To the US Representative in the Human Rights Dialogue with Hanoi, My name is Le Thi Cong Nhan. I represent Free Viet Labor Federation (abbreviated to Viet Labor) established in January 2014 comprising three labor groups: Vietnam Independent Union (established in Vietnam before 2006), Viet Labor Movement (established in Vietnam in 2008) and Committee to Protect Vietnamese Workers (established in Europe in 2006).
- Ask that Vietnam allow the workers’ independent organizations to be legalized and operate. This must be one of the prerequisites for TPP, and should be independently monitored on a regular basis thereafter.
- Do not sign any trade agreement until Vietnam amend the law and respect the rights to form workers’ independent trade unions. Do not trust the general recognition of those rights, such as the rights of association, as stated in the current Constitution;
- Do not sign any trade agreement until Vietnam establish funding agencies, personnel (non-political and non-personal background history) and have real authority to receive complaints and to impose sanctions on those who prevent employees from establishing and joining independent trade unions;
- If the State of Vietnam and the state-run unions violate workers’ rights of establishing and joining independent trade unions then the terms of sanctions in international agreements must be applied. Monetary sanctions alone will certainly not suffice because it’s our struggling taxpayers’ money.
- Specific provisions should be provided to prevent the Vietnam State from establishing and funding state-run union system because state or communist officials will be appointed and they will use that budget to crush the independent trade union movement;
- Even after allowing independent trade unions to be legalized, if the trade agreement does not prohibit it the Vietnam State will maintain the current state-run unions. Therefore all foreign aids program or business contract must have specific provisions requiring all companies participating in the bidding, goods and services supply to allow, promote and protect the trade unions established at the companies.
We are convinced and dare assert that only when workers in Vietnam have their own independent trade unions then Vietnam could provide the world with good and safe products produced by legitimate ways to serve the people and not from human exploitation.
II – Ask that Vietnam honestly allow for the freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right and is a means to enforce other the human rights. That is why freedom of speech is the soul of all human rights. Without freedom of speech, the other human rights such as association, freedom of information, writing, receiving health care, live and work in a clean environment… are just effigies, are zombies. Someone said, “Thinking is existence,” and for me being gagged stops one’s own it existence.
Vietnam has thousands of state-owned and state-run newspapers and news sites. In Vietnam all private newspapers that people can buy to read are foreign newspapers like the New York Times, Financial Times, Le Courier, Marie Claire … (It is curious that Vietnamese should enjoy reading British, French and American newspapers!!)
This request is not only for the pro-democracy movement in Vietnam. Should the labor movement have the right to establish independent trade unions but people do not have freedom of speech then it would be the worst farce that one can have!
III – Emphatically require that the Vietnam State release political prisoners, including members of the workers’ movement whom I have mentioned above. Please specifically mention the case of Le Tri Tue, because making a person vanish is always a barbaric crime and most haunted. Also be concerned and closely monitor our labor movement, specifically workers’ strikes and government crackdowns, the arrests of the initiators and leaders of the strikes, which the security forces staged to camouflage them and provided them with criminal charges.