Vietnam Independent Civil Society Network (VICSON) is a network of independent human rights groups. The network, formalized in January 2016, includes a mixture of civil society organizations and faith-based organizations that share common values and goals grounded in universal human rights. Since Vietnam does not allow for independent associations to exist, all VICSON member organizations are considered unregistered and illegal under domestic law. Given member organization’s status and unique focus on human rights work deemed highly sensitive or off-limits by the Vietnamese Communist Party, VICSON’s members experience harassment and persecution from the State on a regular basis.
Meet the VICSON Secretariat:
Meet VICSON’s Member Organizations:
Bach Dang Giang Foundation (BDG) is an independent organization working on development for Vietnam by engaging on several human rights issues, including pushing for independent labor unions, worker rights, and promoting values of democracy and pluralism. The group aims at exposing news concealed by the Communist Party and exposing Party propaganda.
Brotherhood for Democracy is an independent group founded by human rights lawyer, Nguyen Van Dai in 2012. They quietly sent a member to the November ACSC/APF in 2015 and hope to make new ASEAN connections and build regional advocacy for the organization’s founder and his assistant who are both presently in prison.
Vietnamese Women for Human Rights (VNWHR) protects and defends human rights with an emphasis on women’s rights. VNWHR takes a unique perspective on GONGOs, since VNWHR’s founding responds directly to the failure of the Vietnam Women’s Union to represent the interests of women inside Vietnam. They have been especially active with ASEAN engagement.
Montagnard Evangelical Church of Christ (MECC) is a network of underground house churches of several Montagnard ethnic groups spanning five provinces. They collectively respond to ongoing attacks on their freedom of religion through investigating abuses and preparing submissions to the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief. MECC is grateful that ASEAN friends stood up for their inclusion in the 2015 ACSC/APF joint statement in their absence and against the GONGOs’ insistence that Vietnam has no Montagnard problem.
Religious and Ethnic Minorities Defenders was founded to fight for people’s religious freedom and the rights of ethnic minorities in Vietnam. Group members report many religious freedo m violations committed against Catholics, Protestants, Hoa Hao Buddhists, and the United Buddhist Church of Vietnam.
Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience (FVPOC) provides material and spiritual support for former prisoners of conscience. They also fight the government discrimination against their families, especially against the children of former prisoners. Many members are barred from international travel and some remain under house arrest, but the organization still aims at contributing to and learning from ACSC/APF.
Nhon Sanh Caodaist Bloc or Popular Bloc of the Cao Dai Religion is an independent religious minority in Vietnam fighting for their own existence and for freedom of religion for all. Shortly after 1975, the government made their religion illegal and confiscated nearly all their places of worship. Later, in 1997, the government established its own Cao Dai group. The Cao Dai understand the GONGO problem quite clearly from their own experience.
Defend the Defenders (DTD), with members and partners in all regions of Vietnam, works to systematically report and document human rights violations in Vietnamese and English on its website. DTD works closely with the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Amnesty International and closely coordinates with Civil Rights Defenders. Like other independent groups, they are tired of their lack of free association inside Vietnam the façade carried out through GONGOs.
Association of Con Dau Parish, or the Con Dau Parishioners Association, is an organization from Da Nang, Vietnam. Con Dau is a Catholic parish of 2000 parishioners with 135 years of history. The group organized in 2010 at the attempt by the government to expropriate all parish land to build an eco-resort. Besides land seizure, the Parish has survived a brutal police attack at a religious funeral on May 4, 2010. They were one of the most active groups in ACSC/APF 2015, joining consultations and sharing testimony on panels on torture and religion.
Association of Bau Bi Tuong Than was established in 2013 in Hanoi. Group members are all volunteers, partly due to its status as an unrecognized group and the sensitive work they do. The organization provides material and spiritual support to prisoners of conscience, land grabbing victims and their families.
Vietnamese Political & Religious Prisoners Friendship Association (VPRPFA) was founded in October 2006 by Venerable Thich Thien Minh and other former political and religious prisoners with the goal of advocating for the rights of former prisoners and for the freedom and basic rights of people in the country. Though he is unable to leave Vietnam, group member Nguyen Bac Truyen served on the ACSC/APF media committee remotely.
The Association of Dan Oan Doi Quyen Song is a group of innocent and conscientious citizens who are the victims of state sanctioned mistreatment because they exercise their basic rights to freedom of opinion, expression and religious belief. They exist in all 63 provinces and cities across the country, and they are from all facets of the society. The objective of the association is to have collective voices to raise the international concern on rights violations.