The Vietnamese: EU Officials Raised Concern Over Worrying Human Rights Situation In Vietnam

“The human rights situation in Vietnam is worrying,” according to Commissioner for Trade of the European Union, Cecilia Malmström, after her meeting with independent Vietnamese civil society organizations on March 14, 2019.

When announcing the adoption of the EU-Vietnam trade and investment agreements (EV-FTA) in October 2018, Commissioner Malmström had hoped that such agreements would “help spread European high standards and create possibilities for in-depth discussions on human rights and the protection of citizens.”

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On March 14, VOICE’s advocate human rights delegation met with Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Trade of the European Union. From left, Anna Nguyen – VOICE’s Director of Programs, Cecilia Malmström, Trinh Hoi – VOICE’ Executive Director and Nguyen Vi Yen.

However, during recent months, the human rights situation in Vietnam did not improve.

Instead, it became more concerning.

Commissioner Malmström is not the only EU official who has expressed concerns over the worrying trend of suppression on human rights in Vietnam in recent months.

32 MEPs from across the political spectrum of the EU Parliament signed a letter back in September 2018, calling on the EU to demand specific human rights improvements from Vietnam before the ratification of the EV-FTA.

EU Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy, Maya Kocijancic, also confirmed in an interview with Radio Free Asia earlier this month, that during the 8th EU-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue held in Brussels on March 4, 2019, the EU had addressed specific cases of prisoners of conscience with the Vietnamese delegation.

Ms. Kocijancic also stated during the same interview that the annual dialogue “raised a wide range of issues related to freedom of expression, cybersecurity, the death penalty, environmental and labor rights, cooperation within the United Nations framework.”

As of today, The 88 Project’s database documented 21 Vietnamese activists are held in pre-trial detention. There are 218 other activists currently serving a prison sentence; among them, 30 are female activists and 51 indigenous political prisoners.

According to VOICE (Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment), one of the organizations attended the meeting with Commissioner Malmström, the unconditional and in-country release of Vietnamese prisoners of conscience must be the first human rights benchmark before the ratification of the EV-FTA.

Vi Tran, from The Vietnamese.

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Photo from Malmström’s Twitter, Commissioner for Trade of the European Union.

Trí Nguyễn – Humans of VOICE

“Một ngày nào đó Việt Nam sẽ có thật nhiều những nhà lãnh đạo, và chính họ sẽ là những người tạo nên phong trào xã hội dân sự ở Việt Nam, và sẽ giải quyết được những vấn đề xã hội của chính họ, và một phần nào đó thúc đẩy phong trào dân chủ cho Việt Nam.”

Hôm nay chúng ta cùng trò chuyện với anh Trí Nguyễn, Quản lý Sự kiện của VOICE.

Trong những năm qua, hàng trăm người đã và đang đóng góp vào sự phát triển, lớn mạnh của VOICE, từ tái định cư cho người Việt tị nạn đến thúc đẩy phát triển xã hội dân sự trong nước.

Chính họ, với nỗ lực tập thể, đã định hình tầm nhìn, thực hiện sứ mệnh và triển khai các hoạt động hàng ngày, hàng tháng của VOICE.

Tuy nhiên, vì lí do nào đó, những câu chuyện về họ chưa được kể. Do vậy, chúng tôi trân trọng thực hiện một loạt những câu chuyện mang tên Humans of VOICE để công chúng hiểu hơn về những công việc và con người của VOICE.

Những câu chuyện này sẽ được kể lần lượt vào thứ Sáu mỗi tuần, vào lúc 20h, giờ Việt Nam. Mời quý vị và các bạn đón xem.

Bạn có xem mình là một Human of VOICE? Hãy cho chúng tôi biết nhé!

#HumansOfVOICE

 

The woman of VOICE

On International Women’s Day, March 8, we wish “half of the world” strength, success and happiness. We would like to honor female activists, especially female prisoners of conscience, who have sacrificed so much to fight for a better society.

The role of women is increasingly affirmed, in the family, society and at VOICE. Gender equality is one of the values that VOICE focuses on. This is reflected in our male/female ratio as well as policies that concern women.

Currently, we have two female Board members out of five people. On average, about 50% of our interns are female. This rate is also applied to our staff, including key positions such as department directors and managers. We also have policies, such as health insurance and maternity leave for both genders.

We recognize and appreciate the role of women in promoting social change. Therefore, ensuring equality in accessing opportunities for both sexes is indispensable at VOICE.

Once again, we wish you a meaningful International Women Day.

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A picture of VOICE’s female staff, interns and our beautiful dog.

Shiwei Ye – Humans of VOICE

“Currently there is a crackdown and some people say this is one of the worst cycles of crackdown that Vietnam seen in years.

I think this is precisely why it’s very important to continue to support civil society programs whether by VOICE or by any other independent civil society inside and outside of Vietnam.

To keep independent voices alive and to increase the skills and knowledge of civil society activists and human rights defenders. And to continue to engage the government and to make the government realize that an independent and vibrant civil society is actually good for the country in the long run.”

Shiwei Ye is secretary of VOICE’s Board of Directors, American.

Shiwei has worked with local, regional and international human rights organisations in advocacy, research, human rights defenders protection, capacity-building, and grant-making in Southeast Asia and East Asia.

Shiwei was the senior programme officer for the Chinese NGO Human Rights in China (HRIC), and he also worked as the Southeast Asia representative for the Sweden-based Civil Rights Defenders and the France-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

Shiwei has a Masters of International Affairs, focusing on human rights, from Columbia University and a BA in International Relations, focusing on peace and security, from the University of California Davis.

#HumansOfVOICE

Who is VOICE?

Through their collective efforts, they have shaped the vision, implemented the mission and deployed the daily and monthly activities of VOICE.

However, their stories have not been told yet. We now will start a series of stories called Humans of VOICE to help the public understand more about VOICE’s people and work.

These stories will be told every Friday, at 20:00, Vietnam time. Let’s wait and watch.

Would you consider yourself as a Human of VOICE? Please let us know!

#HumansOfVOICE

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Tet 2019 Greetings from VOICE

The VOICE team welcomes in the Year of the Pig 2019 with a deep appreciation of our community’s past support. With hope and excitement we look forward to a new year of changes and opportunities. We at VOICE would like to wish our friends and supporters a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

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Anna Nguyen: “It is much more intelligent to try, rather than not to try.”

The following article is the sharing of Anna Nguyen, VOICE’s Director of Programs, on the occasion of the trip to advocate the human rights of the Vietnamese delegation in Europe.
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“Surely, in the light of history, it is more intelligent to hope rather than to fear, to try rather than not to try. For one thing we know beyond all doubt: Nothing has ever been achieved by the person who says, ‘It can’t be done.'” – Eleanor Roosevelt

On the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), I reflect back on my week in Brussels. This week was definitely a learning experience for me, after an intense week of back to back meetings with Members of the European Parliament and European Commission, talking about the importance of human rights concessions that need to be made by the Vietnamese government prior to the ratification of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) and the leverage the EVFTA can be used to demand for an improved human rights situation in Vietnam.

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The EVFTA is a trade agreement between the EU and Vietnam, with hopes that once it’s signed, the EU will boost its trade and investment ties with Vietnam. ‘The EVFTA is an important stepping stone to a wider EU-Southeast Asia trade deal, something which the EU has been striving towards for almost 10 years. Vietnam, a fast-growing and competitive economy whose bilateral trade with the EU has quintupled over the past ten years, is equally keen on the deal, which according to the European Commission could potentially boost its GDP by 15%.’ (*)

Despite being 70 years since the UDHR was signed, human rights has taken a step back and our presence is still required to advocate for simple improvements in human rights. However, in each of my meetings this week, I was reminded how small of a fish we really are, in this huge ocean of diplomacy, trade deals, and agreements. We can talk for hours about the worsening human rights situation in Vietnam, and the staggering number of human rights defenders that have been sent to prison for their peaceful civil and political rights work (165 according to https://vietnamprisoners.info). We can go on and on about how much the EVFTA is needed by the Vietnamese government, not only because it could potentially boost their GDP, but also in order to be seen as balancing the interests between Conglomerate China and the West. We could continue to stress the power the EU has in pushing for the release of political prisoners and amendment to laws that infringe upon rights such as freedom of expression, and that if the EU wants to be seen seriously, they need to secure, at the very least, these demands before an agreement is signed.

Whether our voices actually amounts to real change is the real test. At times, I really wonder whether these meetings actually make a dent in any diplomatic negotiations. Whether the voice of civil society actors can really make an impact on how a country will be in the next 5, 10, or 100 years, and whether our input can shape how human rights and civil society organisations are able to safely and freely operate in a repressive country like Vietnam. After all, my voice is literally and metaphorically so small compared to this big arena of agreements and diplomacy, how much difference would I actually be able to make?!

But in the words of Mrs. Roosevelt, ”nothing has been achieved by the person who says, ‘it can’t be done.’” It is important to hope, to fight, even in the light of despair and deterioration. And surely, it is much more intelligent to try, rather than not to try.

(*) https://www.europarl.europa.eu/legislative-train/theme-a-balanced-and-progressive-trade-policy-to-harness-globalisation/file-eu-vietnam-fta?fbclid=IwAR2jIFGYxI5BbofGhHGmuaEp-0KM2tOfWLse6l4yvPhzE-35UAG0dr9om9k

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Source from Anna’s Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/ana.nguyen/posts/10157185635121111