Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son shake hands before their meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, November 9, 2021.
© 2021 AP Photo/Hau Dinh
(Sydney) – The Australian government should call on Vietnam to meet clear human rights benchmarks at the 17th Australia-Vietnam human rights dialogue, Human Rights Watch said today. The dialogue is scheduled to be held virtually on December 8, 2021.
“Australia should use its influence to press Vietnam to take concrete action to reverse its abysmal human rights record,” said Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch. “Many people in Vietnam have been persecuted simply because they tried to exercise basic civil and political rights that Australians often take for granted.”
In a December submission, Human Rights Watch urged the Australian government to use the dialogue to press Vietnam to end its systematic suppression of fundamental civil and political rights, including freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and religion and belief. Australia should also demand that Vietnam immediately release all political prisoners and detainees, and revise its problematic penal and criminal procedure codes to bring them into line with international human rights standards.
An Australian citizen, Chau Van Kham, has remained in a Vietnamese prison since January 2019 on terrorism charges for his involvement in Viet Tan, a peaceful political organization focused on democracy and human rights in Vietnam. Securing his release, and enabling him to return to Australia to be reunited with his family, should be a top priority for Australia in the dialogue.
As of December, Human Rights Watch had documented that at least 146 people are behind bars in Vietnam for exercising their basic rights, including the prominent bloggers and activists Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Pham Chi Dung, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, Pham Chi Thanh, Can Thi Theu, Le Dinh Luong, Truong Minh Duc, Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, Hoang Duc Binh, Tran Anh Kim, Pham Van Diep, Tran Duc Thach, Nguyen Trung Truc, and Ho Duc Hoa. The police have arrested at least 30 other people on politically motivated charges, including the influential blogger Pham Doan Trang, and the land rights activists Trinh Ba Phuong and Nguyen Thi Tam.
Australia’s bilateral relationship with Vietnam has continued to grow in recent years. In 2021 Australia was one of the top 10 trade partners with Vietnam. In November, the Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne visited Hanoi, but she did not raise human rights concerns publicly during her visit.