Central role for police in repression of dissidents

The police moved in in force in June to break up demonstrations against new investment zones. Photo courtesy AFP

The police have a central role to play in maintaining Vietnam as a one-party state.

That was the gist of new year message from President Nguyen Phu Trong as he addressed a national security conference in Hanoi.

He urged the police to double down on its efforts to prevent the formation of any opposition groups and to maintain “political stability” in the country.

Last year was not a happy one for the powerful National Security Ministry, with top police offices arrested and imprisoned on corruption charges.

The prosecutions, however, could serve President Trong’s efforts to impose his will on the security establishment and use the police as a political tool against government critics.

The police have spearheaded a campaign to harass and arrest political activists and independent bloggers, with dozens sentenced to lengthy prison terms last year.

President Trong made clear in his speech that the police had a central political role to play.

They must coordinate with other authorities to combat what he termed “self-evolution” and “self transformation”, Communist party jargon for independent political thought and development.

Nguyen Phu Trong consolidated his position last year by adding the post of state president to his existing position as general-secretary of the party.

He shows every sign of his using his new status to crush a civil society sector that had begun to challenge the party’s monopoly on power.

He said the police needed to be proactive in its efforts to prevent sabotage schemes and the activities of hostile forces and terrorists, terms often used by the party to describe pro-democracy activists and their sympathisers overseas.

The party portrays any criticism of its policies as an effort to upset social order and undermine the stability of the state.

Such “proactive” action by the police was seen last month when offers raided an annual gathering of registered NGOs in Hanoi.

They shut down the two day event involving groups from the health, public administration and human rights sectors.

The move signalled an ever more active role by the police in the monitoring and harassment of activists.