A lot has happened in Vietnam since bloggers took to the keys to write about human rights topics during Blog Action Day on October 16th. Unfortunately, Vietnam’s deteriorating human rights situation has only worsened in the three weeks following the event.
In mid-October, news surfaced of another hunger strike for imprisoned activist Cu Huy Ha Vu. Vu was on a 25-day hunger strike in June, protesting the actions of and treatment by prison officials. Vu began his second hunger strike after guards seized personal artwork from him, questioning its motives.
Only a few days later, on October 21st, the session for constitutional change opened in Vietnam. Parliament is expected to vote on proposed amendments to the current constitution between October 21st and November 30th. Several international groups and governments have urged Vietnam to strengthen human rights protections in the new constitution and eliminate the harmful loopholes that currently exist.
This session comes at a critical time as Vietnam seeks election to the UN Human Rights Council for 2014-2016 and continues negotiations with the United States over the Trans Pacific Partnership. If Vietnam does not heed international advice in considering human rights as a part of its constitution, it will make the case against cooperating with Vietnam for the TPP or a position on the UN Human Rights Council even stronger.
Policymakers in the United States and elsewhere raised concerns over the trial of Le Quoc Quan in early October, which led to a three-year sentence for “tax evasion.” Less than a month later, Dinh Nhat Uy received a 15-month suspended sentence for protesting on Facebook for the release of his younger brother from prison. Uy says he will appeal the court’s decision.
If that wasn’t enough for Vietnam, even this very Halloween week, activist Nguyen Lan Thang, who made a very popular video this fall about social media in Vietnam (see below), was detained. On October 30th, he was taken into custody at the airport (upon his return from participating in human rights dialogue in Bangkok) and was questioned by authorities. He was held until the following day.
Human Rights Watch reports 61 bloggers and activists imprisoned so far this year in Vietnam on the grounds of violating national security laws. That number is up from 40 in 2012 and has the possibility of rising exponentially in 2014. The only way to stop the number from growing is to keep watching and pressuring those who have evaded responsibility for it.
Vietnam’s Social Media video by Nguyen Lan Thang–
Human Rights Watch article on Dinh Nhat Uy– http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/10/28/vietnam-drop-charges-against-internet-activist