Brotherhood for Democracy: Vietnam Human Rights Report 2023


Vietnam Human Rights report 2023

You can download the full report in English by click here. For Vietnamese version, please click here.


In 2023,Vietnam’s return to the United Nations Human Rights Council raised expectations for improvements in its human rights situation, which has often been criticized. Contrary to these hopes, the practical aspect of human rights improvement in the past year has been sporadic and primarily related to macro-level policies. These few bright spots have been overshadowed by widespread and systematic human rights violations by theVietnamese government.

2023 also marked an expansion of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), the direct perpetrator in many serious human rights violations. According to the budget estimates for 2021, 2022, and 2023, the budget allocated to the MPS consistently ranked second, only after the Ministry of National Defense, and was more than ten times that of other essential sectors such as Health and Education. The budget for this ministry is expected to continue increasing in 2024, reaching 113 trillion VND. This increase is attributed to salary payments and social benefits for the law enforcement personnel. In November 2023, the National Assembly passed a law on the Forces Participating in Protecting Security and Order at the Grassroots level, merging and formalizing three forces, including neighborhood protection, specialized communal police, and team leaders and deputies of the people’s security teams.

The government persists in suppressing human rights activists and conscience prisoners. Despite not being widely reported in the media, protests by bond investors have been ongoing for the past year in Hanoi. Meanwhile, other provinces have witnessed opposition from the victims of unjust land reclamation for economic development.

Freedom of speech and assembly rights continue to be systematically and widely violated. According to the press, from late December 2022 to the end of 2023, at least 29 individuals were arrested for exercising their rights to freedom of thought and peaceful expression. Most of those detained and prosecuted face charges of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state, legitimate interests of individuals, and other organizations” (Article 331 of the Penal Code 2015). Three cases involving registered Non-governmental Organizations’ members were arrested on charges of tax evasion (Article 200 of the Penal Code 2015) and misappropriation of documents (Article 342 of the Penal Code 2015). Two cases of ethnic minority activists were arrested and prosecuted for undermining national solidarity policies (Article 116 of the Penal Code 2015). Seven other cases were arrested on charges of conspiracy to overthrow the government (Article 109 of the Penal Code 2015) and propaganda against the state (Article 117 of the Penal Code 2015). This year also marked theVietnamese government’s ambition for cross-border human rights repression with an abduction of an asylum-seeking activist in Thailand.

At least 33 individuals were brought to trial and sentenced to imprisonment in 2023, with the majority of verdicts based on charges of abusing democratic freedoms and propaganda against the state (Article 117 of the Penal Code 2015 or Article 88 of the Penal Code 1999). All five cases tried on charges conspiracy to overthrow the government were linked to the Provisional National Government of Vietnam.

In 2023, a shocking event occurred that rocked both the government and public opinion as a Montagnard group attacked government offices in Dak Lak province. While the authorities claimed it was a terrorist attack directed by individuals from abroad, the eruption of this incident cannot be denied as partly stemming from repressive policies and the isolation of indigenous people in the Central Highlands, especially in the realm of religion.

Within the framework of this 2023 human rights report, the drafting group cannot comprehensively cover all human rights violations but focuses on a few areas that we consider most prominent, providing an overview of the human rights situation inVietnam over the past year. These areas include: the right to life and security of a person; freedom of expression; human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience; freedom of religion; and the right to non- discrimination for ethnic minorities.

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