During a three-day-visit to Vietnam, Barack Obama has echoed the calls of human rights groups for progress concerning civil liberties.
One of four remaining one-party Socialist states upholding Communism, Vietnam has been criticised for allegedly preventing civil society members from meeting him. Amnesty International gave a list of six peaceful activists who have been arrested in recent days.
Talking to activists during a gathering in Hanoi city, Obama praised the Vietnamese people who are “willing to make their voices heard.”
“There are still areas of significant concern in terms of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, accountability with respect to government,” he told them.
“I should note that there were several other activists who were invited who were prevented from coming for various reasons. And I think it’s an indication of the fact that although there has been some modest progress, there are still folks who find it very difficult to assemble and organise peacefully around issues that they care very deeply about.”
So far during his trip, Obama has already announced the US is entirely lifting its embargo on sales of lethal weapons to Vietnam. This represented the final big obstacle between the two nations, both of which have become closer amid fears over China’s military buildup.
He is due to outline further plans for strengthening ties with the Asian nation on Tuesday (May 24).
Six-dollar dinner, despite ‘disappointment’
Then of course, there was the six-dollar dinner the president ate with celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who is said to be filming in the country.
This, despite Bourdain being quoted in Politico in 2012 as labelling Obama “a disappointment to me personally for someone I admired.”