17 prime ministers, presidents and other senior officials in Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam in connection with the case in order to prevent damage to Australia’s international relations.
President Truong Tan Sang and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung are on the list.
The case concerns allegations of multi-million dollar briberies made by agents of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) subsidiaries Securency and Note Printing Australia in the early 2000s to secure contracts to supply Australian-style polymer banknotes to the governments of Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries.
In Vietnam, the CFTD Technologies Co. Ltd was authorized by the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV), the country’s central bank, to print polymer banknotes under a government’s plan to replace all paper notes in 2002.
The incident attracted public attention after it was found that CFTD at the time employed Le Duc Minh for two months. Minh is the son of Le Duc Thuy, who was the SBV governor during the 1999-2007 period.
Vietnam started to switch to using polymer notes from 2003, since then several currency-related scandals broke including blurred polymer, tainted banknotes and fake ones.
FIDH and VCHR Submit a Complaint to EU Ombudsperson
FIDH and its member organization VCHR have submitted a complaint to the EU Ombudsperson, asking her to address the European Commission’s refusal to take human rights into account in negotiations for trade and investment agreements with Vietnam.
Negotiations on the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement are taking place against a backdrop of intensifying repression in Vietnam. In a fierce crackdown on freedom of expression, Vietnam prosecuted and imprisoned at least 65 bloggers and activists in 2013, and at least 14 more have been arrested in the first half of 2014. Scores of civil society activists were brutally beaten for staging peaceful demonstrations or holding human rights debates. Hundreds of dispossessed farmers were wounded and several others killed in massive protests over forced eviction and land confiscation.
“It is inadmissible that the Commission is negotiating a Free Trade Agreement without any regard for human rights in Vietnam. Over the past year, human rights abuses have reached a climax. Top EU officials have repeatedly denounced the harsh sentences of bloggers and human rights defenders, yet the Commission proposes “business as usual” – and even upgrading trade relations with Vietnam, said FIDH and VCHR.
The two human rights bodies called on the Ombudsperson to address this and to help put human rights back at the centre of the EU-Vietnam relationship, said VCHR President Vo Van Ai.
Trade and investment agreements have the potential to exacerbate human rights violations in the context of labor rights, access to land and natural resources or when recourse mechanisms are designed to protect investors and not affected communities.
“These human rights violations can be prevented by conducting human rights impact assessments and by including safeguards in trade and investment agreements that address violations and offer redress mechanisms”, said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. “We believe that the European Commission’s refusal to carry out human rights impact assessments (HRIAs) is inconsistent with its legal obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights”, he added.
Despite numerous calls by FIDH and VCHR and a resolution of the European Parliament for the European Commission to include HRIAs in the ongoing trade and investment negotiations with Vietnam, the EU Commissioner for Trade stated that the Commission did not “envisage carrying out a specific human rights impact assessment for the EU-Vietnam FTA”. FIDH and VCHR believe that the European Commission’s refusal constitutes a case of maladministration. The two organizations urge the EU Ombudsperson to address the situation and recommend that the European Commission review it.
Summary by Nguyen Thanh Thuy
Translation by [rollinglinks]Vu Quoc Ngu[/rollinglinks]