HONG KONG — The Vietnamese government has opened a dialogue with Amnesty International, allowing the human rights group to meet with crucial dissidents and government officials in the first such contacts since the end of the Vietnam War, Amnesty said Wednesday.
The dialogue comes as Vietnam begins drafting a constitution that seeks to address civil liberties and religious tolerance, areas where Vietnamese leaders have drawn criticism from human rights groups and Western governments.
Frank Jannuzi, an Amnesty official, said that during a six-day trip that ended Saturday, he met with two dissidents, Pham Hong Son and Nguyen Van Dai; representatives of the main evangelical churches; and Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City. The government “gave me wide latitude” with the visits, Mr. Jannuzi said.
Amnesty International has been sharply critical of the Vietnamese government, most recently criticizing the sentencing of 13 Catholic activists to up to 13 years in prison, calling the punishment “part of an escalating government crackdown on freedom of expression.”
Mr. Jannuzi acknowledged that the government had a long way to go in addressing such concerns, but he said that the efforts to write a constitution suggested a willingness to confront human rights issues.