Following a debate in the Plenary session of the European Parliament in Brussels, the 730-member EP today voted a Resolution on “The Human Rights Situation in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam” strongly condemning the lack of political reforms in the three countries and the ongoing violations of freedom of expression and religion. The Resolution, which was widely supported by MEPs from the 25 member states from all the different political groups, demanded that the European Council and Commission review EU cooperation in the light of the “human rights clause” (Article 1) which founds EU-Vietnam aid and cooperation on “respect for democratic principles and fundamental rights”.
Regarding Vietnam, the Resolution condemned, in very strong terms, the Vietnamese government’s repression of all non-recognized religious communities, notably the recent harassment against UBCV representative boards in 9 provinces. It called on Vietnam “to end all forms of repression against members of the UBCV and officially recognize the latter’s existence, and that of other non-recognised churches in the country”, and to release all prisoners of conscience, “in particular Thich Huyen Quang and Thich Quang Do”.
This is first time the human rights situation in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam has been debated together in the EP. The debate was formally requested by the EP Foreign Affairs Committee and the Sub-Committee on Human Rights following an EP Hearing on September 12th 2005 on Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. At this hearing, which marked the 30th Anniversary of the End of the Vietnam War and the advent of communist rule in these three countries, Mr Vo Van Ai, President of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, called on the EP to adopt a common resolution on the grave human rights situation on their situation.
“It is deeply significant that the EP adopts a Resolution today on the grave situation in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Just 30 years ago, when the Vietnam war came to an end, a particularly brutal period of repression began in our three countries. 30 years later, our people still do not enjoy fundamental freedoms and rights. We are especially encouraged by the firm position taken by the EP on freedom of expression and religion. This is a formidable gesture of support for all Vietnamese who are suffering repression simply for advocating fundamental freedoms and democratic reforms, and Vietnam cannot ignore this strong signal from the EU, one of it’s major trade partners. Vietnam should respond by undertaking political reforms, beginning by abrogating Article 4 of the Constitution (on the mastery of the Communist Party) so it can fulfill the EP’s call for multi-party democracy and thus move towards a true national reconciliation of all religious and political currents in Vietnam. Also, it should reestablish the legitimate status of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and all other non-recognised religious bodies, as called for in the EP Resolution” said Vo van Ai.
The paragraphs on Vietnam are published below. The full text is on the Vietnam Committee’s website  ;:
The European Parliament,[…]
O. welcoming the adoption by Vietnam in June 2005 of the Masterplan and action plan for development of EU-Vietnam relations towards 2010 as well as the government’s increased willingness to discuss human rights issues,
P. recognising the substantial progress made by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam towards economic and social rights, as indicated by social indicators and the UNDP Human Development Index,
Q. whereas the Vietnamese authorities are still putting restrictions on freedom of expression and the freedom of the press, in particular by establishing a police force in 2004 to censor the Internet and imprisoning cyber-dissidents, including Nguyen Dan Que, Pham Hong Son, Nguyen Vu Binh and Nguyen Khac Toan, for espionage, simply for having circulated information on the Internet,
R. whereas the indigenous minorities of the high plateaux (Centre and North), in particular the Montagnards, suffer from discrimination and measures such as confiscation of ancestral lands or religious repression,
S. whereas since 1975 the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) has been systematically persecuted for its commitment to religious freedom, human rights and democratic reform, whereas it has been banned since 1981, its property confiscated and its schools, universities and social and cultural institutions destroyed, and whereas UBCV Patriarch, Thich Huyen Quang, and his Deputy, Thich Quang Do, have been arbitrarily detained for almost twenty-five years,
T. whereas the members of UBCV local committees set up in 2005 in nine provinces of central and southern Vietnam have been systematically harassed by police for providing aid to people in those poor provinces, and whereas UBCV monk, Thich Vien Phuong, has been sentenced to pay a fine equivalent to 43 months” basic wage simply for filming an appeal for human rights and democracy in Vietnam, which was sent by Thich Quang Do to the UN Commission on Human Rights in April 2005,
U. taking note of the testimony given by the Buddhist monk, Thich Thien Minh, who recently left a re-education camp after 26 years in detention, concerning the terrible conditions endured by prisoners in the Z30A camp in Xuan Loc, in particular the Roman Catholic priests, Pham Minh Tri and Nguyen Duc Vinh, who have been held for more than 18 years, and a member of the Buddhist Hoa Hao sect, Ngo Quang Vinh, aged 87,
V. taking note that, despite a new Act on Belief and Religion being introduced in 2004 to codify all aspects of religious life, numerous restrictions on the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and the Protestant Churches, including the Mennonite Church, have remained in place,
W. whereas the United Nations Human Rights Committee has made recommendations (ref. CCPR/CO/75/VNM of 26 July 2002) to the Vietnamese authorities with regard to the Legal System Development Strategy, a ten-year plan partly funded by donor countries, including some Member States,[…]
7. Calls on the Vietnamese authorities to :
— pursue on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam war a genuine dialogue involving all sections of the population in the economic, social, intellectual and political development of Vietnam ;
— undertake political and institutional reforms leading to democracy and the rule of law, starting by allowing a multi-party system and guaranteeing the right of all currents of opinion to express their views ;
— apply the Legal System Development Strategy in accordance with the recommendations made by the UN Human Rights Committee and with the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ;
— end all forms of repression of members of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and officially recognise its existence and that of other non-recognised Churches in the country ;
— release all Vietnamese political prisoners and prisoners of conscience detained for having legitimately and peacefully exercised their rights to freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of religion, in particular Thich Huyen Quang and Thich Quang Do, who are regarded by the United Nations as victims of arbitrary detention ;
— guarantee full enjoyment of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Vietnamese Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in particular by allowing the creation of a genuinely free press ;
— ensure the safe repatriation, under the Cambodia-Vietnam-UNHCR agreement, of the Montagnards who fled Vietnam, and allow proper monitoring of the situation of the returnees by the UNHCR and international NGOs […].