Civil society groups have called for concrete actions from Vietnam, which begins its ASEAN chairmanship this year, to address the most pressing human rights issues in Southeast Asia.
The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), a coalition of human rights organizations across the region, criticized Vietnam for excluding efforts to tackle the deterioration of civic space and violations of human rights from its priority programs during its ASEAN chairmanship.
“This is all the more worrisome as these have been happening consistently and remain unaddressed over the past decades,” the coalition said in a statement on Wednesday.
Citing documents from the 2018 Universal Periodic Review meeting at the United Nations, the coalition said Vietnam has systematically attempted to silence human rights defenders and bloggers at home “through the implementation of vague national security laws, physical attacks and restrictions on the freedom of movement, as well as torture and ill-treatment in detention”.
“As Vietnam takes the chair of ASEAN and, as such, should lead efforts to promote and protect human rights in the region, we would like to point to the fact that Vietnam has a lot to do at home to prove that it is able to take human rights leadership on the regional level,” the activists said.
ASEAN foreign ministers are set to meet in the coastal city of Nha Trang in southern Vietnam on Thursday for a closed-door retreat, when they are able to candidly discuss national and regional concerns.
The region has numerous long-standing human rights issues, Forum Asia said, including refugee crises, shrinking civic and democratic space, crackdowns on freedom of expression and deteriorating ecological sustainability.
“ASEAN has been widely criticized for its persistent silence on these issues, as it fails to provide timely responses on various crises in comparison to other international and regional intergovernmental organizations,” they said. (dis/ipa)