Six US Congressmen last week wrote to US Secretary of State Clinton to, among other things, raise their concerns about Vietnam’s use of drug-rehab camps as forced labor.

The 12th January 2012 letter by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Howard Berman, Christopher Smith, Zoe Lofgren, Ed Royce, and Loretta Sanchez wrote on page 2:

“According to a September 2011 report, persons dependent on drugs can be held in government detention centers, where they are forced to perform menial work in the name of “labor therapy.” the mainstay of Vietnam’s approach to drug treatment. In early 2011, there were
123 centers across the country holding some 40,000 people. Their detention is not subject to any form of due process or judicial oversight and routinely lasts for as many as four years. Infringing center rules – including the requirement to work – is punished by beatings with truncheons, shocks with electrical batons, and being locked in disciplinary rooms where detainees are deprived of food and water. Children who use drugs are also held in these centers, where they are
beaten and abused. Former detainees reported being forced to work in cashew processing and other forms of agricultural production (including potato or coffee farming), garment manufacturing, construction work, and other forms of manufacturing (such as making bamboo and rattan products). Under Vietnamese law, companies who source products from these centers are eligible for tax exemptions. Some of the products produced as a result of forced labor made
their way into the supply chain of companies who sell goods abroad, thereby raising the possibility of their being included in exports to the U.S. and Europe. Human rights NGOs have also received credible reports of forced labor in centers in which the officials detain homeless
people and sex workers.”

THE FULL TEXT OF THE LETTER IS BELOW

January 12,2012

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton

Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street, N.W.

Washington, DC 20520

Dear Madam Secretary:

We are writing to urge you to include in the upcoming Country Reports on Human Rights
Practices detailed information about a number of key human rights issues in Vietnam that have
come to our attention. We believe the Country Reports to be an invaluable tool in the struggle
for human rights around the world, [n the case of Vietnam, the reports do an excellent job of
providing accurate information about certain kinds of human rights violations against
Vietnamese citizens, particularly against dissidents who reside in Hanoi, Saigon, and other major
population centers. However, we hope that the upcoming report will devote careful and detailed
attention to a number of additional issues.

I. Vietnam’s lack of progress on human rights in (he context of its increased international engagement

As Vietnam seeks a strategic partnership with the United States and a multilateral free-
trade agreement via the Trans-Pacific Partnership, its government continues to punish and
silence dissent in those whom the government views as hostile to its interests. According to
rights groups, during 2011, the government sentenced at least 29 peaceful dissidents and activists
to a total of 165 years in jail and 70 years of probation for exercising their rights to freedom of
speech and freedom of organization enshrined in the Vietnam Constitution. In a well-known
case, Vietnam refused to release Nguyen Van Hai (a.k.a. blogger Dieu Cay) on October 20,
2010, after he served a 30 month prison term on false charges of tax evasion. The government
continues to detain him under undisclosed charges, and his family and associates have serious
concerns about his health. Vietnam still bans all political parties, unions, and human rights
organizations that are independent of the government or the Party. Vietnamese workers arc
forbidden from organizing unions independent of the government-controlled labor confederation
and participating in union activities. Labor activists have been arrested, imprisoned, intimidated,
beaten and in some cases “disappeared.” such as in the case of Le Tri Tue, one of the founders of
the Independent Workers’ Union, whose whereabouts since May 2007 remain unknown.

II. Repression of religion

Vietnamese authorities continue to monitor, systematically harass, and sometimes
violently crack down on religious groups that remain outside of official, government-registered and controlled religious institutions. Religious organizations that faced such repression during
the past year include unrecognized branches of the Cao Dai church, the Hoa Hao Buddhist
church, independent Protestant house churches in the central highlands and elsewhere, several
Catholic parishes and organizations, Khmer Krom Buddhist temples, and the Unified Buddhist
Church of Vietnam (UBCV). Pastors, religious leaders, priests, and religious followers have
been beaten, arrested, prosecuted, and handed harsh prison sentences. Many continue to
languish in jails and prisons without medical treatment.

III. Police brutality and forced labor in drug rehabilitation centers

Police brutality, including torture in detention and deaths in custody, was another major
problem throughout the year. According to reporting by established human rights NGOs,
prisoners in Vietnam routinely face abuse and torture in prison, and those held in drug
rehabilitation centers face inhumane treatment, including forced labor. In a number of cases,
individuals arrested for misdemeanors, such as traffic violations, were beaten to death in police
custody. In 2011, according to the government’s own media outlets, at least 21 people died in
police custody.

According to a September 2011 report, persons dependent on drugs can be held in
government detention centers, where they are forced to perform menial work in the name of
“labor therapy.” the mainstay of Vietnam’s approach to drug treatment. In early 2011, there were
123 centers across the country holding some 40,000 people. Their detention is not subject to any
form of due process or judicial oversight and routinely lasts for as many as four years. Infringing
center rules – including the requirement to work – is punished by beatings with truncheons,
shocks with electrical batons, and being locked in disciplinary rooms where detainees are
deprived of food and water. Children who use drugs are also held in these centers, where they are
beaten and abused. Former detainees reported being forced to work in cashew processing and
other forms of agricultural production (including potato or coffee farming), garment
manufacturing, construction work, and other forms of manufacturing (such as making bamboo
and rattan products). Under Vietnamese law, companies who source products from these centers
are eligible for tax exemptions. Some of the products produced as a result of forced labor made
their way into the supply chain of companies who sell goods abroad, thereby raising the
possibility of their being included in exports to the U.S. and Europe. Human rights NGOs have
also received credible reports of forced labor in centers in which the officials detain homeless
people and sex workers.

IV. Pervasive and ongoing human rights violations against Montagnards and other ethnic minorities in Vietnam

We know that accurate information about the Central Highlands – and particularly about
what goes on in prisons and interrogation rooms in remote highland districts – is far more
difficult to obtain than information about what happens to prominent activists, attorneys,
bloggers, and religious leaders in urban areas. This difficulty is caused in large part by the strict
control and monitoring by the government of visits to the area by foreign diplomats, journalists,
and others who might have an interest in uncovering the truth.

However, there are credible sources of information, including reports from refugees and
asylum seekers, religious institutions, and reputable international nongovernmental organizations
(NGOs) with close ties to people in the Highlands, as well as in some cases accounts from
Vietnam’s own official print and broadcast media, that provide a clear picture of the human
rights situation in the Central Highlands and for ethnic minorities generally.

According to Vietnam’s own official reporting, a court in Gia Lai sentenced eight
Montagnard Protestants in April to between 8 to 12 years for violating article 87 of the penal
code which outlaws “undermining unity policy.” Human rights groups assume these arrests were
related to political activities, such as advocacy for Montagnards’ rights or land disputes with the
government. In addition, three Catholic Ha Mon Montagnard activists were arrested in March
2011, likely for being involved in the unsanctioned Catholic I la Mon organization. In December
2010, two Montagnard asylum seekers who returned to Vietnam were arrested upon their arrival
at the Vietnamese border and detained for several months, during which they later reported
having been interrogated harshly about their political activities and associations, and repeatedly
subjected to torture. There also were reports of other recent arrests of Montagnards in the central
highlands, also likely political and/or religious activists.

In addition, human rights groups report that Vietnam government agencies continue to
organize “faith renunciation” campaigns, both in Montagnard areas and other areas, in which
local authorities compel unsanctioned Catholics and Protestants to renounce their faith publicly.
The few who refuse are subject to a public “criticism” event, in which they are renounced before
their neighbors, a form of official intimidation that has profound effects on the victims’ social
and economic lives.

Although past State Department reports have made brief and general references to human
rights violations against Montagnards and other ethnic minorities (e.g., “incidents of police
harassment were reported” and “international nongovernmental organizations estimated that
several hundred ethnic minority demonstrators associated with the 2004 Central Highlands
protests remained in prison”), interviews by international NGOs reveal abuses warranting more
specific and extensive reporting, such as torture and ill treatment including beatings, electrical
shock, and rape.

Of even greater concern, last year’s Country Report paid disproportionate attention to
Vietnam’s alleged measures “to address the causes of ethnic minority discontent,” spending more
time discussing the regime’s claimed outreach to Montagnards than its human rights abuses
against them. It also contained the gratuitous statement that “[s]ome members of ethnic minority
groups continued to leave for Cambodia and Thailand, reportedly to seek greater economic
opportunity or shortcuts to immigration to other countries.” While most populations of asylum
seekers do include some economic migrants who arc trying their luck, such an assertion is out of
place in a report on human rights practices, casting unfair aspersions on the many Montagnard
escapees who have fled detention and torture for their religious and political activities, and
creating practical challenges in their efforts to secure legitimate protection as refugees or asylces.

We urge you to also report on the abuses against Hmong in Vietnam’s northwestern
provinces, including pressure to renounce their Christianity, and against the Khmer Krom, ethnic

Cambodians who live in what is now southern Vietnam, who, as noted in a section above, are
subjected to severe restrictions on the practice of Theravada Buddhism.

Thank you so much for your consideration of these observations and suggestions. We
arc enclosing information recently received from credible NGO sources for review by
appropriate personnel in the regional and functional Bureaus. Please let us know if we can
provide further information or be of assistance in any way.

Sincerely

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