(New York) – United States President Barack Obama should press Vietnam to end its crackdown on peaceful activists and move towards free and fair elections, Human Rights Watch said today. Obama’s visit from May 23-25, will be the first in his two-term administration. The trip follows parliamentary elections on May 22 that will be controlled by the Vietnam Communist Party, which chooses who can and cannot stand for election, and how many non-Party members can have seats in the National Assembly.
The ruling Communist Party has run a repressive one-party state since 1954 in the north of the country and since 1975 in the south.
“President Obama is making this trip to deepen relations with Vietnam, but this must be based on a foundation of respect for basic rights,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “He should start by calling for the right of all people to stand for election, voice critical views of government, associate with others, and freely choose candidates – something Vietnam's current rulers have yet to allow. Obama should make it clear that the United States does not accept the idea that the Vietnamese people are not ready, willing, and able to choose their own leaders.”
In a letter sent to President Obama in April, Human Rights Watch highlighted key human rights issues including the problems of political prisoners, beatings and harassment of activists, legal reform, labor rights, and democratic governance.