Western Donors Urge Vietnam To Respect Human Rights

Editor: Sharon Li
5 Dec 2008 08:35:00 GMT

HANOI (AFP)–The European Union and the United States on Thursday urged communist Vietnam to guarantee civil liberties, following the recent jailing of a journalist who helped uncover a major corruption case.

The European Union told Vietnam at an international donors meeting focused on Vietnam’s economy that it wanted to “underline that political and civil rights are equally important and should not be separated.”

“We strongly believe that by not respecting the political and civil rights, the path of progressive development will be seriously hampered” in Vietnam, the E.U. said in a statement.

The bloc said it “shares international concern” over the recent two-year jail term for newspaper journalist Nguyen Viet Chain, who had helped uncover a major corruption scandal in a transport ministry unit three years ago.

The U.S. said in its statement to the Consultative Group meeting that “Vietnam’s economic performance and its international reputation are compromised by restrictions placed upon the personal freedom of its citizens.”

“Greater tolerance of dissent and differing views are essential for the country to achieve its full potential,” it said.

Meanwhile, a group of four Western countries urged Vietnam “to continue to improve access to religion” in the Central Highlands, where unrest broke out in 2001 and 2004 fueled by land pressures in the coffee-growing region.

Rights groups say the government has repressed ethnic minorities practicing Christianity there because it links the religion to “hostile forces” in the United States, the communist government’s former wartime enemy.

The Western group – made up of Canada, Norway, Switzerland and New Zealand – said it had “noted some positive trends towards greater religious freedom in the region” during a visit to three provinces there last month.



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