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US envoy slams Vietnam activist harassment and assaults

The US envoy to Vietnam criticised communist authorities Tuesday following an increase in attacks on human rights activists and other forms of harassment in recent weeks.

“I am deeply concerned by recent reports of harassment and detentions of peaceful human rights advocates,” ambassador Tes Osius said in a statement on the embassy website.

“This disturbing trend, at this time, threatens to overshadow Vietnam’s progress on human rights in recent years. I urge the Vietnamese government to investigate reports of these assaults immediately and to hold accountable any officials responsible,” he added.

Vietnam’s Communist Party, which has run the unified country since 1975, is highly sensitive to any public criticism of its rule.

The one-party state is regularly denounced by rights groups and Western governments for its hardline stance on any issues concerning press freedom or human rights.

Vietnam bans private media and all newspapers and television channels are state-run.

But blogs and websites popular with human rights activists inside the country have reported a recent increase in oppression.

Last week several activists in Ho Chi Minh City were said to have been beaten and briefly detained after asking for the release of a friend who had reportedly distributed leaflets quoting the country’s own prime minister on the need for independent labour unions.

State media ran no reports on the incident.

Also this month Vietnamese lawyer Nguyen Van Dai was arrested on anti-state charges, a week after he was brutally beaten by thugs after leading a training forum for rights defenders.

Dai’s critiques of the communist leadership and its policies receive widespread attention on dissident blogs and social media.

He has previously spent four years in jail on similar charges.

The United Nations said the attack against Dai was the third violent assault on activists in Vietnam since September, and slammed the government for failing to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators.

Earlier this month a man was jailed for 15 months for wearing the army uniform of the former South Vietnam regime at a protest in Hanoi.

Dozens of activists and dissidents remain in jail while several others are subject to regular harassment.

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