FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Nguyen Van Dai’s Brotherhood for Democracy and other independent groups join engagement effort with ASEAN civil society

Vietnam – 9 Feb 2016

On 6 February Brotherhood for Democracy joined the Vietnamese Independent Civil Society Network (VICSN). In just a few weeks, the VICSN has doubled in size with several new groups joining the network and agreeing to establish a national process for Vietnam’s engagement in the ASEAN Civil Society Conference / ASEAN People’s Forum (ACSC/APF) that would serve as an alternative to the current system which places government-backed organizations into important leaderships positions in the regional summit.

The latest addition of Brotherhood of Democracy, the independent civil society organization founded by recently imprisoned human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, strengthens an already robust network of civil society organizations in Vietnam that oppose government interference with their operations.

“Independent’s CSOs’ standing and working together in a regional network will help increase the spirit of solidarity and promote civil society in Vietnam” says, Mr. Pham Van Troi, president of Brotherhood of Democracy.

Presently, independent groups inside Vietnam are illegal, with members subjected to ongoing harassment, travel bans, and even arrest or violent attacks. The result is that independent civil society groups are kept isolated and lack opportunities for development while government-controlled groups known as GONGOs are deployed in their place.

The network aims to overcome these obstacles through a terms of reference including an agreement to core principles which aim at being inclusive while also ensuring that the process cannot be coopted or infiltrated by government interests.

“To join our national process, you really have to believe in universal human rights. Not just in vague terms, but you must support the release of prisoners of conscience like Nguyen Van Dai and others. This is done to help ensure our process is uncorrupted,” says Ms. Huynh Thuc Vy, coordinator for Vietnamese Women for Human Rights (VNWHR), one of leading organizations in engaging ASEAN, including recently becoming the first Vietnamese member of FORUM-ASIA.

She adds, “For the first time ever, we have an official opportunity to build an independent national process. We hope that our move will help the situation of the voiceless in Vietnam and bring Vietnam’s harsh human rights record to ASEAN friends’ attention.”

The English language version of the Vietnamese Independent Civil Society Network (VICSN) National Process terms of reference is available here.

Click here to join Amnesty International’s ACT NOW campaign for Nguyen Van Dai’s release.

Democratic Voice of Vietnam is a resource center and hub for independent civil society in Vietnam. It is a space for ASEAN civil society organizations to connect with genuine civil society inside Vietnam to work on human rights issues inside Vietnam and across ASEAN.

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