Vietnam cites London riots to defend rights record
Vietnam's foreign minister pointed Tuesday to Britain's response to August riots as he defended the human rights record of his government, which he said guaranteed fundamental freedoms.
Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, on a visit to New York for the UN General Assembly, said that Britain had raised concerns several years ago in a human rights dialogue about the communist nation's treatment of demonstrations.
"But look at the UK, all right?" Pham said at the Council on Foreign Relations. "If you had some security concern, you had to adopt some kind of measure. So that is normal."
"But we respect the human rights in all fields because we are members" of international conventions on human rights, he said.
Riots broke out in the London district of Tottenham on August 6 before spreading to other cities, leaving five people dead in Britain's worst unrest since the 1980s.
Pham was responding to a question about the use of force on religious practitioners in Vietnam. In a May 2010 incident that drew the attention of the US Congress, residents said authorities used deadly force to break up a religious procession in the Roman Catholic parish of Con Dau.
Vietnam said the incident was a land dispute. Pham defended Vietnam's record, saying: "Even I myself cannot get into church on Sunday or... Christmas Eve. It's very crowded."
"So I don't see any kind of discriminations against... religious practice in Vietnam," he said.
"Our policies (are) always focusing on the betterment of the living standard of the people, and also along with that is the rights of the people. So that is our commitment to that," he said.
Pham saluted warming relations with the United States but said that on human rights, "there is a different approach."
Despite the legacy of war, the United States and Vietnam have moved closer together at a time of high tension between Hanoi and Beijing.
The United States has repeatedly warned that Vietnam needs to improve its human rights record but has nonetheless moved ahead to expand cooperation, including in defense.
© 2011 AFP