Vietnam Report: Tougher Penalties for Government Critics, Dissidents

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The Vietnamese government is planning even harsher penalties to stifle dissent and arrest its critics, according to a report by the New York based organisation, Human Rights Watch.

The group called on the United States and other signatories to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to help stop proposed legislation that would add more penalties to what it called an already draconian criminal code.

HRW said a recent public statement by the public security minister, General Tran Dai Quang, had revealed the extent to which vague national security laws are being used to silence bloggers and other government critics. It warned that repression was now likely to be intensified.

General Quang told the National Assembly that from June 2012 until November 2015 the police had received, arrested, and dealt with 1,410 cases involving 2,680 people who violated national security.

He added that opposition activists had illegally established more than 60 groups and organisations in the name of democracy and human rights, involving some 350 participants from 50 cities and provinces.

Harsher approach

“The Vietnam government’s announcement of thousands of arrests, while admitting that it is targeting democracy and human rights groups, is deeply troubling,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of HRW. “This suggests the government is massively overusing the country’s repressive national security laws to criminalise peaceful expression and persecute critics.”

The proposed legislation, already tabled at the rubber stamp National Assembly, aims to impose a revised penal code and code of criminal procedure that would lead to even harsher prison terms for democracy activists.

Bloggers and other government critics say they have already detected signs of a harsher approach to dissent from the police, with violent attacks reported by those involved in recent protests and confrontations with the police.

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