The Communist Party of Vietnam has affirmed that human rights are the common value of humankind. It is the result of the struggle of the working people and nations across the world against oppression and exploitation. Vietnam has made every effort to struggle, protect and promote its citizens’ fundamental rights, which has been acknowledged by the international community.
Human rights in Vietnamese law
One year after Vietnam wrested back independence in 1945, the Constitution, the first of its kind for the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, was issued, laying a firm legal foundation for its citizens to exercise and enjoy the rights of freedom and democracy. In the following constitutions which were issued in 1959, 1980 and 1992, human rights, rights and obligations of Vietnamese citizens were finalised gradually in terms of quality and quantity as well as providing safeguard mechanisms.
Vietnam was admitted to the United Nations in 1977 – two years after the country was reunified. Since then, Vietnam has joined many international agreements on human rights and made significant contributions to protecting international human rights. It ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989 and signed other international conventions regarding children’s rights, including those put forward by the International Labour Organisation, between 1994-96.
Since the 1992 Constitution was approved, the Vietnamese Party and State have persisted in carrying out the consistent policy of heightening the protection of human rights, considering humans an important factor in building a rich people, a strong country and an equitable, democratic and civilised society.
It is safe to say that Vietnam’s legal system has basically met the requirement for protecting and developing the human rights of all citizens. For its achievements, Vietnam was elected to the UN Commission on Human Rights in the 2001-2003 period and to the UN Security Council in the 2008-2009 period.
Vietnam has made tremendous and fundamental progress in human rights in all aspects of life. In 1998, the Party issued a directive on “Democratic regulations at grassroots level”, promoting the spirit of “the people know, discuss, do and examine”. People’s rights to management were concretised in the Government’s decrees. The process of nomination and voting was renewed in favour of voters, while legislative reform was accelerated to ensure the National Assembly – the most powerful body of the people – operates more efficiently.
The 3rd conference of the 10th Party Central Committee revised the list of State secrets to be publicised and studied the issuance of a legal document stipulating the people’s right to be provided with information. This is considered an important measure to combat corruption.
The people’s rights to freedom of speech and the press have been respected. The Press Law stipulates that, “The State is responsible for creating favourable conditions for its citizens to exercise their rights to freedom of speech and the press… “ and “the press is not censored”. Currently, Vietnam has more than 700 media agencies and nearly 70 radio and TV stations at the central and local levels.
The people’s right to freedom of religion and belief have been guaranteed on the basis of “Religion and belief are the need for a segment of the population and will go along with the rest of the nation during the construction process.” The 7th conference of the 9th Party Central Committee in March 2003 issued a resolution on religious affairs. The National Assembly Standing Committee issued an Ordinance on Religion and Belief in June 2004 and the Government issued a decree guiding the implementation of the ordinance one year later.
Facts and figures
Together with the release of a book on “Religion and religious policy in Vietnam”, the State has recognised the legal status of 28 religious organisations. Since September 2006, 13 religious sects and organisations have been licensed to operate. Several other sects and organisations have maintained normal practices though they were not granted a license.
Vietnam now has more than 20 million religious followers, making up 25 percent of the country’s population. They are practising in more than 26,000 places of worship and tens of religious schools. The country has 4 Buddhist Institutes and 32 schools, six Catholic seminaries and one Protestant seminary. Meanwhile, Cao Dai and Hoa Hao Buddhist sects run courses at their places of worship.
Despite difficulties due to geographical location and historical background, ethnic minority groups have enjoyed more basic rights, especially the right to access a modern social and technological infrastructure. Five years after implementing a Party resolution on ethnic affairs, socio-economic development in ethnic-inhabited provinces has progressed, bringing a facelift to these localities. The average volume of food per capita increased from 250kg in 2003 to 350kg in 2007. By the end of June 2008, 340,000 poor ethnic households had received new houses and more than 62,000 others had been provided with land for housing. The poverty rate has fallen year to year, thereby narrowing the gap between rich and poor, between lowlands and highlands and among ethnic groups as well.
To date, 100 percent of districts and 95 percent of communes inhabited by ethnic minority groups have accessed the national power grid. All especially disadvantaged communes have built primary schools, kindergartens, and private semi-boarding schools. Between 90-95 percent of children have attended school at the right age, 90 percent of disadvantaged communes have built lower-secondary schools, 100 percent of districts have high schools and several highland districts have ethnic boarding schools. Almost all disadvantaged communes have built clinics.
Enforcement of human rights
In the latest human development report released by the United Nations Development Programme, Vietnam ranked 105th among the 177 listed nations, up 4 steps compared to 2007. However, Vietnam should not be content with what it has achieved in human rights so far, because it is a sensitive issue and vulnerable to political abuse. The enforcement of human rights is a long process which cannot be achieved overnight, particularly for a nation like Vietnam which has suffered huge human and material losses as a consequence of war.
The Vietnamese nation’s past struggles against foreign invaders have taught it a lesson — that exercising human rights goes alongside defending national independence, sovereignty and security. The Party and State show their firm resolve to combat the negative aspects of society, including corruption. However, while settling pressing social issues, Vietnam should ensure socio-political stability and be highly vigilant against the slanderous allegations of hostile forces that use the issue of human rights as an excuse to intervene in the nation’s internal affairs and undermine its national unity in service of their insidious schemes.
The Party and State are aware that it is Vietnam’s duty to fully implement the UN agreements on human rights it has signed. Vietnam attaches importance to promoting international dialogue and cooperation in human rights, considering it a requirement of the international economic integration process and a chance to share experiences in formulating and implementing laws relating to human rights.
Vietnam is taking an active part in the common struggle for human rights. It is ready to hold dialogues with other countries and organisations in the region and the world, and is determined to deal with the subversive schemes of hostile forces that attempt to violate national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and undermine national security and political stability. International dialogue and cooperation in human rights must be based on the spirit of equality, mutual respect and non-intervention in the internal affairs of sovereign nations in order to better protect and promote human rights.