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Asean Affairs   25  July  2011

Demonstrations point up Vietnamese shortcomings

By  David Swartzemtruber

AseanAffairs     25 July 2011

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On Sunday Vietnamese police allowed about 300 peaceful anti-Chinese protesters to march in central Hanoi on Sunday after their suppression of earlier rallies sparked anger on the Internet.

Video of the alleged incident was posted on the Internet, where independent blogs and opinion flourishes despite the arrests of some bloggers. All official media are state controlled.

Authorities tolerated the first five small protests near the Chinese embassy, but then forcibly dispersed two demonstrations and briefly detained people after talks between Hanoi and Beijing in June.

At least one man held a picture which allegedly showed a policeman stomping on a demonstrator when officers broke up a similar rally a week earlier.

It was the eighth consecutive Sunday that protesters have gathered over tensions in the South China Sea.

Sunday's protest was at a different location -- around Hoan Kiem lake which is a popular meeting place for Hanoi residents and foreign tourists.

Political demonstrations are rare in Vietnam, despite fairly frequent protests in the form of land-rights rallies and strikes by factory workers.

The Vietnamese demonstration emphasizes that Vietnam ’s communist government remains extremely wary about press freedom and political activities. One questions how long the monolithic one-party form of government can continue to exist. Particularly as the Asean community matures and expands its role in the human rights sector.

Certainly the worst human rights offender in Asean is Myanmar, but Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos also have issues that will attract increased scrutiny. As Asean becomes more integrated into the global economic system, there will be increased attention given to strengthening the rights of citizens in each of the member states.

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