Hot on the heels of an official’s the rejection of the U.S. designation of Vietnam as a country of particular concern (CPC) because of their human rights records (see the indignant rebuttal here) comes the unsurprising news that the Vietnamese government has once again given religious rights the old heave-ho in the name of preserving national unity. Representatives from Vietnam’s Buddhist Youth Movement (Gia Dinh Phat Tu Viet Nam) were barred from attending an international conference of their organization in Bodh Gaya. The Gia Dinh Phat Tu is a Buddhist lay organization similar in flavor to the Scouts in the U.S.
No surprise that less than a week after loudly denying that there were any religious rights issues in Vietnam, the Communist government was at it again, trying hide from the world the wide support for the non-sanctioned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam both inside and outside Vietnam. Rather than reconciling with a movement that has great support inside the country, the government has chosen to set a more divisive route- continuing to suppress public expressions of support for the UBCV, and continuing to unlawfully detain UBCV leaders despite recent promises from Vietnamese leadership to the contrary. Ironically, in their desperation to avoid schism the Vietnamese government may do just that- turning support for the UBCV into a wedge between the people and the government, rather than an opportunity to foster support for the government and to steady Vietnam’s image in the international community.
As we come up on the one-year anniversary of the passage of House Resolution 427, urging Vietnam to show greater respect for religious tolerance in general, and for the UBCV in particular, you can’t help but reflect on the moral credibility of the U.S. right now. Days after denying to have a human rights problem, Vietnam managed to punch another hole in its own credibility by denying Buddhist scout masters the right to join their international associates in proclaiming their support for the UBCV. A year after urging Vietnam to abide by international agreements on religious rights, the U.S. has just appointed an attorney general that thinks that
the Geneva Convention is optional in certain circumstances. The American people deserve better, and so does Vietnam.