Human rights in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam
Delivered in Plenary - 30th November 2005
All three countries of former Indochina have been ravaged by war and now, sadly, they suffer from political oppression. Over the past several years, they have begun to integrate themselves into the global economic community. However, in Vietnam, for instance, citizens are still being persecuted for their religious beliefs and practices. Whilst in theory the Vietnamese Constitution provides for freedom of religious belief, the country’s courts rarely interpret the laws to protect a person’s right to religious freedom. At the same time as the Communist government cries ‘poor’ and seeks EU aid, its embassy in Canberra, for instance, allegedly spent almost one million Australian dollars celebrating 60 years of communist tyranny.
Recently the US State Department decided to keep the country on the ‘country of particular concern’ list, as Vietnam started a campaign against religious communities this summer. Police and the military have destroyed ten houses of Catholics in Quang Ngai Province. Moreover, local officials also oppressed in particular the Montagnard, or hill tribe people. People in the Central Highlands are suffering badly as well as the Catholic Hmong people and the Mennonite followers in the country. Vietnam still restricts the press and tightly oversees internet users.
Cambodia, which suffered enormously under blanket bombing during the war and indescribable, murderous Khmer Rouge brutality, is now sadly suffering increasing authoritarian rule by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has arrested and issued defamation suits against critics who accuse him of selling territory to Vietnam in recent border negotiations as a way, of course, of silencing the political opposition in Cambodia. I call on Thailand not to extradite those who are seeking refuge on its territory.
In Laos, members of the Student Democracy Movement have been in jail since 1999. There is total control of written and broadcast media and attempts to put a stop to the internet with problems of human trafficking and forced prostitution. The Hmong people are living in constant fear of being attacked by Lao soldiers. I welcome the presence of the Royal Family of Laos, who are here in the distinguished visitors’ gallery today.