Human Rights Groups Urge Vietnam to Eliminate Discrimination Against Montagnards and Hmongs
GENEVA, Switzerland -- The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member league the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) urge the Vietnamese authorities to make firm commitments to address persistent discriminatory practices against religious and ethnic minorities, including indigenous peoples, and end restrictions on their fundamental freedoms.
Vietnam goes before the UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva, Switzerland this week to give its periodic report on the situation of human rights in the country.
The indigenous Montagnards and the Hmongs are among the ethnic groups who have borne the brunt of the Vietnamese government’s discriminatory policies, according to FIDH.
Photo: Indigenous Montagnard woman and her child.
In a 30-page alternative
report entitled “Violations of the Rights of Ethnic and Religious
Minorities in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”, the Vietnam Committee on
Human Rights raised serious concerns on Vietnam’s implementation of the
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination (ICERD) to which it acceded to in 1982. The CERD is examining
the Vietnamese government’s combined 10th and 14th periodic reports on February
21-22 in Geneva. This is only Vietnam’s fourth reporting to CERD and the first
in almost a decade, despite its obligations under the Convention to report to
CERD every two years after its first report.
VCHR’s report, which will be presented to the CERD today by VCHR President Vo
Van Ai, details a range of violations of the rights of and discrimination
against ethnic minorities in both law and practice, despite constitutional
prohibition of discrimination and Vietnam’s obligations under the human rights
conventions it has ratified. The indigenous Montagnards and the Hmongs are
among the ethnic groups who have borne the brunt of the Vietnamese government’s
The report points to the wide disparities between the majority Kinh people and
the various ethnic minorities in terms of their enjoyment of economic, social
and cultural rights, within a one-party authoritarian system that also denies
citizens basic civil and political rights to participate in decision-making that
affect their livelihood and standard of living. Wealth disparities are
“increasingly alarmingly” and government programmes supposedly aimed at
reducing poverty “often include campaigns to eradicate the culture, traditional
lifestyle, religious beliefs and practices of minority peoples, resulting in
even greater marginalization,” the report said.
“ Vietnam’s economic growth has often been touted by the government
internationally as a human rights ‘achievement’; a closer look at disaggregated
data, however, would reveal that the benefits of such growth has not been
evenly enjoyed by the wider population, especially among ethnic minorities, who
remain far behind their Kinh counterparts in areas such as health, education,
and employment ”, said Souhayr Belhassen, President of FIDH. “ This cannot be
attributed solely to ‘market forces’ but is in fact also a result of the
implementation of a range of discriminatory institutional, legislative and
policy tools for control that are inconsistent with international human rights
Photo: Hmong refugees in Thailand.
Activities of ethnic minorities, including their religious practices, are
subject to extensive and arbitrary controls by numerous government regulations,
decisions and directives, which in practice also seriously undermine the fundamental
civil rights, such as the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly
and association; to freedom o f movement and residence; to leave and return to
one’s country; and to own property and to inherit. Members of religious
minority groups such as the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), the Hoa
Hao, Cao Dai and Khmer Krom Buddhists are subjected to systematic repression
including imprisonment, torture, house arrest, police surveillance,
intimidation and harassments in all aspects of their daily lives.
The judiciary is not independent in Vietnam and is thus unable to adjudicate
against discriminations and guarantee the right to equality before the law. In
one glaring example of the judicial persecution of ethnic minorities, the VCHR
report stated that “more than 350 Montagnards have been sentenced to long
prison sentences since 2001 for participating in demonstrations, attempting to
flee the country or attending prayers in “unrecognized” house churches”. In
just one trial in April 2011, eight Montagnards were sentenced to a total of 75
years in prison and 24 years house arrest.
“ As our report reveals, ethnic and religious minorities in Vietnam suffer
serious violations of their political and economic rights, such as
expropriation from ancestral lands, population displacement, State-sponsored
migration of Kinh people into minority regions, religious persecution,
arbitrary arrest and disappearances ”, said Vo Van Ai, President of the VCHR
and recent laureate of the Società Libera Special Prize for Freedom.
Mr. Ai also stressed the importance of political reforms in addressing these
problems. “ For the past 36 years, a 3-million minority of Communist Party
members has imposed a policy of discrimination against the majority of 89
million people in Vietnam. It is time that this discrimination is put to an
end, and the Party and Government effectively protect the rights of all their
citizens, and guarantee the freedoms of ethnic and religious minorities in
Photo: Hmong refugees in prison.
FIDH and VCHR call on CERD to urge
the Vietnamese government to:
urgent reforms in Vietnam’s legal system to combat racial discrimination
and bring domestic laws and practices into line with the international
human rights instruments which it has ratified;
religious persecution, including forced renunciations of faith and
detention of religious followers on trumped-up “political” accusations;
the discriminatory household registration system, or ho khau;
effective steps to eradicate misperceptions and negative stereotypes that
stigmatise and marginalise ethnic minorities; and
the competence of the CERD Committee to receive individual complaints from
victims of racial discrimination in accordance with article 14, paragraph
1, of the Convention.
Source: The International Federation of Human Rights
Published by: Magne Ove Varsi