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TITLE:  VIETNAM HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                            VIETNAM


The Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) is a one-party state 
controlled by the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP).  The VCP's 
constitutionally mandated leading role and the occupancy of 
nearly all senior Government positions by Party officials 
ensures the primacy of Politburo guidelines.  The National 
Assembly, chosen in elections in which all candidates are 
approved by the Party, remains largely subservient to the VCP.  
However, an effort is underway to reduce Party intrusion into 
Government operations and Government officials have more 
latitude in implementing policy.  The Government continued to 
restrict individual liberties on national security and other 
grounds.

The military is responsible for external defense and has no 
direct role in maintaining internal security.  The Ministry of 
Interior is responsible for internal security, employing a 
large border defense force and the police to monitor persons 
suspected of involvement in unauthorized political or religious 
activities.  The Government continued to monitor the general 
populace through informants, household registration, and 
party-appointed block wardens, but apparently reduced somewhat 
the extent of such monitoring to concentrate on those suspected 
of engaging, or likely to engage, in political or religious 
activities opposed by the Government.

The Government continued the market-oriented economic reforms 
begun in 1986 to try to modernize and develop the predominantly 
agricultural economy.  The reforms have had the greatest impact 
in urban areas, where private businesses are increasing, and in 
fertile agricultural regions where farmers have incentives to 
grow and market their produce.  Although Vietnam remains very 
poor, particularly in marginal rural areas, the reforms have 
helped raise most people's standard of living.  Also, private 
sector growth has made it more difficult for the Party and the 
Government to dominate people's lives, particularly in urban 
areas, to the extent they did in the past.

Nonetheless, the Government was responsible for continued human 
rights violations in 1994.  Vietnamese citizens did not have 
the right to change their government or to assemble, associate, 
or speak freely.  The Government continued to prohibit 
establishment of an independent press and independent 
organizations.  It also maintained its longstanding policy of 
not tolerating dissent.  Despite some progress in developing a 
legal infrastructure, Vietnam does not yet enjoy the rule of 
law.  The judicial system is not independent, and the judicial 
process lacks transparency.  However, citizens enjoyed greater 
freedom to travel and change their residence, to engage in 
economic activity, and to initiate labor strikes.  Within 
narrow boundaries, the Government tolerated and even welcomed 
serious press and public debate and criticism --including 
occasional public protest--primarily with regard to corruption 
and mismanagement.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political killings.  Little 
information is available on the number of deaths in police 
custody or on official investigations into such incidents, but 
some extrajudicial killings do occur.  In at least 2 instances, 
killings were acknowledged and legal action was taken against 
the perpetrators.  The Vietnamese press reported in September 
that the Institute of People's Investigation in Quang Ninh 
province had decided to take legal action against police 
officials in Ha Long City for reportedly beating a suspected 
thief to death.  In October, following a public outcry, a Hanoi 
court tried and convicted policeman for robbing and shooting to 
death an innocent passerby.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no documented incidents of political abductions by 
Government security organizations or by antigovernment forces.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits physical abuse and torture.  However, there 
were credible reports of inhuman treatment in the penal system, 
although the lack of access to jails and prisons makes any 
conclusive judgments impossible.  There were no credible 
reports of torture of detainees.  Authorities reportedly did 
use threats and other psychological coercion to elicit 
confessions.

Prison conditions are severe but do not generally threaten the 
lives of prisoners.  There were credible reports of the use of 
forced labor.  Prisoners doing hard labor complained that the 
diet and health care available at the prisons was insufficient 
to sustain their health, especially when they were detained in 
remote, disease-ridden areas.

Credible reports indicate that well-known dissident Dr. Doan 
Viet Hoat, who is in poor health, was shackled, placed in 
solitary confinement, and denied visits from his wife after 
refusing to carry out hard labor in a remote prison camp near 
the Laotian border.  In July prison officials eventually 
allowed Dr. Hoat's wife to visit, but she reported she was 
given only 15 minutes to see him and said that prison 
authorities harassed her.  According to unconfirmed reports, 
four Buddhist monks imprisoned in Ba Sao reeducation camp near 
Hanoi conducted a hunger strike to protest prison conditions.  
In both cases, SRV authorities denied the reports but refused 
to allow international observers to visit the prisoners.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Little information is available on the extent to which families 
and attorneys have access to criminal and political prisoners.  
Anecdotal evidence indicates that they generally are able to 
visit.  Diplomats had limited access to imprisoned nationals.

The Government continued to arrest and imprison people 
arbitrarily.  Although the 1989 Criminal Procedure Code 
provides for various rights for detainees, including time 
limits on pretrial detention and the right to have a lawyer 
present during negotiation, in practice authorities often 
ignore these legal safeguards.

Law enforcement personnel appear able to arrest and incarcerate 
people without presenting arrest warrants.  In cases where a 
warrant is presented, the procurator rather than an independent 
judiciary approves issuance of warrants.  Once arrested, people 
are often held for indefinite periods without formal charges 
and without access to a lawyer.  There is no functioning bail 
system, and detainees do not have the right to judicial 
determination of the legality of their detention.  The extent 
to which authorities hold detainees incommunicado is unknown.  
Two Vietnamese-Americans, Nguyen Tan Tri and Tran Quang Liem, 
were arrested in November 1993 for trying to organize a 
democracy conference in Ho Chi Minh City.  At year's end, they 
had not been charged but were still being detained.

Those arrested for peaceful expression of their views are 
likely to be charged under any one of several provisions in the 
Criminal Code outlawing acts against the State.  For example, 
authorities arrested Pham Van Quang in December 1992 for waving 
the former Republic of Vietnam flag during the Ho Chi Minh City 
international marathon.  In February 1994, Quang was tried and 
convicted of "rebellion" and was sentenced to 15 years 
imprisonment.  According to press reports, Buddhist monk Vo 
Hanh Duc, arrested following disturbances involving Buddhists 
in Ba Ria-Vung Tau province in July 1993, was sentenced to 3 
years in prison in January for "activities against the law" and 
"handing out documents hostile to the Socialist Government of 
Vietnam."

There are no reliable figures on the number of political 
detainees being held since the Government often does not 
publicize arrests and frequently conducts secret trials and 
sentencing.

The Government does not use exile as a means of political 
control.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The court system consists of local people's courts, military 
tribunals, and the Supreme People's Court, an appellate court.  
In addition, local mass organizations are empowered to deal 
with minor breaches of law or disputes, and the National 
Assembly in late 1993 approved the establishment of economic 
courts to hear commercial disputes.

While the Constitution provides for the independence of judges 
and jurors, in practice the VCP closely controls the courts at 
all levels, selecting judges primarily for political 
reliability.  Credible reports indicate that Party officials, 
including top leaders, instruct courts how to rule on 
politically important cases.  The procurator determines, based 
on a police investigation, whether to prosecute or to release 
the accused.  The procurator serves as both prosecutor and 
supervisor of the trial proceedings.  A two-person judging 
council, made up of a judge and a people's juror (lay judge), 
determines guilt or innocence and also passes sentence on the 
convicted.  The President appoints judges.  The relevant 
people's council appoints people's jurors, who are to be people 
of high moral standards but who are not required to have legal 
training.

Trials are open to the public, although the procurator has the 
right to close trials in sensitive cases.  Defendants have the 
right to be present during their trial, and the defendant or 
his lawyer has the right to cross-examine witnesses.  Little 
information is available on the extent to which defendants and 
their lawyers have time to prepare for trials and obtain access 
to government evidence.  Although Vietnam has made some 
progress in establishing a legal system, many judges and other 
court officials lack adequate legal training, and the lack of 
openness in the judicial process, coupled with judicial 
subservience to the executive branch, continue to block the 
emergence of a fair and effective judicial system.

There is no reliable information on the total number of 
political prisoners in Vietnam.  Anti-SRV exile groups have 
claimed there are as many as 1,000 political prisoners in the 
country; other reliable sources put the figure closer to 200. 
The secrecy surrounding the Vietnamese judicial and prison 
systems makes it difficult for outside observers to make an 
accurate estimate.

Several persons are known to be in prison for peaceful 
expression of their views.  For example, Doan Thanh Liem is 
currently serving a 12-year labor camp sentence for spreading 
anti-Socialist propaganda.  Truong Hung Thai, arrested with 
Liem, is serving an 8-year sentence.  Doan Van Hoat is serving 
a 15-year sentence for "counterrevolutionary" activity.  Human 
rights activist Nguyen Dan Que, sentenced to 20 years 
imprisonment in 1991, remains in prison despite his poor health.

In 1994 the Government released a number of well-known 
political prisoners, including the well-known dissident Quach 
Vinh Nien.  Nien, who was allowed to join his family abroad,  
had been in prison since 1978 serving a life sentence for 
"antigovernment activity and disloyalty."

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

The Government continued to operate a nationwide system of 
surveillance and control through household registration and 
party-appointed block wardens who use informants to keep track 
of individual activities.  However, many foreign observers 
believe this monitoring was done with less scope and efficiency 
than in the past, with authorities concentrating on those 
suspected of involvement in unauthorized political or religious 
activities.  Anecdotal evidence suggests Government monitoring 
is stricter in the south, especially in Ho Chi Minh City.  
Particularly in urban areas, most Vietnamese citizens were free 
to contact, talk, and work with foreigners, although many 
remained nervous about extensive social contacts.

The Government continued to selectively censor mail, confiscate 
packages, and monitor telephone and facsimile transmissions.  
In the past, the Party pressed people to belong to one or more 
mass organizations, which exist for villages, city districts, 
schools, work (trade unions), youth, and women.  However, with 
the growth of the private sector, these organizations play a 
less important role than in the past.

While membership in the VCP remains an aid to advancement in 
the Government or in state companies, and vital to promotion to 
senior levels of the Government, the Party faced increased 
difficulty attracting members.  In response, the Government 
increased its recruitment efforts and was marginally successful 
in attracting new members from the private sector.

The Government continued to implement a family-planning policy 
that urges all families to have no more than two children.  It  
sometimes penalized people who have more than two children by 
denying promotions or permission to change jobs.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and press, but 
in practice the Government severaly limits such freedoms.  The 
Party and the Government tolerated public discussion and even 
criticism somewhat more than in the past, though still within 
narrow and poorly defined limits.  For example, Vietnamese 
citizens could and did complain openly about bureaucratic 
lethargy, administrative procedures, corruption, and even 
economic policy.

However, the Government continued to clamp down on free speech 
that questioned the role of the Party, criticized individual 
SRV leaders, promoted multiparty democracy, or discussed 
sensitive matters such as human rights.  For example, credible 
nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) reported that in March, 
the authorities arrested Nguyen Ho, a southern Party figure, 
for writing and circulating an article calling for greater 
democracy and respect for human rights in Vietnam.  In poor 
health, he was released in June and at year's end remained at 
home under surveillance.

The Government did not use systematic prior censorship to 
control the media, but Party guidance was pervasive, and 
national security legislation remained sufficiently broad to 
ensure effective self-censorship in the domestic media.  The 
Government continued to control the domestic print media, but 
new newspapers were approved for publication and investigative 
reporting of corruption and mismanagement increased.  In 
addition, there was some debate on economic policy with 
political overtones.  Restrictions against new publications by 
dissident writers remained in force.

The Party and the Government continued to control the broadcast 
media and did not normally permit the broadcast of opposing 
views.  The Government made no effort to limit access to 
international radio or television, which many Vietnamese listen 
to regularly.  Vietnamese television and radio frequently 
carried interviews with and speeches by foreigners, including 
diplomats and businessmen, and foreign publications continued 
to be widely available.  Although the Government announced its 
intention to control satellite dishes more strictly, they 
appear to be proliferating.  Foreign journalists must be 
approved by the Foreign Ministry's press center.  The center 
monitors their activities and decides on a case-by-case basis 
whether to send a press center representative to accompany 
journalists covering specific events.

The trend toward increased information flow appeared to extend 
into the university system.  Foreign scholars working 
temporarily at Vietnamese universities said they were able to 
discuss freely a wide range of issues, including human rights, 
in the classroom.  Vietnamese academic publications, however, 
usually reflect the views of the Party and the Government.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Government restricts the right of assembly in law and 
practice.  People wishing to gather in a group are required to 
apply for a permit, which local authorities can deny 
arbitrarily.  However, people routinely gathered in an informal 
groups.  The Government does not usually interfere as long as 
the gatherings are not organized.  Normally, the Government 
does not permit demonstrations or meetings for political 
purposes, but has been more tolerant than in the past of 
occasional popular demonstrations about specific grievances 
against local officials.  With few exceptions, the Government 
prohibits the establishment of private, independent 
organizations, insisting that individuals work within 
established, party-controlled organizations.  Vietnamese 
citizens cannot establish independent political parties, 
religious organizations, labor unions, business or veterans' 
organizations.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Although the Constitution provides for freedom of worship, the 
Government continued to restrict religious organizations 
significantly.  The Party forbids its officials to adhere to a 
religion, although it appears to have relaxed enforcement of 
this rule.  The Government continued to ease restrictions on 
the practice of religion in 1994.

The Party and the Government continued policies designed to 
control religious hierarchies and organized religious 
activities, in part because the Government perceives that 
religion may threaten the Party's monopoly of influence.  All 
religious groups report continued difficulties in obtaining 
teaching materials, expanding religious training facilities, 
and publishing materials.

The Government requires all Buddhist monks to work under the 
Government-controlled Buddhist organization's umbrella.  The 
Government has actively suppressed recent efforts by the 
Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) to operate outside of 
Government control.  The Government has arrested Buddhists who 
have pushed for an independent organization, and it has harshly 
criticized the UBCV in a series of speeches and publications, 
calling it a tool of reactionary exiles.

The tension between the Government and the UBCV, which had 
escalated in 1993 with public demonstrations and the arrest of 
Buddhist monks and followers in Hue and Ba Ria-Vung Tau 
province, continued in 1994.  The UBCV's leader, the Venerable 
Thich Huyen Quang, called on his followers to step up their 
fight against the Government's domination of religion.  Despite 
SRV claims to the contrary, credible reports indicated that 
Quang remained under house arrest in Quang Ngai province for 
most of the year.  In late December, Buddhist organizations 
abroad reported that the Venerable Thich Huyen Quang and the 
Venerable Thich Quang Do had been arrested for their 
activities.  Four monks imprisoned in 1993 after disturbances 
in Hue reportedly began a hunger strike at the Ba Sao 
reeducation camp.  There was also an unconfirmed report that in 
July the Venerable Thich Hunh Duc began a hunger strike in 
Phuoclo prison in Ba Ria to protest his prison sentence and the 
postponement of his appeal.  Subsequently, his appeal was 
rescheduled and his sentence reaffirmed.

In a marked improvement from the 1980's, people appear free to 
attend worship services, and attendance at religious services 
continued to increase.  Catholic churches in Hanoi and Ho Chi 
Minh City, as well as Buddhist temples and Hoa Hao and Cao Dai 
edifices in the south, appear active.  Also, in July the 
Government issued Directive 1379 which called for the 
authorities to allow the restoration of places of religious 
worship, allow the printing of religious books in accordance 
with the law, and create favorable conditions for religious 
denominations to train their missionaries at religious training 
centers approved by the Government.  It is unclear what impact 
this Directive will have on religious freedom.

The Government has sought to control the Catholic Church 
hierarchy in Vietnam, in part by requiring all clergy to belong 
to the government-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association.  
It has also insisted on its right to approve Vatican 
appointments, and as a result key church positions remained 
unfilled for long periods.  The Vatican has acceded to the 
Government's demand that it approve Vatican appointments.  As a 
result, increasing numbers of vacant clerical positions were 
filled, including bishops and archbishops.

In mid-1994 the Vatican and the SRV reached agreement on the 
appointments of Bishop Tung of Bac Ninh to be Archbishop of 
Hanoi and Nguyen Nhu The as Apostolic Administrator for the 
Archdiocese of Hue.  The Vactican's reassignment of Bishop 
Nguyen Van Thuan opens the way to appoint a successor to the 
ailing Bishop of Ho Chi Minh City.  The Government has slightly 
eased some restrictions on Catholic Church activities while 
maintaining control of its hierarchy and restricting training 
of new clergy.  In March the Government declared that bishops 
and priests could travel freely in their dioceses and that 
priests released from reeducation camps could carry out 
religious duties if local authorities agreed.  Five training 
seminaries are now open, with 120-150 students.  All students 
must be approved by the Government, both upon entering the 
seminary and prior to ordination as priests.

The Christian Missionary Alliance of Vietnam, the only 
government-approved Protestant organization in the country, 
enjoyed slightly greater freedom.  Church attendance grew 
despite continued Government restrictions on proselytizing 
activities.  NGO's reported the arrest of several Hmong 
protestants for proselytizing in northern Vietnamese villages.  
The Government has allowed the Alliance to open a Bible college 
in Danang and to reestablish ties with foreign religious groups.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Most citizens enjoyed greater freedom to travel within the 
country.  In general, the Government no longer requires permits 
to travel across provincial lines and in practice enforces few 
restrictions on internal travel.  However, there were credible 
reports of members of ethnic minorities being required to 
obtain permission from local authorities to travel outside of 
certain highland areas.  Officially, citizens must obtain 
permission to change their residence, but many people have done 
so without approval.  Foreigners are free to travel throughout 
the country.  Foreigners are generally free to travel througout 
the country, although the Government must approve travel by 
foreigners to border areas, some areas in the central 
highlands, and some islands.  Local authorities have sometimes 
been willing to allow foreigners to travel to the border 
without permission.

The Government still requires citizens traveling abroad to 
obtain exit visas but is more willing to grant those visas than 
in the past.  For example, the well-known dissident writer, 
Dinh Thu Huong, was allowed for the first time to travel to 
conferences in Europe in the fall.  However, not everyone is 
allowed to travel abroad.  For example, members of Vietnam's 
small Muslim community have not been allowed to leave the 
country to make the hajj.

The Government continued to permit emigration for some 
categories of Vietnamese.  The U.S. Orderly Departure Program 
continued to resettle beneficiaries, including Amerasians, 
former reeducation camp detainees, and family unification 
cases, at the rate of about 4,000 persons per month.  Other 
nations operate smaller resettlement programs for Vietnamese 
nationals.  There are some concerns that members of minority 
ethnic groups, particularly highland peoples such as the 
Montagnards, may not have ready access to these programs.

The Government generally permits Vietnamese who emigrate to 
return to visit but it considers them citizens and therefore 
subject to Vietnamese law even if they have adopted another 
country's citizenship.  Because it regards overseas Vietnamese 
both as a valuable potential source of foreign exchange and 
expertise and as a potential security threat, the Government 
generally encourages them to visit Vietnam, whether they 
emigrated legally or illegally, but at the same time it 
monitors them carefully.

In 1989 Vietnam signed a memorandum of understanding with the 
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to 
increase acceptance of voluntary repatriates, provided there 
was financial assistance.  The agreement included a commitment 
by Vietnam to waive prosecution and punitive measures for 
illegal departure from Vietnam of persons who return under the 
UNHCR voluntary repatriation program.  Vietnam also agreed to 
permit the UNHCR to monitor the returnees through direct 
visits.  This agreement has resulted in a substantial flow of 
repatriates from several countries to Vietnam.  More than 
65,000 Vietnamese have returned voluntarily.  The UNHCR, which 
extensively monitors those who have repatriated voluntarily, 
reported that they do not face retribution or official 
discrimination.

Although the source of refugees itself in the past, Vietnam has 
also been the country of first asylum for Cambodian refugees, 
mainly ethnic Chinese, but also ethnic Vietnamese.  The 
Government has worked closely with the UNHCR in repatriating 
those desiring to return to Cambodia.  There were no reports of 
forced repatriation.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Citizens are not free to change their government.  All 
authority and political power is vested in the VCP; political 
opposition and other political parties are not tolerated.  The 
Central Committee is the supreme decisionmaking body in the 
nation, and the Politburo is the locus of policymaking.  The 
Secretariat of the Central Committee oversees day-to-day 
implementation of leadership directives.  Debate and criticism 
are limited to certain aspects of individual, state, or Party 
performance determined by the VCP itself.  No public challenge 
to the legitimacy of the one-party state, or even debate on 
this subject, is permitted.

Citizens elect the members of the National Assembly, ostensibly 
the chief legislative body, although the VCP approves all 
candidates.  The National Assembly engaged in increasingly 
vigorous debate on economic and social issues, but it remained 
largely subservient to the VCP.  Legislators rewrote laws, 
questioned ministries, and occasionally rejected draft 
legislation.  However, Party officials occupy most senior 
Government positions and continued to have final say on key 
issues.

The law provides the opportunity for equal participation in 
politics by women and minority groups, but in practice they are 
underrepresented.  Most of the senior leaders, including all 17 
members of the Politburo, are male.  The President of the 
National Assembly, who is also a Politburo member, is a member 
of an ethnic minority.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

The Government does not permit private human rights 
organizations to form or operate and generally prohibits 
private citizens from contacting international human rights 
organizations.  It has permitted international visitors to 
monitor implementation of its repatriation commitments under 
the Comprehensive Plan of Action agreed on at the 1989 Geneva 
Conference, and it has carried on a limited dialog with human 
rights organizations.  In October a delegation from the UNHRC 
was permitted to visit prisons; a report is expected in early 
1995.

The Government has shown increased willingness to discuss human 
rights issues bilaterally with other governments if such 
discussions take place under the rubric of "exchanges of ideas" 
rather than "investigations."  However, in July it canceled the 
visit of an Australian human rights delegation when an ethnic 
Vietnamese member of that delegation said publicly that the 
group would be "investigating" the human rights situation in 
Vietnam.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

People released from reeducation camps have reported varying 
levels of discrimination in the areas of housing and 
education.  They generally are not eligible to regain their 
citizenship rights until 1 year after their release.  They and 
their families are not allowed employment with the Government, 
though this was less a factor in 1994 than in the past because 
of the growth of the private sector.

     Women

While there is no legal discrimination, women face deeply 
engrained social discrimination.  Despite extensive provisions 
in the Constitution, legislation, and regulations that mandate 
equal treatment, few women can compete with men for higher 
status positions.  The Government has not enforced the 
constitutional provision that women and men must receive equal 
pay for equal work.  Despite the large body of legislation and 
regulations devoted to the protection of women's rights in 
marriage, the workplace, and the new labor law calling for the 
preferential treatment of women, these legal pronouncements are 
distant from the reality for many, if not most, women.

Although the law addresses the issue of domestic violence, 
there is credible evidence that these laws are not enforced.  A 
1993 report by a Vietnamese researcher stated that domestic 
violence has grown in recent years.  Some international NGO 
workers as well as many Vietnamese women have commented that 
domestic violence against women is common.  Most divorces are 
due to domestic violence.  Many women remain in abusive 
marriages rather than confront the stigma of divorce.  These 
problems tend to be more prevalent in rural than in urban 
areas.

     Children

Reputable international organizations, including the United 
Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), commended the Government's 
interest in children's issues and its promotion of child 
welfare.  The Government has continued a nationwide 
immunization campaign, and the government-controlled press 
regularly stresses the importance of health and education for 
all children.  Despite some success, UNICEF estimates there are 
still 3 million children living in "especially difficult 
circumstances."  There is no information on the extent of child 
abuse.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Although the Government says it is opposed to discrimination 
against ethnic minorities, there continued to be credible 
reports that some local officials restricted ethnic minority 
access to education, employment, and travel, both internal and 
foreign.  The Government continued to implement policies 
designed to narrow the gap in the standard of living between 
ethnic groups living in the highlands and lowland ethnic 
Vietnamese by providing preferential treatment to domestic and 
foreign companies investing in highland areas.  There is no 
information available on whether repression of some highland 
minorities for suspected ties with resistance groups, reported 
in the past, continued in 1994.

     People with Disabilities

The Government provides little official protection or support 
for the disabled, and there are no laws mandating access for 
the disabled.  However, the 1994 Labor Law calls on the State 
to protect the right and encourage the employment of the 
disabled and includes provisions for preferential treatment for 
firms that recruit disabled persons for training or 
apprenticeship and a special levy on firms that do not employ 
disabled workers.  It is not yet clear whether the Government 
has begun to enforce these provisions.  The Government has 
permitted international groups to assist those who have been 
disabled by war or by subsequent accidents involving unexploded 
ordinance.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Workers are not free to form or join unions of their own 
choosing unless they have obtained approval from the local 
trade union federation office.  The party-controlled Vietnam 
General Confederation of Labor (VGCI) is the umbrella 
organization under which all local trade unions must operate.  
The Labor Law requires provincial trade union organizations to 
establish unions at all new enterprises as well as at existing 
enterprises that currently operate without trade unions.  
Management of union-affiliated companies is required to accept 
and cooperate with those unions.  However, most joint ventures 
and small, private companies, especially at the retail level, 
do not have unions.

The June 1994 Labor Law provides for the right to strike under 
certain circumstances.  It calls for management and labor to 
resolve labor disputes through the enterprise's own labor 
conciliation council.  If that fails, the matter goes to the 
provincial labor arbitration council.  If the council's 
decision is unsatisfactory, unions have the right to appeal to 
the provincial people's court or to strike.  However, the law 
prohibits strikes at enterprises that serve the public and at 
those that are important to the national economy or to national 
security and defense, as defined by the Government.  It also 
grants the Prime Minister the right to suspend a strike 
considered detrimental to the national economy or to public 
safety.

A number of strikes occurred in 1994, primarily against 
foreign-owned companies but also involving state-owned and 
private firms as well.  The Government tolerated the strikes, 
even though some occurred before the new Labor Law made them 
legal.  The new Labor Law prohibits retribution against 
strikers, and there have been no credible reports of such 
retribution.

Unions are not legally free to, and do not in practice, join, 
affiliate with, or participate in international labor bodies.  
However, in 1992, Vietnam rejoined the International Labor 
Organization, from which it had withdrawn in 1985.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Workers have the right to organize unions in their enterprises, 
but they must be approved by the local union leadership.  They 
also can bargain collectively through the party-approved unions 
at their enterprises.  In the past, the Government generally 
set wages, since most people worked for state companies.  With 
the growth of the private sector and the increased autonomy of 
state firms, a growing percentage of companies are setting 
wages through collective bargaining with the relevant unions, 
and market forces play a much more important role in 
determining wages.  Antiunion discrimination on the part of 
employers against employees seeking to organize is forbidden in 
the labor code.

The Government has approved formation of a number of export 
processing zones and new industrial zones, which are governed 
by the same labor laws as apply to the rest of the country.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The new Labor Law prohibits all forms of forced labor, and 
there have been no reports of such practices, except in some 
detention facilities.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Labor Law sets the minimum age for employment at 15.  
Children as young as 13 can register at trade training centers, 
which are a form of vocational training.  Vietnam also has 
compulsory education laws.  These laws are not effectively 
enforced, especially in rural areas where children are needed 
to farm.  However, the Vietnamese culture's strong emphasis on 
education leads most people to send their children to school, 
rather than to work.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Labor Law requires the Government to set a minimum wage, 
which changes with inflation and other economic changes.  The 
Government does not publicize minimum wage rates.  The minimum 
wage, including for those working for joint ventures, is by 
itself insufficient to provide a worker and his family with a 
decent standard of living.  However, many workers receive 
subsidized housing, bonuses, and also supplement their incomes 
by engaging in entrepreneurial activities.  The Government 
enforces the minimum wage at foreign and major Vietnamese 
firms.  It has little control over other wages.

The Labor Law sets working hours at a maximum of 8 per day and 
48 per week, with a mandatory 24-hour break each week.  Any 
additional hours require overtime pay, and the law limits 
compulsory overtime.  It is not clear how well the Government 
enforces these provisions.

The Labor Law calls on the Government to promulgate rules and 
regulations to ensure worker safety.  The Ministry of Labor, in 
coordination with local people's committees and labor unions, 
is charged with enforcing the regulations.  In practice, 
enforcement is inadequate because of the Ministry's 
insufficient resources.  Anecdotal evidence indicates that 
workers, through labor unions, have been more effective in 
forcing changes in working conditions than has the Government.


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[end of document]

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