Last Updated: Thursday, 30 October 2014, 14:31 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Vietnam

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1994
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Vietnam, 30 January 1994, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa54c.html [accessed 30 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
VIETNAM

 

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) is a one-party state ruled by the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP). A 13-member Politburo and a Party Central Committee are nominally elected by a party congress held about every 5 years. The Politburo provides guidelines, often in the form of specific directives, that shape government policies. Despite the adoption of a new Constitution in 1992 that provides for the rule of law and respect for human rights, in practice the Government continued to restrict individual rights on national security and other grounds. In addition, the Constitution contains references to "democratic centralism" and "the leading role of the Communist Party" that have been used to justify limits on civil liberties.

In addition to the military and police force, Vietnamese security forces monitor internal movements and activities of the general population. The Ministry of Interior has units that monitor persons suspected of involvement in political or religious affairs. Also, government surveillance through informants, household registration, and party-appointed block wardens continued in 1993.

The Government continued the market-oriented economic reforms begun in 1986. These reforms have boosted Vietnam's predominantly agricultural economy and improved the lives of Vietnamese citizens. Goods and services are more widely available, and the general population is freer to engage in entrepreneurial activity.

Although some senior SRV officials have publicly asserted the profound commitment of the Vietnamese people and State to the cause of human rights, the Government continued to violate human rights in 1993. The authorities continued to limit severely freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association, as well as worker rights and the right of citizens to change their government. The Government continued its longstanding practice of not tolerating dissent and reacted sharply to efforts by Buddhist activists to assert their independence from the government-sponsored Buddhist church. However, restrictions on travel eased, and contact with foreigners is more widely accepted. There appears to be increasing separation between the party and the State.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

In 1993 there were no known executions of political prisoners or politically motivated extrajudicial killings. There were also no known cases of deaths of political prisoners while in detention in 1993.

b. Disappearance

There were no documented incidents of political abductions by government security organizations or by antigovernment forces.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits physical abuse, and released reeducation camp detainees report that camp conditions have improved since 1989. Although there were no credible, consistent reports of police brutality during interrogation of suspects, reports of severe conditions for those confined in prisons continued. There have been reports of coercion to elicit confessions. After their release in 1993, American citizens held on political grounds reported that they were threatened with violence several times in attempts to coerce confessions, although they were not actually beaten.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

In 1993 Vietnam continued to arrest and imprison people arbitrarily. The 1989 Criminal Procedure Code and subsequent amendments provide for various rights for detainees, including time limits on pretrial detention, the right of the accused to be informed of the charges against him or her, a ban on coercion or corporal punishment, and the right to have a lawyer present during interrogation. In practice, however, the authorities frequently ignore these safeguards. Credible reports indicate that detainees continue to be held incommunicado for indefinite periods without formal charges, with authorities using old administrative procedures in contravention of the new legislation. The retention and continued use of these administrative procedures appear to be a deliberate government policy.

The Government continued its efforts to implement Party Directive 135, which calls for the arrest of those who incite opposition to the Government or advocate political pluralism. Some intellectuals, clergy, journalists, and foreigners have been arrested and detained. For example, Doan Viet Hoat, a scholar who before 1975 had been Vice President of the Van Hanh Buddhist University in Saigon and had been incarcerated in Chi Hoa prison from 1976 to 1988, was rearrested in 1990 and in March 1993 was sentenced to 20 years for counterrevolutionary activity, apparently related to the "Freedom Forum" case. Dr. Hoat is said to be in poor health. In July the local press reported that an Appeals Court had reduced his sentence to 15 years.

According to reputable international nongovernmental organizations (NGO's), Doan Thanh Liem is currently serving a 12-year labor camp sentence after being convicted of spreading anti-Socialist propaganda. Truong Hung Thai, arrested with Liem, continues to serve an 8-year sentence. Do Ngoc Long, also arrested in April 1990, was never tried and was released from prison in April 1993 after serving an 3-year administrative sentence. Nguyen Dan Que, sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment in 1991, was recently transferred to a labor camp in Dong Nai Province; he is reportedly in poor health.

Legislation designed ostensibly to prevent inordinate delays in charging suspects is often, if not routinely, ignored in political cases. In April and May 1992, two American citizens of Vietnamese origin were arrested along with numerous Vietnamese for attempting to organize two separate political movements. Both were held until 1993 without ever being formally charged with a crime.

No official statistics are available on the number of detainees held for alleged antigovernment activities, and an accurate account is impossible since arrests are not publicized and secret detentions, trials, and sentencing are common.

In June 1993, American citizen Nguyen Sy Binh, arrested in April 1992 for training members of the "Peoples' Action Party", a group he founded, was released from custody and deported. On November 11, four Catholic priests and brothers of the Coredemptrix order were released from prison in Vietnam. Reverend John Doan Phu Xuan, Reverend Hilary Do Tri Tam, Brother Luke Vu Son Ha, and Brother Mark Tran Khac Kinh were all freed before the expiration of their sentences.

Search and arrest warrants are provided for in law, but they can be issued by branches of the security apparatus without judicial review. Law enforcement and security personnel appear to be able to arrest and incarcerate people without presenting warrants for their arrest. Each province and city has a "security committee" under direct party control. This committee includes both central and local security officials and does not coordinate its activities with the judicial process.

Exile is not used as a means of political control.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Vietnamese court system consists of local people's courts, military tribunals, and the Supreme Court. The last may review cases from either of the lower courts. Both the National Assembly and State Council have the authority to establish special tribunals which may be superior to the Supreme Court. In addition, local mass organizations are empowered to deal with minor breaches of law or disputes. Judges in all regular courts are appointed after the party organization selects all candidates. Article 130 of the Constitution provides for the "independence" of judges and jurors. However, this is negated at all levels by a political system that is closely controlled by the VCP and by a selection process that puts a premium on political reliability.

The Penal Code consists of the Criminal Code and a Criminal Procedures Code, which was amended in 1990. Vietnam has a long-established body of family law but lacks civil law codes. There is virtually no evidence that legislative improvements promulgated in 1990 have been implemented.

Prison sentences are frequently imposed by administrative procedure, without benefit of due process or judicial review. In addition, such sentences are imposed on persons for the peaceful expression of their views. The SRV criminalizes certain forms of peaceful expression, including, for example, "anti-Socialist propaganda." Over the years people have been sentenced to long prison or reeducation camp terms for such "crimes." For example, after a demonstration in May by approximately 300 Buddhists, including monks, several Buddhist monks were arrested for inciting antigovernment unrest. The Government tried four of the monks in November, and the court announced sentences ranging from 6 months to 4 years in prison.

Accurate statistics on the total prison population, including pretrial detainees, political prisoners, and persons held arbitrarily are not available due to the secrecy surrounding these procedures.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

In 1993 the Government continued to operate a nationwide system of surveillance and control through household registration and party-appointed block wardens who use informants to keep track of individual activities. In general, reports suggest that the system is unevenly implemented throughout the country and that local caprice and corruption are significant factors in its application. Urban dwellers appear to be increasingly relaxed about sending mail overseas and meeting foreign visitors. It appears that the Government is combining stricter surveillance, designed in part to intimidate potential critics, with some relaxation vis-a-vis the general population. While the Government continued to censor mail and confiscate packages in 1993, it seems to have done so on a more selective basis than in the past.

The party expects people to belong to one or more mass organizations, which exist for villages, city districts, school, work (trade union), youth, and women. However, these organizations – which disseminate party propaganda, support party-sanctioned activities, and play a watchdog role – have become increasingly ineffectual.

While membership in the VCP remains an aid to advancement in the state sector, recruitment of new party members has become more difficult, and many older party members have ended their participation in party activities. Membership in the youth union – the normal path to VCP membership – has dropped sharply over the past few years.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and press, but in practice such freedoms are severely limited.

A pervasive network of informants chills free speech considerably, although the party continued to tolerate (and at times invite) criticism concerning its own performance and that of persons deemed to be corrupt or incompetent. Questioning the legitimacy of the VCP or its exclusive vanguard role is not tolerated.

The Communist Party line and policies are disseminated regularly from the Party Central Committee to provinces, cities, and districts through memorandums for internal distribution only. Only party members are privy to this information, which covers the issues of freedom of speech and press for the citizenry and economic policy, as well as party interpretations of changes to the status quo (i.e., dynamic interpretations to fit current conditions).

Short of clearly proscribed writing, such as advocacy of a multiparty system, the limits of criticism are not clear. Some ideas may be expressed in internal party meetings and in internally circulated documents but not publicly. The movements and activities of foreign journalists are monitored but seldom interfered with.

Criticism is occasionally expressed publicly within established forums, such as National Assembly proceedings broadcast over the national radio service. The Government does not use systematic prior censorship to control the media, but guidance from party watchdogs is pervasive, and national security legislation is sufficiently broad to ensure effective self-censorship.

The Government controls all broadcast media and does not normally permit the broadcast of opposing views, though it has broadcast reports of debates during National Assembly meetings. In addition to government controlled radio (both domestic and international), television stations, and the Vietnam news agency wire service, Vietnam has five mass daily newspapers and many smaller newspapers. Party organizations and the Ministries of Culture, Information, Sports, and Tourism control the newspapers as well as other publications and cultural exhibits. Western and other publications are widely available in stores frequented by Vietnamese, without obvious restriction on their sale or distribution.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The right of assembly is restricted in law and practice. People wishing to gather in a group are required to apply for a permit, which local authorities can issue or deny arbitrarily. In practice, large informal gatherings in public, like market areas or parts, are commonplace especially in urban areas. There is little evidence to suggest that informal public gatherings are restricted. However, demonstrations or meetings that could be seen as having a political purpose are not permitted and are sometimes forcibly suppressed. For example, the Government refused to permit a conference on democracy that was to be held in Ho Chi Minh City in November. The existence of NGO's is permitted, but they may meet only for approved and narrowly defined objectives. Opposition political organizations and activities are not permitted.

c. Freedom of Religion

Vietnam has no state religion, and adherence to a religion is not permitted for party members. According to some estimates, nearly three-fourths of the population of 70 million people are Buddhists, but the Government has claimed that only 6 million of these actually practice their religion. The Vatican believes that some 6 million Vietnamese are Catholic; a much smaller number are Protestant. Virtually all foreign clergy remaining in the south in 1975 were expelled at the end of that year. While the SRV has permitted visits by foreign clergy, it has not been willing to permit them to reside permanently for religious purposes in Vietnam.

Reports indicate that religious groups are allowed freedom in their activities to the degree that they cooperate with the Government. Buddhism was afforded increasing tolerance until the Unified Buddhists (An Quang sect) began to protest government control through 1992. The tension increased in early 1993 when the arrest and confinement of numbers of middle- and low-level leaders sent a clear signal to the Buddhist hierarchy that they cannot challenge the Government.

While restrictions on religious organizations are usually severe, they vary widely by locality. This is also true of church attendance. Many people report they have generally been free to attend worship services since 1975, and, during the past few years, visitors to Vietnam have reported that attendance at religious services is growing. Churches in and around Ho Chi Minh City and elsewhere have been observed overflowing during Sunday services. Buddhist temples and edifices of the Hoa Hao and Cao Dai sects in several towns of the south appear active and prosperous enough to be well maintained.

Freedom of worship is provided for in the Constitution, along with the proviso that no one may use religious adherence or belief to violate state laws and policies. The Government, concerned that religious groups might become competing centers of influence within the society, has consistently attempted to divide and control religious groups, in part by establishing government-controlled policymaking bodies such as the Catholic Patriotic Association to which clergy are obliged to belong.

The Government has also attempted to prevent the growth of religious groups by inhibiting the publication of religious materials and the training of new clergy. The Government exercises approval authority on the content of speeches and sermons by clergy, but reports continue to indicate that approval is generally granted as long as the content cannot be construed as a challenge to the legitimacy of Vietnam's one-party system. Also, Buddhist monks have reported that permission is usually given to young people wishing to study to become monks, if they register with the authorities. Several hundred are reported to be enrolled in Buddhist instruction in Ho Chi Minh City.

The Government has regularly detained, arrested, and restricted the activities of religious figures of all faiths on political grounds. Authorities leveled charges of "possessing and disseminating counterrevolutionary propaganda," "fomenting unrest," or "anti-Socialist propaganda" against Buddhist monks and nuns and Catholic, Protestant, and other religious leaders. A number of Catholic and Buddhist clergy remained in prison or confined to home villages. In September an American citizen reported that an informal prayer meeting involving approximately 30 Vietnamese and 3 foreigners was broken up by the police, who detained the Vietnamese and seized the foreigners' passports. There have been some releases this year (see Section 1.d.), and, with the exception of members of the An Quang sect, few new arrests.

The Buddhist Patriarch, Thich Huyen Quang of the Unified Buddhist Church, has been under house arrest in Quang Ngai province since 1982, reportedly because he refuses to submit to the government-dominated Vietnam Buddhist Church. In May, after a self-immolation at the Linh Mu Pagoda (supporters of Quang) in Hue and the police interrogation of the abbot, Thich Tri Tuu, there were large protest demonstrations by Buddhists (see Section 1.e.).

Thich Duc Nhuan, a former Secretary General of the Unified Buddhist Church, was released in January, after receiving a 1-year reduction in his sentence. Vietnam has in recent years expanded its dialog with the Vatican. In 1993, however, the Government continued to prevent the return from Rome to his archdiocese in Ho Chi Minh City of Archbishop Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan (a nephew of Ngo Dinh Diem) to succeed the ageing Archbishop Nguyen Van Binh. In September the Government rejected the Vatican's appointment of Bishop Huynh Van Nghi to administer the Roman Catholic church in Ho Chi Minh City.

While the Government now permits Catholic seminarians to be admitted to seminaries every 3 years instead of 6, it still places sharp limits on the recruitment, training, ordination, and assignment of new seminarians, priests, monks, and nuns. The selection of both students and teachers is subject to government veto, and there are continuing difficulties in obtaining teaching materials and in expanding religious training facilities.

Father Dominic Tran Dinh Thu, founder of the Mother Coredemptrix, was released in May. He had been sentenced to life imprisonment in 1987 for "propagandizing against the Socialist system." In November four more clergy affiliated with the Mother Coredemptrix order were freed (see Section 1.d.). In 1993 the first foreign religious community received government approval to work in Vietnam; Mother Theresa's Sisters of Charity began work in Hanoi at the end of the summer.

After a Vatican-based cardinal admonished Vietnamese Catholics not to join the government-sponsored union of Vietnamese Catholics, observers noted that fewer priests attended the annual meeting of this organization. At last report the only Protestant seminary had not been permitted to take in new students since 12 were admitted 6 years ago.

Some religious leaders believe that the Government's goal is to weaken the churches as a social force by limiting personnel and restricting their ability to move their clergy around the country. For example, only 15 priests in Haiphong serve over 150,000 Catholics there, and no religious women have been allowed to establish convents or novitiates there.

Most property of religious institutions remains under government control, including temples, churches, convents, seminaries, former religious schools, libraries, and orphanages. Sharp restrictions are exercised on the use, repair, or extension of those facilities that are returned to religious control.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

During 1993 the Government continued the trend of recent years of allowing freer movement within the country for most citizens. Vietnamese are required technically to obtain permission to change their residence, but it appears that obtaining permission has not been difficult during the past few years. Large numbers have changed residence without official permission, apparently without adverse consequences. Areas that have previously been off-limits to foreigners were reportedly opened. Since April 1, foreigners have been permitted to travel without permits to all areas except islands, border, or highland areas.

Private travel abroad is usually restricted to 3 months, except travel for education or medical treatment. Violators of this limitation may be barred from further travel for 3 to 5 years.

The Government continued its program of relocating people into sparsely populated New Economic Zones (NEZ's), but we have no reports that these relocations are forcible. There are reports of some people voluntarily moving to the NEZ's to gain access to land or remaining in the NEZ's to which they were sent earlier. The state-run radio has said that, of more than 2 million people who were moved from their homes in cities or crowded areas, only a quarter had substantially improved their living standards. The report admitted that many of the NEZ's were unfinished or short of basic facilities. The Government's rationale for relocating people to the NEZ's is to reduce urban crowding, exploit little-used land, and thereby help develop the economy. There have been no reports in recent years of banishment to the NEZ's as a form of punishment.

The Government continued to permit emigration for family reunification and for Amerasian Vietnamese and their close family members. The U.S. Orderly Departure Program, including Amerasians, former reeducation detainees, and family unification cases, continued to resettle beneficiaries at the rate of about 4,700 persons per month; a total of 57,000 immigrants and refugees in 1993. Other nations operate smaller resettlement programs for Vietnamese nationals. There are some concerns that members of minority ethnic groups, particularly highland peoples, might not have ready access to these programs. Vietnamese who emigrate are generally free to return. The Government regards overseas Vietnamese both as a valuable potential source of foreign exchange and expertise and as a potential security threat. Thus, the Government generally grants visas to overseas Vietnamese and encourages them to visit Vietnam, whether they emigrated legally or had been granted permanent resettlement after illegal departures from Vietnam. At the same time the public security police monitor them, especially those who come under suspicion as a result of their actions or associations. During 1993 some overseas Vietnamese were arrested, detained, and deported for activities deemed to be subversive, as described in Section 1.d.

In 1988 Vietnam signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to increase acceptance of voluntary repatriates, provided there was financial assistance. This agreement included a commitment by Vietnam to waive prosecution and punitive measures for illegal departure from Vietnam of persons who return under the UNHCR voluntary repatriation program. Vietnam also agreed to permit the UNHCR to monitor the returnees through direct visits. This agreement has resulted in a substantial flow of repatriates from several countries back to the SRV. Although there were suspicions that Vietnamese who decided to repatriate to Vietnam voluntarily would face discrimination, the evidence indicates they do not. More than 55,000 Vietnamese have returned voluntarily. The UNHCR, which monitors them extensively after they return, says they do not face retribution or discrimination.

Although the source of refugees itself, Vietnam has also been the country of first asylum for between 15,000 and 20,000 Cambodian refugees (mainly ethnic Chinese) who have fled to Vietnam since 1975. Repatriation of these refugees, who have been cared for by the UNHCR in well-organized camps, began in 1992. Atrocities committed against ethnic Vietnamese residents of Cambodia resulted in substantial refugee flows into Vietnam in 1993. The SRV has moved to absorb ethnic Vietnamese refugees from Cambodia, and there have been no reports of political problems. Some 30,000 are receiving international assistance.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Citizens are not free to change their government. All authority and political power is vested in the VCP; political opposition and other political parties are not tolerated.

The Central Committee of the VCP is the supreme decisionmaking body in the nation; its 13-member Politburo is the locus of policymaking. The Secretariat of the Central Committee oversees day-to-day implementation of leadership directives. Debate and criticism is limited to certain aspects of individual, state, or party performance determined by the party itself. No challenge to the legitimacy of the one-party state, or even debate on this subject, is permitted.

Citizens elect members of the National Assembly, ostensibly the chief legislative body, but it is still constrained by party guidance. The 395 delegates were elected in the summer of 1992. Candidates for the National Assembly election were carefully screened, and credible reports indicate that many people who wished to become candidates were not permitted to run because their views were not considered reliable. Although candidates are screened by party front groups, they are not required to be party members themselves, and multiple candidates contest each seat.

The law provides for equal participation in politics by women and minority groups, but in practice minority groups and women are underrepresented. The Government has claimed that women hold 46 percent of the senior posts in government and that 18 percent of the members of the Ninth National Assembly are women. A woman was elected Vice President of the country in 1992. The most senior leadership, however, is predominately male as can be seen, for example, in the all-male Politburo and Council of Ministers.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Vietnam does not permit private human rights organizations to form or operate. Moreover, it generally prohibits private citizens from contacting international human rights organizations. Since 1989, however, the Vietnamese Red Cross has been permitted expanded cooperation with the American Red Cross in assisting persons seeking missing relatives, including those in reeducation centers. The SRV has permitted international visitors to monitor implementation of its repatriation commitments under the Comprehensive Plan of Action and carried on a limited dialog with human rights organizations. The SRV has allowed some human rights organizations to visit. For example, it received a delegation from the U.S.-based human rights group Asia Watch. In addition, the SRV has shown some willingness to discuss human rights issues bilaterally with other governments if such discussions take place under the rubric of "exchanges of ideas" rather than "investigations." The SRV refused, however, to grant a U.S. Senator access to Nguyen Dan Que (see Section 1.d.).

The Government has on occasion granted consular access to third-country nationals imprisoned in Vietnam. In November SRV authorities for the first time allowed a U.S. consular official to visit an American citizen in a Vietnamese prison.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

Varying levels of discrimination have been reported by people released from reeducation camps in the areas of housing or education. Those released from reeducation camps generally are not eligible to regain their citizenship rights until 1 year after their release date. They and their families are not allowed employment with the Government, which restricts their access to housing and other benefits given to state employees.

Priority in social services is given to families of party members and families of soldiers who fought for the Government. Testing standards of university entrance examinations are reportedly lower for children of party officials. Arbitrarily high standards are set to keep the children of suspect background out of a university. Study abroad is also restricted to politically acceptable persons.

Women

In general women do not appear to face discrimination in employment and are treated equally under the law. However, they face problems competing with men for higher status positions owing to attitudes deeply ingrained in traditional Vietnamese society. Such problems persist in spite of government efforts to mold popular attitudes to conform with the Constitution, legislation, and regulations mandating equal treatment before the law in virtually all respects. Article 63 of the new Constitution provides that women and men receive equal pay for equal work, and a large body of legislation and regulations is devoted to the protection of women's rights in marriage as well as in the workplace. Government statistics indicate that approximately 50 percent of the primary school students are girls and that women represent about 39 percent of university students.

Although Vietnamese law does address the issue of domestic violence, there is no information readily available on how comprehensive the law is in this area. Limited anecdotal evidence indicates that violence occurs (although its extent is unclear) and that law enforcement is somewhat limited. There are no official or unofficial statistics on domestic abuse.

Children

Reputable international NGO's reported that the Government's interest in children's issues and promoting child welfare was commendable. For example, the Government began a nationwide immunization campaign for children.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Gradual assimilation appears to be the Government's long-term strategy for ethnic minorities. A member of a northern highland minority is currently serving as President of the National Assembly. The Government has created special schools in the Hanoi area for the education and indoctrination of members of minorities to be the "eyes and ears of the party" among their own people. Highland minorities in central Vietnam are subject to repression if suspected of ties with resistance groups. Officially programmed resettlement of ethnic Vietnamese into the highlands is designed in part to increase government control over minority groups. At the same time, the Government appears to be trying to narrow the gap in the standard of living between highlanders and lowland ethnic Vietnamese.

People with Disabilities

There is little official protection or government support for the disabled, and, apparently, no laws mandating access for the disabled.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

Vietnamese workers are not free to form or join unions of their own choosing. If working for the state sector, all workers automatically become members of the union in their workplace, and dues are deducted from their pay. These unions are organized by the Party and belong to the Party-controlled Confederation of Vietnamese Workers (CVW). Strikes are considered unpatriotic and are officially forbidden. Nonetheless, authorities have tolerated a few peaceful strikes at foreign-owned factories.

b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively

Vietnamese workers do not have the right to organize unions of their own choosing or to bargain collectively. However, the Chairman of the CVW is empowered by legislation to attend conferences of the Council of Ministers and raise issues on behalf of labor that cannot be resolved at lower levels. SRV officials have stated that wages are set by a bureaucratic system and that the wage scales provided for existing state corporations are also imposed on newly formed enterprises. With a growing private sector, local market forces played a greater role in wage determination. The question of antiunion discrimination on the part of employers against employees seeking to organize does not arise.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Compulsory labor is permitted by the Constitution, which states in Article 80 that "citizens must pay taxes and labor in the common interest as provided by law." Refugees report that every Vietnamese citizen is required by law to contribute 15 days of work per year to the State or pay a fee. A number of government projects have used forced labor provided by reeducation camp prisoners.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

According to regulations inherited from the former French colonial administration, the minimum age for employment of workers is 17. There is no reliable information concerning the enforcement of these regulations, but refugees report that they are not enforced. There are no statistics available on the number of child workers in Vietnam. Refugees report that children under 15 are exempt from compulsory labor requirements. Compulsory elementary education laws exist but appear to be honored mostly in the breach for the children of the poor. Vietnamese culture holds education in high regard, however, and families send their children to school if they can afford to do so.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Government adopted the former French colonial administration's system of regulations pertaining to working conditions, including a minimum wage; a maximum workday of 8 hours; a workweek of 6 days; and safety standards. Existing standards do not appear to be widely enforced. Wages are generally low in Vietnam, inadequate to provide the cast majority of workers and their families a decent living. The minimum wage for employees at joint venture (Vietnamese and foreign) companies is $35 per month (VN Dong 367,500), which is higher than the average wage paid by Vietnamese firms. In August workers at a foreign-owned factory staged a peaceful strike for improved labor conditions, which was tolerated by the authorities.

Vietnamese unions are not legally free to, and do not in practice, join, affiliate with, or participate in international labor bodies. However, in 1992, the SRV rejoined the International Labor Organization, from which it had withdrawn as a member state in 1985.

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