US urges Vietnam to improve human rights
HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Human rights violations and arrests have recently spiked in Vietnam, with sharp restrictions on Internet freedoms and a crackdown on dissidents who peacefully express their views, the U.S. ambassador said Thursday.
Ambassador Michael Michalak said some restrictions on religious freedom have eased during his three years in Vietnam but the Communist government continues to clamp down on critics of its one-party system.
The government blocks Facebook and has been accused of attacking anti-Communist sites and chat rooms, while also closely monitoring activity at Internet cafes.
Michalak said there was an increase in arrests in late 2009 and again recently. More than 24 people were jailed and 14 others were convicted this year for peacefully expressing their views, he told journalists.
"In our opinion, no one should be sent to jail for merely disagreeing with government policies or labeled a terrorist for wanting to be able to provide more input into policymaking," Michalak said. "Increasing efforts to stifle media organizations, Internet freedom and civil society are also troubling."
The U.S. and Vietnam have grown closer in a number of areas, including trade and military ties, since the former battlefield foes normalized relations 15 years ago. But the U.S. and international rights groups continue to prod Vietnam to improve its human rights record.
All media are state-controlled. The government does not tolerate any form of dissent and uses vague national security laws to imprison those who challenge its rule.
Hanoi maintains that only lawbreakers are jailed.