By: Our Correspondent

Despite warnings that the country’s stance on civil rights could harm its international standing in connection with a major trade pact, Vietnam’s security forces continue to attack dissidents, staging 31 physical attacks in 2014 and another 17 this year, according to a dissident group based in Hanoi.

The latest occurred on May 19 – the birthday of the country’s liberator, Ho Chi Minh – when Human rights defender Dinh Quang Tuyen (aka Tuyen Xich Lo) was riding his bicycle for exercise when he was set upon by two masked men on a motorcycle who overtook him and punched him in the middle of his face, breaking his nose. 

The group baring the extent of the attacks is Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience, who do not stem from the dissident blogger community, who are more sophisticated and guarded, according to David Brown, a former US diplomat with long experience in Vietnam. 

“The reports focus on repression of unsanctioned religious people – Mennonites, radical Catholics, humble people protesting land expropriation with meager compensation, environmentalists,” Brown said. “The recurrent theme generally is that they are ‘uppity people’ who are frequently jumped by thugs and bully boys. The public security people can deny they had anything to do with it.”

By and large, human rights groups say, foreign governments rarely look beyond the arrest and incarceration of dissidents.  But another world of danger exists on the streets. Disguised as thugs to mask attacks by authorities, the Vietnam security police forces have used violence to intimidate and humiliate human rights defenders, the Former Prisoners of Conscience says, an approach that is “safe” for the government because the democratic countries’ concern on human rights in Vietnam do not go beyond recording dissidents’ arrests.

The number of victims is increasing, according to Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience, which condemned the use of violence to harm dissidents. The organization accused individual policemen masquerading as thugs to assault human rights defenders, citing a long list of specific cases and displaying photographs of beaten and bloodied men and women over the past five months.

The charges of willful disregard of human rights and beating of dissidents are of particular concern at a time when the United States congress is debating the implementation of the Obama administration’s Trans-Pacific Partnership, a comprehensive trade pact involving 22 nations on the shores of the Pacific Ocean both in the Americas and Asia. Civil rights crusaders are demanding that Vietnam demonstrate tangible progress towards liberalization before the country is allowed to join the pact.