Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Stop squelching real unions, Vietnam

As part of a campaign to suppress any labor union independent of the Communist Party, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has imprisoned at least eight trade unionists, two of them women, on “national security” charges in the past three years.

In a report released May 4, Human Rights Watch publicized the wide scope of the government crackdown, denounced it, and urged the United States to pressure Vietnam to end suppression immediately.

The government campaign of harassing, detaining, and imprisoning union activists is aimed particularly at two worker organizations: the United Worker-Farmers Organization of Vietnam and the Independent Workers Union of Vietnam, whose launching was announced in late 2006 during a brief period when authorities seemed to tolerate a budding civil society.

It was a temporary public posture prior to Vietnam’s joining the World Trade Organization and getting U.S. approval for that accession.

Of the eight trade unionists imprisoned since then, five have been released. One who is still behind bars, Le Thi Cong Nhan, in her early 30s, wrote a comprehensive essay in 2006 titled “Legislative Aspects of Industrial Actions and the Need for Independent Unions in Vietman.” For this and other human rights activities, the Hanoi People’s Court in May 2007 imposed a four-year prison sentence, later reduced to three years (plus three years of house arrest), on charges of “disseminating propaganda against the government.”

The Human Rights Watch report, “Not Yet a Workers’ Paradise: Vietnam’s Suppression of the Independent Workers’ Movement,” 32 pages long, is available on the HRW Website at

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