Vietnam News

Vietnam orders control of workers, unions despite UN pledges, watchdog says

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Directive 24 also urges officials to push back against foreign influence, The 88 Project says.

Vietnam’s Communist Party leaders have issued a sweeping directive aimed at clamping down on civil society, including trade unions and labour activism, even as it pledges to uphold human rights at the United Nations, according to a rights watchdog.

Among the many provisions of the order known as Directive 24, officials are asked to closely monitor trade unions and labour disputes, and ensure that new labour groups are not established based on ethnicity or religion, Bangkok-based The 88 Project, which obtained the directive, said on Friday.

The directive also calls for vigilance of foreign aid and foreign investors to ensure they cannot “hide in the shadows” and take over domestic markets or “vital economic sectors”, The 88 Project said.

The orders stand in contrast to pledges Vietnam is supposed to make later this year, when it is due to ratify the International Labour Organization’s Convention 87 after a decade of negotiations. The convention upholds workers’ rights, including their right to form trade unions.

“The mask is off. Vietnam’s leaders are saying that they intend to violate human rights as a matter of official policy,” Ben Swanton, co-director of The 88 Project, said in a statement.

“They are now directly implicated in abuses by the state and should be isolated, not embraced, by the international community.”

Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Directive 24 was issued by the Party’s Politburo in July 2023, just two months before Vietnam upgraded its diplomatic relations with the United States, according to the rights watchdog.

The 88 Project, which focuses on human rights issues in Vietnam, said it was unable to verify the authenticity of Directive 24, but believes it to be credible based on multiple state media reports and official speeches.

The directive is similar to a 2013 order from China’s Communist Party to maintain control over all sectors of civil society in the face of global economic integration as the “factory of the world”.

A decade later, many global manufacturers are shifting their operations from China to Southeast Asia due to supply chain disruptions and rising labour costs.

While this trend is an economic boon for countries like Vietnam, officials fear that international integration and trade agreements have “created new difficulties and challenges for national security” and could threaten the “survival of the regime”, according to The 88 Project’s translation of Directive 24.

“Hostile and reactionary forces have thoroughly taken advantage of the international integration process to increase their sabotage and internal political transformation activities … forming ‘civil society’ alliances and networks, ‘independent trade unions,’… creating the premise for the formation of domestic political opposition groups,” the directive says, according to the translation.

The directive calls for enhanced security of industrial parks, residential areas, and zones that are home to a “large concentration of workers” and the monitoring of Vietnamese citizens who travel abroad for business, The 88 Project said.

Officials are also called on to use the media and other propaganda tools to fight “populist trends, civil disobedience, wrongful views, and sabotage by hostile forces” that would otherwise promote a “hybrid foreign culture” contrary to Vietnamese traditions, according to the NGO.

Al Jazeera – March 1st, 2024

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