The Vietnam Briefing, which is released every Monday morning Vietnam time, looks at Vietnam’s political developments of the past week.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “Vietnam wholeheartedly respects and protects human rights”
Last week, the spokeswoman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Le Thi Thu Hang, said that Vietnam “always cares about advancing basic human rights” and that the country has “freedom of speech, freedom of press and freedom of information” because “the press in Vietnam is very diverse and more than 70 percent of the population has access to the internet.”
This was in response to the European Union’s Annual Reports on Human Rights and Democracy in 2020, which Vietnam said was “lacking objectivity”.
In a meeting last week of the United Nations Human Rights High Commissioner, Ambassador Le Thi Tuyet Mai also affirmed “Vietnam’s consistent policy on promoting and protecting human rights.”
Such claims from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are outrageous lies, deceptions and fabrications of the human rights reality in Vietnam. Though not surprising, the claims made by Vietnamese foreign affairs officials show that the country has continued to deny the state’s oppression of basic human rights principles, particularly freedom of speech.
These claims were released in a rather ironic timing, as the country tried to tighten speech control on the internet by releasing a national conduct code just less than two weeks ago.
There are countless examples of the government’s oppression of freedom of speech. For example, Pham Doan Trang, our co-founder and an internationally recognized pro-democracy journalist was imprisoned solely based on charges associated with her critical writings. Unfortunately, she was not the only non-violent writer or activist whom the state arrested. Those who follow The Vietnamese Magazine’s weekly Vietnam Briefing would remember that since the National Assembly election started to kick-off, there have been new cases of arrests and charges against independent journalists, bloggers and activists almost every week.
Additionally, it is absolutely false to equate access to the internet with access to information and even more deceiving to equate the former with freedom of speech. While Vietnam is reportedly the seventh-largest user base in the world for Facebook, the company was pressured by the government to censor content upon the government’s request on the platform. In an article published last week on Revolutionary Press Day, The Vietnamese Magazine also documents how independent or non-state journalism such as ours is heavily censored in the country.
While the government might declare that it is concerned about human rights and climate change, The Vietnamese Magazine also documents various human rights and environmental violations, from the outrageous Formosa case to the labor and environmental damages in Cameroon.
Updates on COVID-19 in Vietnam
China complains about Vietnam’s vaccination: Last week, after the Sinopharm vaccines that China donated to Vietnam arrived, the Chinese Embassy complained that Vietnam failed to honor the agreement to prioritize “Chinese nationals, people who need to travel to China for work, and people who live in border areas.”
So far, Vietnam has yet to update its vaccination priorities and has yet to comment on the Chinese Embassy’s claim, which reportedly spurred a nationalistic outrage in Chinese social media. However, it is known that 500,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine have arrived in Vietnam.
Vaccination priority in Vietnam: So far, access to vaccines in Vietnam is extremely limited. According to Tuoi Tre, a state-controlled media, vaccination priority in the country is mostly prioritizing frontline health workers, police officers, soldiers, and diplomats and diplomatic delegations. Some new vaccination priorities include teachers and staff at educational facilities, people 65 years old and older, and poor people.
The country is also rushing to produce its own vaccine, particularly NanoCovax. This vaccine is “expected to be as good as foreign vaccines,” accord to one state media outlet.
Good news: People who are fully vaccinated only have to fulfil a mandatory quarantine of seven days, a much shorter time than the previous 21-day quarantine, according to a new announcement last week. So far, it is still unclear when this new quarantine law will be implemented. Additionally, it is unclear whether this new requirement will be enforced in the entire country or only in a few locations.
According to state media, Vietnam is also reportedly considering receiving visitors from countries it deems to have “managed COVID-19 outbreaks well, including those that have achieved herd immunity thanks to their vaccination programs.” It is, however, still unclear which countries will be qualified and whether this program will actually be put in place.
This move is seen as a way to boost tourism and the number of foreign visitors. A month ago, the American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam complained to the government that the lengthy quarantine restrictions discouraged foreign businesspeople from entering the country.
Meanwhile, Vietnam is reportedly strengthening surveillance at the border with Cambodia due to COVID-19 fears, according to Khmer Times. Vietnamese border patrols have been increasingly preventing trespassing over the border in an effort to curtail domestic outbreaks.
Learn more about Vietnam
Hugh Bohane/The Diplomat/June 24, 2021
“Khanh confided about having a “rough time” in high school, where he was sometimes bullied for feminine mannerisms and underwent what he referred to as a form of “psychological trauma.” He went on to say that he isn’t ready to come out to his parents but said he will soon. Even today in Vietnam, it isn’t uncommon for parents to send their children to see a doctor if they think they are gay or lesbian.
A 2020 Human Rights Watch report outlining details of homophobia and stigma in Vietnam concluded with the need for necessary changes to occur. “The first steps will include correcting the persistent widespread notion that homosexuality is an illness and needs a cure,” the report stated.
Even more disturbing is the prevalence of suicide within Vietnam’s LGBTQ+ community. ‘One of my lesbian friends tried to commit suicide… not long ago because of the family and societal pressure she was under,’ Khanh said.”
Akane Okutsu/Nikkei Asia/June 21, 2021
“Virus expert Yong Poovorawan, of Chulalongkorn University, said new confirmed Delta cases are expected to rise substantially higher in the near future, which meant the efficiency of vaccines and protection measures could drop because the strain can resist some vaccines.”
Dien Luong/Nikkei Asia/June 22, 2021
“For nearly half a century, Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange have been fighting a losing battle against multinationals that manufactured the toxic defoliant. Their plights have been ignored, their lawsuits dismissed and their voices drowned out.”
Sebastian Strangio/The Diplomat/June 21, 2021
“Late last week, Reuters reported that Vietnam’s government had introduced a new national social media “code of conduct,” which encourages its people to post positive content about the country and prohibits anything that violates the law or affects “the interests of the state.”
According to Reuters, which cited a June 17 document from the Ministry of Information and Communications, the code applies to state organizations, social media companies, and all of their Vietnamese users. It states that social media users “are encouraged to promote the beauty of Vietnam’s scenery, people and culture, and spread good stories about good people.”
Kylie P. Torres/Public Relations and Online Engagement/June 25, 2021
“This chapter examines the Vietnam government’s use of TikTok, the world’s fastest-growing app, as a tool to spread public health messages during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although most creators of TikTok content are general users, the application is growing in popularity with brands and organizations. However, the potential of usefulness of the app for broader public relations efforts has yet to be explored. The researcher analyzes the Vietnam government’s COVID-19 TikTok influencer campaign in the context of the Structural Virality of Online Diffusion.”
Events to watch:
ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute/June 28, 2021
ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute/June 29, 2021