Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

MEPs highlight poor human rights record in former Indochina

1st December 2005

MEPs today voted in favour of a tough resolution highlighting the abuse of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, the three countries making up the former Indochina. The resolution, which was co-authored on behalf of the EPP-ED by Charles Tannock, calls on authorities in these countries to take action to improve the situation, and asks the Commission and Council to increase diplomatic pressure.

Dr Tannock, a vice-chairman of the Parliament's sub-committee on human rights, said:

"All three countries of former Indochina have been ravaged by war and now sadly severe political oppression. Over the past several years they have begun to integrate themselves into the global economic community.

"But in Vietnam for instance citizens are still being persecuted for their religious beliefs and practices. While in theory the Vietnamese constitution provides for freedom of religious belief and practice, other provisions allow the government to arbitrarily declare a religion a national security threat. Vietnamese courts rarely interpret laws to protect a person's right to religious freedom. The government restricts religious beliefs and practices by requiring all religious publishing to be done through its Religious Publishing House.

"Recently the U.S. State Department decided to keep Vietnam on the "Country of Particular Concern" (CPC) list as the country started a campaign against religious communities earlier this year. The police and military have destroyed ten houses belonging to Catholics in Quang Ngai province. Moreover, local officials also oppressed the hill tribe people (Montagnards) in the Central Highlands and the Catholic H'mong people and Mennonite followers in the country, and still restricts the press and tightly oversees internet users.

"To its credit under international pressure Vietnam released some prominent advocates of free speech, freedom of religion, and democracy but it has been reported that those released are under constant surveillance.

"Cambodia, which suffered enormously under blanket bombing during the Vietnam war and suffered indescribable brutality under the Khmer Rouge, is now sadly suffering increasing authoritarian rule by Prime Minister Hun Sen. He has arrested and issued defamation suits aimed at critics who accuse him of selling territory to Vietnam in recent border negotiations. He has done this as a way of silencing the political opposition in Cambodia and Thailand should certainly not extradite those seeking refuge there.

"In Laos, members of the student democracy movement have been jailed. There is total control of written and broadcast media; attempts to prohibit access to the internet; and problems of human trafficking and forced prostitution. The H'mong people are living in constant fear of being attacked by Laos soldiers, who rape and mutilate them to death."