Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly April 13-19, 2015: Binh Thuan Residents Block National Road to Protest Environmental Pollution Caused by China-built Thermal Power Plant
Defenders’ Weekly | Apr 19, 2015
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On April 14, thousands of residents in Vinh Tan commune, Tuy Phong district in the central province of Binh Thuan blocked the national road No. 1 to protest the environmental pollution caused by the China-built thermal power plant.
On the same day, authorities in the central province of Phu Yen demolished Tuy An Cao Dai Church to clear field for constructing the national road No. 1A. The church belongs to Cao Dai Bao Thu Chon Truyen, an unregistered religious sect in the province.
On April 12, a group of five young people was detained by Hanoi police after participating in a peaceful demonstration in the city’s center to protest the massive chopping down 6,700 aged trees. They are members of the newly-established Republican Party of Vietnam.
The Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience voiced its support for the strike of workers in Ho Chi Minh City to demand amendments of the Social Insurance Law.
And other news.
FVPoC Supports Workers Who Held Strike to Protest Social Insurance Law
The Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience (FVPoC) has issued a statement to support the strike of nearly 90,000 workers of Ho Chi Minh City-based Pou Yuen on which the workers of the Taiwan-invested factory protested Article of the Social Insurance Law.
The FVPoC has called on other Vietnamese social organizations to support workers since they are most affected by the government policies.
EU Commission Urged to Carry Out Specific Human Rights Impact Assessment while Negotiates with Vietnam on Free Trade Agreement
EU Commission’s refusal to conduct a human rights impact assessment in the context of trade agreement negotiations constitutes maladministration, says EU Ombudsperson.
The Commission’s failure to carry out a specific human rights impact assessment, in relation to Vietnam, constitutes maladministration, she said.
The move was taken after the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its alliance Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) filled the complaint to challenge the EU Commission’s refusal to take human rights into account in negotiations for trade and investment agreements with Vietnam.
The Vietnam-EU negotiations on FTA are conducted on the same time with Vietnam’s intensifying crackdown against local political dissidents and human rights activists. Vietnam has arrested and imprisoned numerous activists and suppressed unsanctioned religious groups, according to the FIDH and VCHR.
In the documents they submitted for evaluation, FIDH and VCHR recalled that EU policies require that a Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) be conducted before a Free Trade Agreement can be signed. The European Commission has refused to conduct the obligatory HRIA with regards to Vietnam on the basis that a partial assessment was made in 2009.
The Ombudsperson responded that a partial assessment that covers only certain aspects of the impact on social rights cannot be considered as a proper substitute for a HRIA. Also, the Ombudsperson noted the persistent silence of the European Commission on the lack of HRIA for the investment component of the negotiated agreement and its Investor-state Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS). She rejected the Commission’s argument that, given the advanced state of the negotiation process, carrying out a HRIA would have “unjustifiably burdensome and disproportionate” effects. Noting that “respect for human rights cannot be made subject to considerations of mere convenience,” the EU Ombudsperson stated that “as the complainants correctly pointed out, what is decisive is […] to ensure that the FTA with Vietnam, which is still being negotiated, will have no negative impact on human rights.”
In her decision, the Ombudsperson concluded that the “EU institutions and bodies must always consider the compliance of their actions with fundamental rights and the possible impact of their actions on fundamental rights” and that the EU should “not only ensure that the envisaged agreements comply with existing human rights obligations and do not lower the existing standards of human rights protection, but it should also aim at furthering the cause of human rights in the partner countries.” In that vein, the Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) should allow the Commission to asses if the “FTA complies with existing human rights obligations and standards and will have no adverse effects on human rights” and to define the “appropriate measures which would ensure that no such adverse effects would occur.”
“This recommendation creates an important precedent regarding several issues,” said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President. “Beyond the case of EU-Vietnam negotiations, it challenges the lack of HRIA on ISDS (Investor-state Dispute Settlement) and investment agreements or components of trade agreements currently being negotiated, like with Burma, China, Jordan, and the US. It insists on the need to conduct proper HRIA and cease the practice of only assessing certain social aspects. It recognizes that HRIA should lead to concrete and efficient measures to ensure that the EU respects human rights, does not lower the existing standards of human rights protection, and ensures that trade and investment agreements will not adversely affect human rights. It rejects the Commission’s well-known argument that the human rights clause and human rights dialogue can be seen as sufficient measures on their own,” he added.
VCHR’s President Vo Van Ai declared: “The EU Ombudsman’s recommendation is an important step forward for human rights in Vietnam. Without this crucial human rights impact assessment, the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement would enable Vietnam to reap significant commercial advantages from the EU whilst suppressing its citizens’ and workers’ rights with impunity.”
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. At least 16 more were arrested or sentenced in 2014. Scores of civil society activists were brutally beaten for staging peaceful demonstrations, and hundreds of dispossessed farmers were wounded in massive protests over forced eviction and land confiscation.
Phu Yen Demolishes Tuy An Cao Dai Church for Building Road
Authorities in the central province of Phu Yen on April 14 demolished Tuy An Cao Dai Church to clear field for constructing the national road No. 1A.
The church belongs to Cao Dai Bao Thu Chon Truyen, an unregistered religious sect in the province.
Ms Nguyen Bach Phung, the sect leader, said in the morning of Tuesday, policemen and militia blocked the church and destroyed the church. The authorities paid compensation not to the church representatives but handed over the sum to state-controlled Cao Dai Church.
Authorities in a number of Vietnam’s localities have demolished religious facilities along with severely beating followers. They have also imprisoned a number of religious activists.
Five Members of Newly-established Republican Party Detained, The Founder Still under Arrest
After participating in a peaceful demonstration in Hanoi to protest the city’s plan to chop down 6,700 aged trees in the city’s main streets, five members of the newly-established Republican Party were summoned by Hoan Kiem district police.
After two days, Hanoi police released four members but still holds Nguyen Viet Dung, the party’s founder.
During the demonstration in the city’s center, Dung and his fellows were with black T-shirt with the logo of the Vietnam Republic’s Army which fought along the U.S.’s side during the Vietnam War.
So far, Mr. Dung’s family has received any written documents for his detention.
Vietnam Arrests Seven for Acid Attacking Policemen in Land Seizure in Long An
Police in Vietnam’s southern province of Long An have detained 14 members of three families and arrested seven of them for allegation of attacking policemen with acid in a land grabbing case, state media reported.
According to state-run newspapers, the provincial authorities on April 14 sent dozens of policemen to evict the three families out of their land for an embankment project. However, they met strong objection from the land owners who have not agreed to the proposed compensation of VND300,000 ($14) per square meter.
The farmers used gas cylinder and knifes to protect their land, and threw acid at policemen, burning 18 officers, one of officer had to seek treatment at the Ho Chi Minh City-based Cho Ray Hospital, according to the local authorities.
Two other policemen were also scratched in their arms allegedly by people attacking them with scissors, the local police said.
Demanding for higher compensation prices for their land, the three families have not agreed
The arrestees could face charges of fighting officials on duty, an official said, adding that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development approved the project several years ago, but locals refused to give up their lands due to the low compensation prices.
In Vietnam, all land is owned by the state and people only get the right to use land. The law allows the government to revoke these rights at any time, usually by paying compensation.
But it often triggers conflicts and sometimes even violence.
A gun battle by farmer Doan Van Vuon’s family in the northern city of Haiphong in January 2012 among other incidents prompted the government to issue a resolution this April that restricts local authorities in taking land from farmers.
It enjoins authorities to ensure farmers’ legitimate interests are protected if their land is taken over for national security and other public purposes.
Thousands of farmers across Vietnam have gathered in front of government buildings in the capital city of Hanoi to demand for justice as local authorities have grabbed their land for very cheap prices for developing industrial and urban projects.
Many said they have remained no land for crop cultivation while others claimed that they could not buy land for resettlement with the compensation they received for the evicted land.
Many Vietnamese have been charged on allegation of conducting activities against on-duty officials when they tried to protect their land. Numerous of them have been imprisoned up to three years.
Binh Thuan Residents Block National Road to Protest Pollution Caused by China-built Thermal Power Plant
On April 14, thousands of residents in Vinh Tan commune, Tuy Phong district in the central province of Binh Thuan took to street to protest a coal-fired power project invested by state utility Vietnam Electricity (EVN) that has caused severe pollution in the locality.
The villagers living in Tuy Phong district gathered to block a highway, causing a twenty-kilometer traffic jam for two days beginning on April 14, after dust from the 1,244-MW Vinh Tan 2 covered their homes.
The protesters said that their entire village of Vinh Tan was covered with dust, sparking fears about health conditions because the plant’s dust filter releases dust into the air every day.
Local people said that they wanted to draw attention from the central government over the air pollution and find a solution after the local authorities failed to force EVN to end the pollution since the operation of the plant six months ago.
Following the case, Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai demanded EVN to have immediate action to have solutions for the $1.3-billion plant.
During the two-day rally, local police came with an aim to disperse the crowd but they failed. Finally, EVN, the country’s sole power distributor, was forced to stop releasing dust in 10 days to ease the situation.
Vinh Tan 2 plant is built by China’s Shanghai Electric Group (SEC) under the engineering-procurement-construction (EPC) basis and, generating 7.2 billion kWh of electricity per year.
Saigon-based Redemptory’s Church Suspends Charity Program for Invalids of the Vietnam Republic Army
The Saigon-based Redemptory’s Church has decided not to host a charity program for invalids of the Vietnam Republic Army which fought along the U.S.’s side during the Vietnam War.
The move was taken due to the church’s problem, its leadership said without giving more details.
However, the program volunteers went to the invalids’ private houses and presented them with gifts.
The church called on people and organizations in the country and abroad to continue to donate for the invalids who have been ignored by the communist government since taking the Vietnam Republic in 1975.
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