Vietnam: Amended Constitution a Missed Opportunity on Rights
New UN Human Rights Council Member Not Living Up to Commitments
Wed the 2nd Waxing Moon of Māgasira BE2557, December 4, AD2013 Year of the Snake
Human Rights Watch logo
“While proposed amendments were vigorously debated, hard-liners prevailed and the new constitution has tightened the ruling party’s grip. Instead of responding to popular demands and international human rights commitments, Vietnam remains a one-party state with a constitution that allows authorities to restrict basic rights on vague grounds whenever it suits them.” Brad Adams, HRW Asia director
New York – The amended constitution Vietnam adopted on November 28, 2013, failed to address popular aspirations for change and reform, Human Rights Watch said today. Vietnam’s donors and development partners should redouble their efforts to press the Vietnamese government for constitutional and legal reforms to protect basic rights, such as freedom of expression and association.
When the amendment process began on January 2, the Vietnamese government and National Assembly urged members of the public to make recommendations for changing the constitution. Hundreds of thousands of people responded, in an unprecedented display of public participation in a legal reform process in Vietnam. Many comments were critical of the ruling Vietnamese Communist Party, with large numbers of calls for ending one-party rule and instituting genuine periodic elections. On October 22, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to Vietnam’s National Assembly urging it to accept amendments to promote and protect rights.
“While proposed amendments were vigorously debated, hard-liners prevailed and the new constitution has tightened the ruling party’s grip,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Instead of responding to popular demands and international human rights commitments, Vietnam remains a one-party state with a constitution that allows authorities to restrict basic rights on vague grounds whenever it suits them.”
On November 28, 98 percent of the members of the National Assembly, 90 percent of them members of the Communist Party, voted for the government-sponsored draft. While taking account of officially collated comments that stayed within bounds defined by the Communist Party, they ignored suggestions from the Vietnamese public for fundamental changes to bring the constitution in line with international human rights standards. In the end, the National Assembly made very few changes to what the government put forward.
The amended constitution will come into force on January 1, 2014. It includes two key changes to strengthen the Communist Party’s monopoly on power. Article 4 makes the party the vanguard and representative not only of the Vietnamese working class, but of the whole Vietnamese people and nation, further narrowing the legal space to exercise the right to pluralistic and freely contested elections. Article 65 follows the government lead in enshrining a new legal requirement for Vietnam’s armed forces to be absolutely loyal to the Communist Party.
New clauses in articles 16, 31, 102, and 103 appear to allow freedom of expression and other basic rights and promise to end arbitrary arrests of critics and political trials on trumped-up charges. But these provisions have been effectively negated by loopholes and weak guarantees in other provisions. Article 14 states that the authorities can override human rights guarantees in other passages if they deem it necessary for national defence, national security, public order, the security of society, or social morality.
Similarly, reaffirmation of rights like freedom of religion in article 24 and freedom of speech in article 25 are accompanied by qualifications allowing vague and broad legal restrictions. Articles 70, 88, and 105 make possible continued tight Communist Party control of the judiciary, meaning there is still no guarantee of fair and impartial trials.
“The amended constitution leaves the door wide open to the continued use of harsh laws and politically controlled courts to target activists and critics,” Adams said.
The passage of the amended constitution is the first major Vietnamese government human rights move since it was elected by the United Nations General Assembly to the United Nations Human Rights Council on November 12.
“The new constitution betrays Vietnam’s claim when it sought election to the United Nations Human Rights Council that it will ‘uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights,’” Adams said. “The Constitution is a big disappointment for the Vietnamese people and leaves the government with a very long way to go if it wants Vietnam to become known as a human-rights-respecting country.” Courtesy HRW
Vietnam: Letter on UN Human Rights Council Candidacy to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung
Wed the 4th Waxing Moon of Kattikā BE2557, November 6, AD2013 Year of the Snake
U.N. Human Rights Council
Nguyen Tan Dung
Vietnam's Prime Minister
Human Rights Watch
November 4, 2013
Nguyen Tan Dung
Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Office of the State
1 Bach Thao
Via facsimile: +84 80 48924
Via Email: email@example.com
Dear Prime Minister,
With elections to the United Nations Human Rights Council quickly approaching and with Vietnam standing as a candidate, we are writing to urge your government to take several specific, concrete, visible steps aimed at meeting its obligation to "uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights," as set forth in UN General Assembly Resolution 60/251.
In making these recommendations, Human Rights Watch recalls that in Vietnam's note verbale from August 27, 2013, to the President of the General Assembly containing its human rights pledges and commitments in connection with its candidacy for Council membership, your government affirms that that the rights and fundamental freedoms of Vietnam's people have recently been "respected and ensured in an increasingly effective and full manner." Further, the government of Vietnam pledges that the respect for and promotion of human rights has been concretized via Vietnam's "constitution and relevant laws, in their implementation mechanisms and in practice" and, in particular, that the right to freedom of opinion expressed via internet has been "enhanced."
The real human rights situation in Vietnam is very much contrary to the characterization in the note verbale and if your government's pledges are to be taken as credible, Vietnam should act immediately to demonstrate their sincerity.
Therefore, we urge Vietnam to signal its willingness to begin to address ongoing human rights concerns in advance of the November 12 elections by immediately and unconditionally releasing the following ten political prisoners, whom – notwithstanding the charges pursuant to which they have been convicted and sentenced to prison – we believe are imprisoned for their exercise of basic human rights: Nguyen Huu Cau, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Le Van Son, Nguyen Van Hai, Ta Phong Tan, Nguyen Van Ly, Cu Huy Ha Vu, Dinh Dang Dinh, Ho Thi Bich Khuong, and Vi Duc Hoi.
Releasing these ten people now will be an important step towards indicating Vietnam's commitment towards improving its human rights record and will set an example as it campaigns for a seat on the Human Rights Council. They are among the more than 150 individuals, including human rights defenders, political dissidents, lawyers, journalists, bloggers, democracy advocates, religious activists, land rights campaigners, and others whose convictions and imprisonment on politically-motivated charges are inconsistent with Vietnam's candidacy for the Human Rights Council. Particularly inconsistent with this candidacy is the fact that the number of such convictions is dramatically rising, with at least 61 such people sentenced to prison so far this year, compared with some 40 convictions known to Human Rights Watch in 2012.
Constitutional reform is another step Vietnam could take to demonstrate its suitability for Human Rights Council membership. In this regard,Human Rights Watch wrote on October 22, 2013 to the chairman of Vietnam's National Assembly urging its members to ensure that the revisions of the constitution currently being undertaken fully meet international human rights standards to protect the rights and liberties of all people in Vietnam. We urge your government to support these recommendations. If the Vietnam government shows it has the political will to undertake such reforms, it would open the door for the National Assembly to initiate pro-human rights constitutional changes.
Among other things, amendments should include adoption of provisions on the right to freedom of opinion and expression as laid out in international standards, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Vietnam acceded in 1982, and in the explanatory United Nations Human Rights Committee General Comment on freedom of expression.
UN General Assembly Resolution 60/251 also calls for all members of the Human Rights Council to fully cooperate with the council, including with its special procedures. To heed this call, Vietnam should issue a standing invitation to all special procedures mandate-holders. In particular, it should urgently invite the special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression to Vietnam with a view to ensuring it becomes possible to exercise this right in practice there, along with all other human rights.
The Human Rights Council election provides an important moment for Vietnam to demonstrate an enhanced commitment to addressing human rights concerns. Human Rights Watch appreciates your serious consideration of our proposals made in this letter.
 Human Rights Committee, General Comment 25 (37), General Comments under article 40, para 4, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted by the Committee at its 1510 meeting, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add. 7 (1996), para 27.
The October 23m B.E.2535 A.D.1991 Paris Peace Accord. Many national issues remain unresolved and flagrantly neglected to suit the ruling party and Vietnam (For examples, issues of borders, Khmer Krom, immigrants, forestation, and so forth).
Wed the 4th Waning Moon of Assayuja BE2557, October 23, AD2013 Year of the Snake
Statement of the Deputy High Commissioner presenting the annual report of activities of OHCHR-Cambodia to the Human Rights Council
Sat the 9th Waning Moon of Poṭṭhapāda BE2557, September 29, AD2013 Year of the Snake
Left: Flag of the United Nations
Right: Flag of Cambodia
26 September 2013 - I am pleased to introduce the report of the Secretary-General on the role and achievements of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in assisting the Government and People of Cambodia in the promotion and protection of human rights which is A/HRC/24/32 and covers the period between July 2012 and May of this year. During this period, OHCHR continued to work with the Government and the people of Cambodia in a number of key areas such as rule of law; prison reform; fundamental freedoms; land and housing rights. And we also expanded our work on the issue of business and human rights. We hope that Cambodia will embark, as promised, on an ambitious programme to reform of some of its key institutions which are fundamental for the promotion and protection of human rights, including the judiciary and the National Assembly. OHCHR will continue to remain fully committed to supporting the Government and the people of Cambodia in this important endeavour. Read the statement in English. Courtesy OHCHR
សុន្ទរកថារបស់រដ្ឋមន្រ្តីក្រសួងការបរទេសសហរដ្ឋអាមេរិក លោក John Kerry នៅឯកិច្ចប្រជុំរដ្ឋមន្ត្រីអាស៊ាន សមាគមនៃប្រជាជាតិនៅអាស៊ីអាគ្នេយ៍
Remarks at the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting
Sat the 9th Waning Moon of Poṭṭhapāda BE2557, September 29, AD2013 Year of the Snake
U.S. State Secretary Hon. John Kerry
Secretary of State
New York City
September 27, 2013
Well, thank you very much, Secretary Russel. It's great to have you aboard. And I think everybody here appreciates your outreach and your efforts in the region, and I know everybody has confidence in your leadership.
And it's a pleasure to sit around the table with our friends from ASEAN. All of you welcomed me so warmly at our first meeting when I – my first meeting as Secretary of State. I met with many of you previously. And I want to thank particularly our friends from Brunei, including His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed. Thank you so much for that unbelievable welcome when we were all there, and I thank you for your leadership of ASEAN over the last year as chair. Let me also thank Myanmar for the work as the United States' country coordinator, and I thank you in advance for chairing ASEAN this next year.
Without any question, ASEAN has been at the center of the Asia Pacific's regional architecture. And this organization is also at the center of the United States' strategy to rebalance our resources and our engagement in the region. And that is a priority for President Obama, and I'm pleased to continue to work on that priority as we implement it. And the entire Administration is committed to this initiative. President Obama is very much looking forward to returning to the region in a few days, a few weeks, to participate in the U.S.-ASEAN summit, as am I.
As we have discussed in recent months, our strategy is about much more than just security. We're working to strengthen every single part of our relationship, including our economic links directly between our citizens. Bolstering our shared prosperity through economic growth and development is one of the primary goals that's at the heart of the U.S.-ASEAN relationship. And within the decade, half of the 600 million people who live in Southeast Asia will be entering the middle class. So as I said at Bandar Seri Begawan in July, we need to do all we can to help this enormous aspirational population achieve its dreams in order to touch the global economy, and we need to help build an integrated ASEAN economic community by 2015. That's our goal.
One of the ways that we're working to do that is by expanding trade and investment between the United States and the 11 countries within ASEAN. And the ASEAN Expanded Economic Engagement Initiative, known as E3, is a framework for economic cooperation that will create new business opportunities and new jobs on both sides of the Pacific. I just had a good meeting with the Prime Minister of Vietnam this morning. The Foreign Minister is here. And we talked about E3 and the importance of it to this effort.
Through other projects, like the Lower Mekong Initiative, which I am particularly supportive of and engaged in, we're partnering there to tackle energy and environment challenges – challenges in water, agriculture, and food security that simply don't stop at anyone's border. So these efforts can improve lives for everybody in the region on a day-to-day basis, and we need to invest a lot more even going forward, as all of you know. The Mekong River is one of the great rivers of the world. And so many countries – China, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam – all share a part of that river, and each has an interest in the integrity of that river. So we need to focus on this challenge.
Another of our goals is, obviously, peace and security. And we're mindful that our shared security is a prerequisite for our shared prosperity. We're focused on every aspect, from maritime security to cyber security, from the high seas to our PCs, and beyond.
And your region is home to the world's busiest ports and most critical sea lanes, so stability where you live matters deeply to prosperity where we live. And it matters around the world. That's one of the reasons why the United States is so committed to maritime security, to the freedom of navigation on the seas, and to resolving the disputes with respect to territory and achieving a code of conduct with respect to that.
This is going to require respect for international law and unimpeded lawful commerce in the South China Sea. And that's why China and ASEAN should move as swiftly as possible to reach a binding code of conduct for addressing disputes without threats, without coercion, and without use of force.
Now, in the end, the relationships between our countries are only going to be as strong as the relationships between our citizens. And that's why a third priority of our initiative is stronger people-to-people ties. In this area, there's actually a lot of good news. Last year, we launched the U.S.-Brunei English Language Program. And in the past month, the first scholars in the new ASEAN Fulbright Program began their studies. One of the largest Fulbright programs in the world, which I'm proud to have started a number of years ago when I was in the Senate, is the Fulbrights program, and it's one of the largest – the second-largest, I think, in the world now. And then the Fulbright Program in Malaysia is expanding significantly every single year. And every one of these programs is another opportunity for countless students to build a connection, build friendships, and develop new perspectives that they bring back to their own countries – and I might add, new skills, new talents.
So our focus on these three goals is laser sharp. The commitment of the United States, led by President Obama, is strong. And the United States and ASEAN, I think together recognize the unlimited potential for cooperation in the region. I am convinced that our partnership can play a central role in promoting peace and prosperity in the 21st century. And we're very grateful to all of you for taking the time to come here today to focus on these issues and to focus on this relationship, and I look forward to the discussion that we're going to have.
Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Courtesy U.S. Department of State
JOINT PUBLIC STATEMENT
Cambodia's government and donors must act now to prevent escalation of violence
Thu the 7th Waning Moon of Poṭṭhapāda BE2557, September 26, AD2013 Year of the Snake
Gravely concerned at the Cambodian authorities' repeated use of excessive force to prevent and suppress the people's exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, the undersigned non-governmental organizations call on the Cambodian and foreign governments to take immediate action to prevent the human rights situation from deteriorating further.
Yesterday, 23 September, King Norodom Sihamoni convened the National Assembly in the country's capital Phnom Penh, despite a boycott by the main opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) and public petitions and protests calling on the monarch to delay the opening of parliament. Independent election monitoring and other civil society organizations have alleged systemic unfairness and massive irregularities around the national election of 28 July, challenging official results that give a narrow victory to the long-ruling Cambodia People's Party (CPP), an outcome also rejected by the CNRP.
Between 7 and 17 September, the CNRP held a number of non-violent demonstrations in Phnom Penh related to the election results. However, the authorities deployed razor wire roadblocks and multiple security forces, which restricted the ability of ordinary Cambodians from moving around the capital and precipitated violent clashes on the evening of 15 September. On that night, the security forces fired indiscriminately, killing one person and wounding several others.
The roadblocks and security forces were redeployed in the run-up to yesterday's opening of the National Assembly and remain in place in many locations. This has prevented people from getting anywhere near their parliament and precipitated several angry but non-violent confrontations between the security forces and people complaining about the barricades.
Moreover, on two occasions within the last few days, the authorities have ordered the "break-up" of small, entirely peaceful gatherings at Wat Phnom in central Phnom Penh to demand what participants described as electoral fairness. These actions displayed blatant disregard of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and have severely inflamed public opinion.
In the first incident, on the night of 20 September, hundreds of armed security forces comprised primarily of gendarmes dispersed a peaceful gathering led by CNRP official Prince Sisowath Thomico, who was on hunger strike at Wat Phnom where he was accompanied by a group of Buddhist monks and other supporters.
In the second and violent incident on the night of 22 September, a "mixed force" including police and gendarmes carrying firearms and civilian auxiliaries armed with electroshock weapons and slingshots violently broke up a peaceful vigil at Wat Phnom by representatives of people evicted from their homes in the Boeung Kak area of Phnom Penh. The participants were reiterating the demand for electoral fairness and calling for the release of imprisoned Boeng Kak housing rights activist Yorm Bopha. The group included many women and children, and their gathering was monitored by a number of human rights observers.
From around 10.30 p.m., dozens of security forces and accompanying civilians, operating together, descended on a group of perhaps 20 protesters and their family members, using electroshock weapons, slingshots and sticks to attack. Cambodian and foreign human rights monitors and journalists at the scene were also targeted, and one was warned by a security force officer before the violence was actually launched that unless he immediately left the area, he could be killed once the assault phase of the operation was in motion. According to eyewitnesses, security force personnel initially stood by as the violence intensified, then joined in the physical abuse. At least 10 community representatives were injured, including a woman of 72 and three other women who were hospitalized. One human rights monitor sustained a chest injury. Several journalists received electric shocks, with one having his camera smashed.
The undersigned organizations condemn the authorities' unnecessary and excessive use of force, despite a 16 September CPP-CNRP joint commitment by the two parties' top leaderships not to employ violence or weapons of any kind that could lead to injury or death. The recent incidents raise serious questions about the will or capacity of government authorities and the security forces to respect and protect the fundamental rights of those seeking to peacefully express their opinions.
We again call on the government to make a public commitment to uphold the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and related rights, specifying that all security forces and officials must facilitate the exercise of these rights. The government should also clearly commit to respecting the rights of human rights defenders and media workers, both of whom have a legitimate role to play in society, and take steps to guarantee their protection. We also call for a prompt, impartial, transparent and thorough investigation into the unlawful use of force. Anyone who is identified as responsible, irrespective of rank or position, should be prosecuted in fair trials.
Foreign governments and the United Nations must speak out and condemn violations of the right to peaceful assembly and related rights. As we have asked previously, foreign governments should, as a matter of urgency, make a strong, public statement asking that the government and security forces fully respect protect and promote the Cambodian people's right to peaceful assembly and other rights, regardless of their political views or affiliations. They should also ensure that human rights defenders and media workers can to carry out their important work, safe from violence, threats and intimidation.
-Cambodian Center for Human Rights
-Cambodian Center for Independent Media
-Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights(LICADHO)
-Human Rights Watch
Courtesy HRWSee More
A truly representative National Assembly, the real test for democracy in Cambodia – UN rights expert
Thu the 7th Waning Moon of Poṭṭhapāda BE2557, September 26, AD2013 Year of the Snake
GENEVA (25 September 2013) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Surya P. Subedi, today stressed that the key remaining challenge for the electoral process is for the country's leaders to ensure truly representative governance. Addressing the UN Human Rights Council amidst the ongoing political turmoil in Cambodia, the human rights expert also reiterated his call for calm and restraint.
"Every country that undergoes a transition to democracy faces a moment when the rules must change. Cambodia is facing such a moment now," Mr. Subedi said. Referring to the opening of the Cambodian National Assembly on 22 September with the presence of only one party, the expert strongly urged "dialogue to continue, at an appropriate decision-making level, with a view to resolving the current impasse without further delay."
The UN Special Rapporteur underscored that the widely-disputed election results indicate that "roughly half of the population voted for one party and half for the other". In his view, "it is critical for the new National Assembly to be represented by the two key parties, for the National Assembly to be truly representative of the whole of the Cambodian people and for it to be concluded that the right to vote was effectively exercised on 28 July."
Mr. Subedi noted the general restraint exercised by the Cambodian authorities in the use of force in the past weeks, but said he was "gravely concerned" by what he described as "indiscriminate and excessive use of force" in several recent incidents. He urged the authorities to allow future demonstrations to proceed without undue restrictions.
Peaceful assembly, the expert recalled, is a human right subject only to restrictions which are strictly necessary in a democratic society. He underscored that freedom of expression is an inherent part of the democratisation process and that the role of the State in peaceful demonstrations is to facilitate, not hinder, them. He stressed that any use of force must be subject to the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality. "I appeal to all actors to exercise restraint and calm," he said.
"I continue to believe that the leaders of Cambodia can still, even at this late stage, make this election a milestone in the journey to making Cambodia a just, equitable, and free society," the rights expert said. "It is my sincere hope that in the process, the situation will be resolved without further loss of life, and that the will of the people will be reflected in the new governance structure that will lead the country on its path to a true democracy."
Mr. Subedi presented today his fifth substantive report* to the UN Human Rights Council, focusing on follow-up to his previous reports since he was appointed as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia in 2009.
The rights expert restated his call upon the Cambodian government to keep moving forward on the implementation of his recommendations. "My reports on judicial, parliamentary and electoral reform can serve as guidelines to parliamentarians from both political parties as the country take the road towards a fuller liberal democracy underpinned by sustainable peace and equitable economic development," he said.
KKC Statement condemning authorities cracking down
on peaceful demonstrators in Cambodia
Wed the 14th Waxing Moon of Poṭṭhapāda BE2557, September 17, AD2013 Year of the Snake
Click on image to view large text
Vietnam internet restrictions come into effect
A controversial law banning Vietnamese online users from discussing current affairs has come into effect.
Sun the 11th Waning Moon of Sāvaṇa BE2557, September 1, AD2013 Year of the Snake
Vietnam has more than 30 million internet users
The decree, known as Decree 72, says blogs and social websites should not be used to share news articles, but only personal information.
The law also requires foreign internet companies to keep their local servers inside Vietnam.
It has been criticised by internet companies and human rights groups, as well as the US government.
Vietnam is a one-party communist state and the authorities maintain a tight grip on the media.
Dozens of activists, including bloggers, have been convicted for anti-state activity in the country this year.
The new law specifies that social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook should only be used "to provide and exchange personal information".
It also prohibits the online publication of material that "opposes" the Vietnamese government or "harms national security".
Last month the US embassy in Hanoi said it was "deeply concerned by the decree's provisions", arguing that "fundamental freedoms apply online just as they do offline".
Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based group that campaigns for press freedom worldwide, has said the decree will leave Vietnamese people "permanently deprived of the independent and outspoken information that normally circulates in blogs and forums".
The Asia Internet Coalition, an industry group that represents companies including Google and Facebook, said the move would "stifle innovation and discourage businesses from operating in Vietnam".
Op-Ed: The Washington Post -- The U.S.'s Lagging Commitment to Religious Freedom
Thu the 8th Waning Moon of Sāvaṇa BE2557, August 29, AD2013 Year of the Snake
Official logo of USCIRF
Dr. Robert P. George, USCIRF Chair
Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, Vice Chair
Although religious freedom is a pivotal human right, critical to national security and global stability, key provisions of the landmark International Religious Freedom Act are being neglected years after its passage. A number of studies demonstrates the link between freedom of religion and societal well-being, while its absence correlates closely with instability and violent religious extremism, including terrorism. Many governments, including those topping the U.S. foreign policy and security agendas, perpetrate or tolerate acts of religious repression, such as arbitrary detention, torture and murder.
The International Religious Freedom Act provides vital tools, including identifying and sanctioning the world's worst violators. But over many years and different administrations, the executive branch has not employed them fully or in a timely manner. With a key deadline for action arriving this month, it is time to confront this unwise failure to act.
When the act was passed in 1998, it made the promotion of religious freedom an official U.S. foreign policy priority and established at the State Department an ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. The legislation also created a bipartisan and independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, on which we serve, to monitor this right worldwide and make policy recommendations to Congress, the secretary of state and the president.
Congress gave the legislation real teeth through a groundbreaking enforcement mechanism: requiring annual administration review and designation of "countries of particular concern," defined as those governments engaging in or allowing "systematic, ongoing, egregious" violations.
While the law provides the administration with flexibility in how it will pressure those countries, the review and designation process is not discretionary. The law requires it. Whatever one's view of appropriate sanctions for violators, there can be little disagreement on the imperative of bearing witness to abuses.
Unfortunately, neither Republican nor Democratic administrations have consistently designated countries that clearly meet the standard for offenders. The Bush administration issued several designations in its first term but let the process fall off track in its second. The Obama administration issued designations only once during its first term, in August 2011.
The result? Violators such as Egypt, Pakistan and Vietnam are escaping the accountability that the International Religious Freedom Act is meant to provide.
Even those nations currently designated as "countries of particular concern" could escape accountability if there are no designations this month; under the law, countries remain designated until removed, but any corresponding penalties expire after two years. Without new designations, sanctions attached in 2011 to Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea and Sudan will expire this month. And while those countries are subject to sanctions under other U.S. laws, allowing the International Religious Freedom Act's sanctions authority to expire would send the disturbing message that the United States won't implement its own law on religious freedom.
To be sure, the Obama administration has taken some positive steps. It created a State Department working group on religion and foreign policy and this month established a new faith-based office, both tasked with religious engagement.
Also this month, Secretary of State John Kerry announced a U.S. Strategy on Religious Leader and Faith Community Engagement. As our commission has recommended, promoting religious freedom is among the three key objectives of this engagement.
Engagement should be part of any strategy for the promotion of religious freedom. But what will move gross offenders to stop persecuting individuals if not the credible threat of consequences? By letting the process of designating offenders atrophy, the United States surrenders its leverage while creating a chilling precedent for other rights. If this process is allowed to wither, what will happen to similarly designed programs such as the tiered system of the Trafficking in Persons Report, which was modeled on this approach?
The process of designating countries of particular concern works when deployed as intended — that is, not as a single bludgeon but as a targeted tool. When diplomacy is combined with the prospect or reality of such designations and attendant sanctions or other specific diplomatic and related actions, repressive governments — including Vietnam and Turkmenistan — have made meaningful changes. Moreover, countries often consider such a designation a stigma and blow to their world standing. Because a designation of concern is rightly perceived as an important factor in a country's relationships with the United States, it can create political will for reform where none otherwise would exist.
For the sake of freedom and security, it is time to apply the International Religious Freedom Act fully and the country designation process decisively. Congress has the right and the duty to press the executive branch to do so.
The following op-ed appeared in The Washington Post on August 21, 2013.
Robert P. George is chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Katrina Lantos Swett is a vice chairwoman of the commission.
Freedom Online Coalition Joint Statement on the Socialist Republic of Vietnam's Decree 72
Mon the 5th Waning Moon of Sāvaṇa BE2557, August 26, AD2013 Year of the Snake
Courtesy U.S. Department of State
Deputy Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
August 26, 2013
The Freedom Online Coalition is deeply concerned by the announcement of Vietnam's new Decree 72, which will impose further restrictions on the way the Internet is accessed and used in Vietnam when it comes into effect September 1. For example, Decree 72 restricts online information flow and limits the sharing of certain types of news and other speech. Decree 72 appears to be inconsistent with Vietnam's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as its commitments under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Decree 72 risks harming Vietnam's economy by constraining the development of businesses in Vietnam, limiting innovation, and deterring foreign investment. An open and free Internet is a necessity for a fully functioning modern economy; regulations such as Decree 72 that limit openness and freedom deprive innovators and businesses of the full set of tools required to compete in today's global economy.
The Freedom Online Coalition notes that resolution 20/8, adopted by consensus by the UN Human Rights Council in July 2012, confirms that human rights apply online as well as offline. The Freedom Online Coalition calls on the Vietnamese government to revise Decree 72 so that it promotes the ability of individuals to exercise their human rights, including the right to freedom of expression.
The Freedom Online Coalition is a cross-regional group of 21 governments that collaborate to advance Internet freedom worldwide. The Coalition provides a forum for like-minded governments to coordinate efforts and work with civil society and the private sector to support the ability of individuals to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms online.
The Freedom Online Coalition was formed at a conference hosted by the government of the Netherlands in 2011, and held further meetings hosted by Kenya in 2012, and Tunisia in 2013. The government of Estonia, chair of the Coalition, will host the next conference in spring 2014.
A Funeral Buddhist Service for the late Mr. Phuong Thach, age 84, passed away on last Saturday the 11th Waxing of Sāvaṇa B.E.2557, August 17, A.D.2013
Sun the 4th Waning Moon of Sāvaṇa BE2557, August 25, AD2013 Year of the Snake
Obit: The late Mr. Phuong Thach, age 84, passed away on Saturday the 11th Waning of Sāvaṇa B.E.2557, August 17, A.D.2013
Sat the 3rd Waning Moon of Sāvaṇa BE2557, August 24, AD2013 Year of the Snake
Sun the 12th Waxing Moon of Sāvaṇa BE2557, August 18, AD2013 Year of the Snake
Courtesy Michael Benge
The "he said, she said" dispute over the claim that the Cambodian regime suspended or cancelled international military cooperation with the U.S. offers an ideal opportunity for the Obama administration to right a wrong-headed policy of providing aid to a corrupt and politicized military implicated in brutal human rights abuses.
Cambodia 's military openly and illegally campaigned for former Khmer Rouge commander Prime Minister Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People's Party, a repressive communist kleptocracy, and created an atmosphere of voter intimidation in the recent July 28th elections marred by fraud according to Human Rights Watch.
According to the Pnomh Penh Post, last April, Cambodia 's pre-eminent environment activist, Chut Wutty was shot dead by military policemen protecting an illegal logging concession. Three weeks after Wutty's murder, soldiers hired to protect the economic concession of a company murdered a 14-year-old girl. In September, Cambodian investigative journalist Hang Serei Odom was hacked to death and stuffed in the trunk by a military officer protecting another concession.
Tens of thousands of people around the country have been forcibly evicted without compensation, and some killed, in land-grabs, often in connection with economic land concessions granted to powerful foreign-owned companies. Cambodia 's Army, commanded by Hun Sen's son, has a rent-a-cop policy -- an army for hire -- paid by the companies to carry out the evictions and guard their assets. Military trucks provided by the U.S. are used to transport soldiers for evictions and to protect private companies and are often seen hauling illegal timber cut from endangered forests.
It is outrageous that the United States supplies millions of dollars of equipment and other aid to Cambodia 's army while it engages in such flagrant abuses of human rights. U.S. military aid to Cambodia should be limited to only training its military on preventing human rights abuses and for disaster response and civic action; and it must be closely monitored to avoid continued misuse. The Obama Administration attempts to justify turning a blind eye toward abuses by the Cambodian military on the necessity to gain influence in Cambodia in competition with China ; a futile endeavor that it cannot win and a pipe dream at best. When the Obama administration suspended a shipment of about two dozen military vehicles to Cambodia in 2010, China promptly stepped in and donated over 250 military trucks. In October last year, Cambodia received about 100 tanks and 40 APCs from Ukraine – a shipment that marked one of the largest ever, suggesting that European arms dealers do not discriminate against Chinese money.
On Wednesday morning ( 08/14/13 ), a port official confirmed that "more than 80 tanks and APCs, and... about 100 containers of bullets and mortar shells," from an Eastern European country arrived at Sihanoukville Autonomous Port. The arrival comes just two weeks after the Chinese government gave 1,000 handguns and 50,000 rounds of ammunition to Cambodian police forces. Officials insisted the handover had been inked long before, but the delivery raised eyebrows among analysts who suggested it had been timed to coincide with post-election unrest. On Thursday, eyewitnesses in Preah Sihanouk province said they saw more than 20 heavily armed vehicles --including at least 16 tanks -- at the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port being transported by truck up National Road 4. Cambodia 's Defense Minister Tea Banh said that the truckloads of tanks and mounted rocket launchers seen by witnesses leaving the Port in the direction of Phnom Penh would be used to protect the country in the case that someone "tries to destroy the nation."
Where the U.S. has a distinct advantage and can gain influence with the disadvantaged Cambodian people is through providing humanitarian aid and economic development assistance at the grass roots level rather than aid to a morally corrupt regime's military.
And the band plays on.
Michael Benge spent 11 years in Vietnam as a foreign service officer and is a student of South East Asian politics. He is very active in advocating for human rights, religious freedom, and democracy for the peoples of the region and has written extensively on these subjects.
US criticises Vietnam internet control law
Tue the 15th Waning Moon of Āsāḷha BE2557, August 6, AD2013 Year of the Snake
Vietnam has more than 30 million internet users
The US has criticised a new internet decree in Vietnam that would restrict online users from discussing current affairs.
The law, announced last week and due to come into force in September, says social media should only be used for "[exchanging] personal information".
The US embassy in Hanoi said it was "deeply concerned" by the decree.
Vietnam has convicted at least 46 activists, including bloggers, for anti-state activity this year.
The law, known as Decree 72, bans the online publication of material that "opposes" the Vietnamese government or "harms national security".
It also specifies that social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook should only be used "to provide and exchange personal information".
In a statement on Tuesday, the US embassy in Hanoi said it was "deeply concerned by the decree's provisions that appear to limit the types of information individuals can share via personal social media accounts and on websites".
"Fundamental freedoms apply online just as they do offline," it said.
Campaign group Reporters Without Borders, which has included Vietnam among its list of "Enemies of the Internet", said: "If [the decree] takes effect, Vietnamese will be permanently deprived of the independent and outspoken information that normally circulates in blogs and forums".
The law would also require foreign internet companies to keep a server inside Vietnam, news agency AP reported.
The Asia Internet Coalition, an industry group that represents companies including Google and Facebook, said in a statement: "In the long term, the decree will stifle innovation and discourage businesses from operating in Vietnam."
Vietnam is a one-party communist state and the authorities maintain a tight grip on the media. Courtesy BBC
Statement Attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Cambodia's elections
Sat the 12th Waning Moon of Āsāḷha BE2557, August 3, AD2013 Year of the Snake
Courtesy the U.N.
Ban Ki Moon
The United Nations Secretary General
The Secretary-General welcomes the peaceful conduct of the elections in Cambodia on 28 July. Amid reports of irregularities, the United Nations encourages the competent authorities to adjudicate complaints fairly and transparently, with the ultimate aim of ensuring the accurate determination of, and respect for, the will of the Cambodian people.
The Secretary-General continues to follow the situation in the country closely.
The Late King Norodom Sihanouk Replies to Senator Thach Setha
Thu the 11th Waxing Moon of Āsāḷha BE2557, July 18, AD2013 Year of the Snake
His Majesty Norodom Sihanouk, The King of Kingdom of Cambodia, replies to Senator Thach Setha's on December 8, B.E.2547 A.D.2003 letter. King Norodom Sihanouk proclaims that the... kings of the Kingdom of Cambodia, sequentially, and Norodom Sihanouk never once give territories of motherland Kampuchea not even one arm's length to Vietnam, Thailand, or Laos. In any eras, the countries of Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos never have any gratitudes upon the Kingdom of Cambodia, and the Khmer kings and Norodom Sihanouk never commit [national] treason against the Nation, Citizens and motherland Kampuchea even once.
The 50th Anniversary of the self - immolation of Vietnamese Buddhist Monk Thich Quang Duc
Courtesy Senaka Weeraratna, The Buddhist Channel
Sun the 8th Waxing Moon of Jeṭṭha BE2557, June 16, AD2013 Year of the Snake
Colombo, Sri Lanka -- On June 11, 2013 the world commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the self immolation of Thich Quang Duc, an endeavour that had an enormous impact on world opinion and public perception of the then unfolding events in South Vietnam. It may well be said that it was a moment that changed the course of history of Vietnam, USA and the world at large.
The Buddhist world in particular has a moral obligation to commemorate this event and remember the great sacrifice of Bodhisattva Thich Quang Duc who burned himself to death on June 11, 1963 to protest against the persecution of Buddhists by the US-backed South Vietnamese administration of Ngo Dinh Diem.
Thich Quang Duc actively fought for religious freedom and equality for the Buddhist religion in pre – dominantly Buddhist (90%) South Vietnam. Many Buddhists outside South Vietnam who had lived through the western colonial period in Asia and having had the same / similar experience of denial of religious freedom and true equality for Buddhism under western Christian dominance, were very much moved to extend support for the Buddhist struggle in South Vietnam.
Sri Lanka provided meaningful support to the Buddhists of South Vietnam. Ven. Narada heads the list of supporters in having made 17 journeys on Dharmaduta missions to that country. The Bauddha Jatika Balavegaya (BJB) ( Buddhist National Force) led by L.H. Mettananda spearheaded the campaign of public protest. There were public meetings and public demonstrations throughout the country.
One huge public rally held at Ananda College, Colombo sponsored by the BJB following a three hour long Buddhist demonstration in Colombo called on the Government of Sri Lanka under Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike to extend maximum support to the beleaguered Buddhists in South Vietnam.
Mrs. Bandaranaike who was very sympathetic to the cause of Buddhism, promptly instructed Hon. R S S Gunawardena, Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the UN to highlight the grievances of Vietnamese Buddhists at the UN. His pleas articulated in an outspoken manner and with mounting evidence coming almost daily over the wires of repression of Buddhists in South Vietnam, resulted in the UN General Assembly adopting a motion on Oct. 8, 1963 to send a UN fact – finding mission to South Vietnam to inquire into the grievances of the Buddhists. It was while the UN team was in Vietnam that the Govt. of Ngo Dinh Diem was overthrown in an Army Coup on Nov. 2, 1963.
Thich Quang Duc's self-immolation sparked a sense of solidarity among Buddhists in Vietnam and brought the fight for religious equality and freedom to a success in 1963. The Most Venerable's remains was later re-cremated at 4,000 degree Celsius, but his heart did not burn and remained intact.
Therefore, the heart was considered to be holy and placed in a glass chalice in Xa Loi Pagoda. Thich Quang Duc was declared and honored as a Bodhisattva in 1964.
The last words of Thich Quang Duc before his self – immolation contained in a letter were as follows:
“Before closing my eyes and moving towards the vision of the Buddha, I respectfully plead to President Ngo Dinh Diem to take a mind of compassion towards the people of the nation and implement religious equality to maintain the strength of the homeland eternally. I call the venerables, reverends, members of the sangha and the lay Buddhists to organise in solidarity to make sacrifices to protect Buddhism.”
USCIRF's 2013 Annual Report on Vietnam's Khmer Krom Human and Religious Rights Violations
Tue the 3rd Waxing Moon of Jeṭṭha BE2557, June 11, AD2013 Year of the Snake
Annual Report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
April 2013 (Covering January 31, 2012 – January 31, 2013)
Religious freedom conditions remain very poor despite some positive changes over the past decade in response to international attention. The Vietnamese government continues to imprison individuals for religious activity or religious freedom advocacy. It uses a specialized religious police force (công an tôn giáo) and vague national security laws to suppress independent Buddhist, Protestant, Hoa Hao, and Cao Dai activities, and seeks to stop the growth of ethnic minority Protestantism and Catholicism via discrimination, violence and forced renunciations of their faith.
Independent Hoa Hoa congregations, Cao Dai and Khmer Buddhist temples, and United Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) pagodas faced harassment and restrictions. Human rights defender Le Quoc Quan was arrested and is being held without charge.
USCIRF recommends Vietnam as one of the seven additional countries be designated as CPCs. See downloads on
Report on Vietnam: Pages 195 - 210
VN authorities mistreat Khmer Buddhist monks in Khleang province, Kampuchea Krom
Thu the 14th Waxing Moon of Visakha BE2556, May 23, AD2013 Year of the Snake
The Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community, KKC, requests Cambodia's Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation Ministry to intervene with Vietnam on the cases of the venerables Ly Jenda, Kuy, and Leas, who were illegally detained by VN authorities in Khleang province, Kampuchea Krom, for networking with the overseas Khmer Krom civil society.
The Constitution of Vietnam, chapter 5, article 50 states, "In the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, human rights in all respects, political, civic, economic, cultural and social are respected, find their expression in the rights of citizens and are provided for by the Constitution and the law."
..., article 52 states, "All citizens are equal before the law."
..., article 69 states, "Citizens are entitled to freedom of speech and freedom of the press; they have the right to receive information and the right of assembly, association and demonstration in accordance with the law."
..., article 70 states, "Citizens have the right to freedom of belief and religion, and may practise or not practise any religion. All religions are equal before the law. Public places of religious worship are protected by law. No one has the right to infringe on the freedom of faith and religion or to take advantage of the latter to violate State laws and policies."
Obit: The late Mr. Son To, Age 91, Passed Away on 03.20 B.E.2556 A.D.2013 in Montréal, Canada
Thu the 10th Waxing Moon of Phagguṇa BE2556, Mar 21, AD2013 Year of the Dragon
The late Mr. Son To passed away at 9:30PM on Wednesday the 9th Waxing Moon of Phagguṇa B.E.2556, March 20, A.D.2013 in the Jean Talon Hospital, Montréal, Quebec, Canada due to illness.
The late Mr. Son To, Buddhist, former Buddhist monk, born on Friday the 3rd Waning Moon of Phussa B.E.2466, January 5, A.D.1923 in Ta Maek village, Nakta
Snaa Mphei commune, Kampong Thom district, Preah Trapeang province, Kampuchea Krom, former Cochin China, in the time of French colonial administered Kampuchea Krom, to a farmer family.
Contact Info: Son Trien 514.323.9518, Son Sockha 514.593.7537, Thach Savan 514.915.4318, or Kim Sac Toan 514.331.4698.
King Norodom Sihanouk Replies to Senator Thach Setha
His Royal Majesty Norodom Sihanouk, the King of Kingdom of Cambodia, replies to Senator Thach Setha's 12/08/2003 letter. King Norodom Sihanouk proclaims that the kings of the Kingdom of Cambodia, sequentially, and Norodom Sihanouk never once give territories of motherland Kampuchea not even one arm's length to Vietnam, Thailand, or Laos. In any eras, the countries of Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos never have any gratitudes upon the Kingdom of Cambodia, and the Khmer kings and Norodom Sihanouk never commit [national] treason against the Nation, Citizens and motherland Kampuchea even once.
Download the King's Reply to Senator Thach Setha
Khmers in mourning, former King Norodom Sihanouk passed away, age 90, on Oct 15 2556, 2012
Wed the 2nd Waxing Moon of Assayuja BE2556, October 17, AD2012 Year of the Dragon
Remember Khmer Heroes
Mon the 15th Full Moon of Jeṭṭha BE2556, June 4, AD2012 Year of the Dragon
For U.S. residents and other countries, please kindly make payable personal check or traveler’s check and send it to: Ra Thach,
P.O. Box 37502,
Philadelphia, PA 19148 U.S.A.
For Canada residents, please kindly make payable personal check or traveler’s check and send it to: Suvong Kim,
25 Galsworthy Avenue,
Scarborough, Ontario M1R 2N5 Canada ---------------------------------------------------
For residents of Cambodia and Kampuchea Krom, please kindly contact us at an address below:
The Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community (KKC)
House No. 10B, Street 234, Tuk Laak 3 commune, Tuol Kork district
Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia
Phones: 011 855 12 908 882 or 011 855 090 477 007 ---------------------------------------------------
Former Buddhist Monk and Abbot Tim Sakhorn at his house in Phnom Den, Kirivong district, Takeo province, Kingdom of Cambodia on April 6, 2009
Former Buddhist monk and abbot Tim Sakhorn uses this S.R. Vietnam-issued international border pass to re-enter Cambodia on April 4, 2009.
Former abbot Tim Sakhorn in Vietnamese civilian clothe in his his Takeo home with KKC Executive Director and former SRP Senator Thach Setha holding Tim Sakhorn's Vietnam-issued international border pass book and identification card
Former abbot Tim Sakhorn poses for picture with visiting domestic Khmer Krom human rights activists. KKC Photos
Related materials can be found on KKC website in Press, Speech, Activities, and News Articles http://www.khmerkromngo.org
No foreigners Love Khmers Than Khmers Love Khmers.
Any one serves foreign interest would be condemned by the Khmer nationals and history. Phuchhuoy Kong is an example.
Khmer Krom, Khmer Kandal, and Khmer Loeur are Khmers.