On Wednesday, July 11th, the United States Embassy in Vietnam issued a statement criticizing a decision by a Vietnamese appeals court to continue to detain three human rights activists for “propaganda against the State.” These activists were not part of some vast effort to topple the Communist regime in Vietnam, but rather, took issue with various government abuses of human rights and other policies, and for this, they have been imprisoned.
Vietnam today isn’t the same country it was when the last helicopter left Saigon. While our other Asian cold war enemy, North Korea, remained stagnant and highly repressive until recently, Vietnam has actually improved, both economically and in the realm of freedom in the decades since the war. Vietnam has touted improvements in the area of human rights and civil liberties in recent years, attempting to distinguish itself from the nightmare years of the early Communist regime.
Interestingly enough, the constitution of Vietnam, just like the US constitution, guarantees religious freedom, per a 2013 update. While this commitment looks good on paper, religious freedom in practice is lacking.