HUMAN RIGHTS: by John BallantyneNews Weekly
Vietnam's sex trade shame
, May 8, 2004
Tens of thousands of young Vietnamese girls have been forced into prostitution in a huge international sex trade racket.
In early March this year, three Vietnamese girls - who appeared to be only in their early to mid-teens - were advertised for sale on eBay, an internet online trading website. The asking price? US$5,400 each.
This online trade in human flesh, however, is only the tip of the iceberg.
A huge international prostitution racket flourishes, entrapping tens of thousands of young Vietnamese girls, some of them as young as six years old.
The Vietnamese Communist government has failed to halt the sexual exploitation of women and children. It has been accused of indifference towards, or even connivance at, these practices.
Almost 30 years after the end of the Vietnam War, Vietnam is one of the most tragic and wretched nations on earth.
The victory of the Communists and the capture of Saigon on April 30, 1975, did not usher in peace, but a reign of terror, despotic government and economic mismanagement that has reduced Vietnam to the rank of one of the poorest countries in the world.
According to a UNICEF report, one-third of Vietnamese children suffer from malnutrition, and an alarming number of them have been sold into prostitution.
The Communist government of Vietnam is one of the most brutal and corrupt regimes in the world.
Duong Thu Huong, a one-time Communist Party member, was jailed after she started exposing government corruption and abuses of power. She accused government officials of being involved in drug-trafficking, smuggling, using the regime's power to confiscate people's properties, and embezzling public funds and assets.
High-ranking government officials, including ex-ministerial and law enforcement officials, have reportedly been involved in prostitution and migrant-smuggling.
The Vietnamese military and Communist Party officials have been implicated in the recent increase in child prostitution in the country.
Victims of the sex trade are often desperately poor Vietnamese, deceptively lured by promises of foreign education, better career prospects and money. Sometimes they are forced into prostitution under the guise of brokered marriages to foreign men, who often sell and resell women abroad.
Owing to the fear of HIV and AIDS, customers today look for younger victims. So female trafficking victims continue to get younger.
Many of the younger victims end up in the child sex trade in Cambodia where girls aged 10 and younger are deprived of a normal childhood and instead are raped by male sex-tourists.
Officially, prostitution is illegal in Vietnam, yet the Communist government has so far done little to protect its children from sexual exploitation.
The government is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, yet its human rights record is one of the world's worst. It persecutes not only political dissidents, but religious people of all persuasions - Catholic priests, Protestant pastors and Buddhist monks.
Since 1975, Catholic priest, Father Nguyen Van Ly, has endured repeated persecution and imprisonment at the hands of the Communist authorities. In October 2001, he was sentenced to a further 15 years in a prison camp.
The Hanoi regime has continued its unremitting persecution of the Montagnard Degar people of Vietnam's central highlands. These proud people are one of the oldest indigenous races in South-East Asia. However, since 1975, the communist government of Vietnam has stripped them of their ancestral lands and suppressed Christian congregations and house churches there. Montagnard Christians comprise a significant portion of people imprisoned in Vietnam for their religious or political views.
Recently, the authorities have put the region under virtual martial law, with squads of Vietnamese police and soldiers occupying Montagnard villages and bloodily suppressing peaceful protests.
Also, the government's suppression of Hmong Christians in the north-western highlands continues unabated.
In Australia, a group of parliamentarians has teamed up with the local Vietnamese community to bring to light the repressive conditions that exist in Vietnam.
On April 20, at Queen's Hall in Victoria's Parliament House, they launched a new human rights taskforce, "MPs for Vietnam".
The convenor, Mr Murray Thompson MP - state Opposition spokesman for Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs - called on his parliamentary colleagues to adopt Vietnamese political prisoners and act as the voices for the persecuted people in Vietnam.
Other speakers at the launch included Victorian parliamentarians Luke Donnellan (Labor), representing the Bracks Government, Jeanette Powell (National Party), and Russell Savage (Independent), as well as representatives from Amnesty International and Christian Freedom International.