U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Viet Nam
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Viet Nam, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa1f2c.html [accessed 29 March 2015]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
VIETNAMThe Socialist Republic of Vietnam is a one-party state ruled and controlled by the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP). The VCP's constitutionally mandated leading role and the occupancy of all senior government positions by party members ensures the primacy of party Politburo guidelines. The National Assembly, chosen in elections in which all candidates are approved by the party, remains subservient to the VCP. The party reduced its formal involvement in government operations. The Government made progress in strengthening the capacity of the National Assembly and reforming the bureaucracy. Government-proposed legislation received wide press attention, and the National Assembly played a stronger role in that debate in 1997. The Assembly also was more active in revising legislation and vetting ministerial and other candidates for office. Government officials have more latitude in implementing policies than in previous years. The judiciary remains subservient to the VCP. The military services are responsible for external defense, including the border defense force. The military forces are assuming a more important role as the ultimate guarantor of internal security, as they seek to establish themselves in public education and campaigns against perceived threats to society. The Government continued to restrict significantly civil liberties on grounds of national security. The Ministry of Interior controls the police, a special national security investigative agency, and other units that maintain internal security. Under the control of the party and the Government, the Ministry enforces laws and regulations that significantly restrict individual liberties and violate other human rights. The Ministry of Interior maintains a system of household registration and block wardens to monitor the population, concentrating on those suspected of engaging, or being likely to engage, in unauthorized political activities. However, this system has became less obvious and pervasive in its intrusion into citizens' daily lives. Members of the security forces committed human rights abuses. Vietnam is a very poor country undergoing transition from a centrally planned to a more market-oriented economy. Agriculture, primarily rice cultivation, employs two-thirds of the work force and accounts for one-third of gross domestic product (GDP). The country has experienced rapid growth in many primary industries, including construction, petroleum, textiles, and light manufacturing. Exports, led by crude oil, rice, marine products, textiles, and foodstuffs, have increased sharply. Estimated annual GDP per capita is approximately $300. Particularly in urban areas, economic reforms have raised the standard of living and reduced party and government control over, and intrusion into, citizens' daily lives. Reforms have created a popular demand for social, legal, educational and physical improvements. The Government's human rights record continued to be poor. The Government continued to repress basic political and some religious freedoms and to commit numerous abuses. While the VCP moved to reform procedures and internal debate, the Government denied citizens the right to change their government. There were credible reports that security officials beat detainees. Prison conditions remain harsh. The Government arbitrarily arrested and detained citizens, including detention for peaceful expression of political and religious objections to government policies. The Government denied citizens the right to fair and expeditious trials and holds a number of political prisoners. The Government restricts significantly citizens' privacy rights, although the trend toward reduced government interference in citizens' daily lives continued. The Government significantly restricted freedom of speech, assembly, and association. The Government continued its longstanding policy of not tolerating most types of public dissent, although exceptions were made if they appeared to serve the interests of the party or the Government. The Government allowed citizens slightly greater freedom of expression and assembly to protest grievances. The Government prohibited independent political, labor, and other organizations; such organizations exist only under government control. The Government significantly restricts freedom of religion; it limits the operation of religious organizations to those entities approved by the State. Societal discrimination and violence against women remained problems. Trafficking in women and children for prostitution within the country and abroad grew, although the Government continued to combat the problem. Discrimination against ethnic minorities and child labor are problems. There were reports that certain prisons employed forced labor, sometimes as part of commercial ventures.