US warns Vietnam ‘backtracking’ on rights

Agence France-Presse

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A senior US official warned Wednesday, June 5, that Vietnam's record on human rights was deteriorating

WASHINGTON DC, USA – A senior US official warned Wednesday, June 5, that Vietnam’s record on human rights was deteriorating as he faced calls from Congress to put tougher conditions on the nations’ warming partnership.

Joe Yun, the acting assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said the United States had “considerable leverage” with Vietnam as the former war enemies build trade and security links in a region marked by China’s rise.

“We acknowledge that the recent situation, if anything, has been backtracking. There’s no question,” Yun told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee.

“Recent developments have been very discouraging and disappointing, but I do hold promise that our engagement, both with civil societies that are in Vietnam as well as economic engagement, will only help,” he said.

Daniel Baer, a State Department official who held talks in April on human rights in Hanoi, said that Vietnam held more than 120 political prisoners and voiced alarm at the communist nation’s crackdowns on the Internet.

Representative Ed Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, noted that Vietnam handed prison sentences to two young people for distributing leaflets — Nguyen Phuong Uyen and Dinh Nguyen Kha — just one month after Baer held the dialogue on human rights in Hanoi.

“There is much that Vietnam is asking of the United States,” said Royce, a Republican whose district in southern California has a large Vietnamese American community.

“It’s not responsible for the United States with the leverage we have not to make our actions match our words about this,” he said.

Representative Gerry Connolly, a member of President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party, warned that Congress could reject the administration’s signature trade initiative, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, without improvements on Vietnam’s human rights record.

“If you want to see the TPP hit up against very rough waters and shoals make sure this issue is not addressed,” said Connolly, whose district in northern Virginia also has a sizable Vietnamese American community.

Vietnam is among 12 nations involved or slated to participate in talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Obama has billed as a way to create a new set of rules across the growing region. –

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