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REGIONS:

COMMUNIST PARTY STEPS UP HARASSMENT OF DISSIDENTS

Amidst an "escalation in the harassment of Vietnamese dissidents," the Vietnamese government has recently signed a decree ordering police to "confiscate and destroy publications that do not have official approval," reports the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Signed on 8 January, the decree targets various publications for confiscation, including the memoirs of Vietnam's most well-known dissident, Tran Do, and hard-copy editions of an Internet forum containing articles supportive of political reform. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) notes that Tran Do is a retired general and former senior Communist Party official who has been advocating reform.

The Internet forum was initiated in 1999 by Tran Khue and Nguyen Thi Thanh Xuan, two academics based in Ho Chi Minh City, says CPJ. One of the articles on the forum advocates the removal of Article 4 in the Constitution which guarantees the Communist Party of Vietnam's leading role in the country's affairs, according to CPJ sources. The decree also bans an essay by dissident geophysicist Nguyen Thanh Giang entitled "Meditation and Aspiration" and an essay by Haiphong writer Vu Cao Quan. CPJ says in recent days, a number of dissidents have had their phone lines cut, while government surveillance of Nguyen Thanh Giang and Tran Do has increased.

Meanwhile, Reporters sans frontières (RSF) and the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) have expressed concern over the recent arrest of dissident Bui Minh Quoc. Authorities arrested the journalist on 8 January and placed him under house arrest four days later. Three hundred of his documents deemed "reactionary" were confiscated, says RSF. A source close to RSF says Bui Minh Quoc's arrest is in response to an investigation he was conducting in the country's northern region bordering China. Dissidents are frequent critics of the government's territorial concessions granted to China, observes RSF.

The latest crackdown follows last September's actions in which 15 dissidents were arrested and interrogated. The arrests occurred a few days after prominent dissidents Pham Que Duong and Tran Van Khue publicly advocated the creation of an anti-corruption organisation [See IFEX "Communiqu%26#233;" #10-36]. Human Rights Watch notes in its 2002 World Report that all media in Vietnam remain state-owned and tightly controlled. There are no privately-owned newspapers and television is run by the government. Freedom of association continues to be severely restricted, and the formation of independent associations, trade unions, or non-governmental organisations (NGOs) remains prohibited. ">http://communique.ifex.org/articles.cfm?system_id=3556">"Communiqué" #10-36]. Human Rights Watch notes in its 2002 World Report that all media in Vietnam remain state-owned and tightly controlled. There are no privately-owned newspapers and television is run by the government. Freedom of association continues to be severely restricted, and the formation of independent associations, trade unions, or non-governmental organisations (NGOs) remains prohibited.

For more information, see www.cpj.org, www.rsf.org, www.wan-press.org and www.hrw.org.


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