Over the past years, the State of Vietnam, besides supplementing legal documents targeting ethnic minority people, has implemented many policies to improve the spiritual and material life of these people.

The task has been conducted unceasingly since the country gained its independence in 1945. Article 8 of the 1946 Constitution said “apart from interest equality, the national minorities are assisted in every aspect to make rapid progress to keep pace with the general advance.”

On April 29, 1955, President Ho Chi Minh signed decree 229/SL to prioritise and ensure the rights of ethnic minorities, affirming “all ethnic minority groups have the rights to freedom in developing their own languages and writings, maintaining or improving their traditional customs, and to religious freedom, and are supported by the Government in political, economic, social and cultural fields”.

Together with the country’s socio-economic development, Vietnam has made important achievements in ensuring the rights of ethnic groups. Ethnic minority deputies make up 17.27 percent of the National Assembly. The rate in the People’s Committees at the provincial level is 18 percent, district level, 20 percent, and communal level, 22.5 percent.

The Vietnamese State has been implementing policies to support production and human resources training to improve ethnic minority people’s living conditions, especially in extremely disadvantaged and mountainous regions. To date, most of the communes where the groups live are accessible by roads and have access to electricity, clean water, and educational, healthcare and postal services. Eighty-five percent of the ethnic minority population watch television programmes and 92 percent listen to radio programmes.

A number of independent UN experts on minority issues have been invited to Vietnam to see how ethnic minority people live. After such a fact-finding tour, Gay McDougall, an expert on ethnic minority people’s rights, spoke of the country’s political determination, policies, programmes and measures to ensure the rights of the minority groups in education, heathcare, job generation, culture, languages and traditions preservation, especially in poverty reduction and hunger alleviation.

At a UN Human Rights Committee session in Geneva, Gay McDougall affirmed that ensuring the rights of ethnic minorities is Vietnam’s top priority, which is shown in the country’s laws, policies and socio-economic development programmes.

Despite the State’s great efforts, ensuring the human rights of ethnic minority people in some places has faced difficulties, especially in life improvement as most of them live in mountainous regions with geographical obstacles. To deal with the issue, the Government has issued an action plan to realise the ethnic minority strategy towards 2020.

The draft revised 1992 Constitution, which is expected to be passed at the sixth session of the 13 th National Assembly, also mentions fully the ethnic issue and ethnic policies to create conditions for all ethnic minorities to uphold their internal strength to contribute to the country’s development. The National Assembly is expected to complete the “Law on Nationalities” by 2020.

Vietnam has 54 ethnic groups, of which the Kinh people account for 86 percent of the 90-million population. The population of the ethnic minorities is different. Some of the groups have over one million people, including the Tay and Thai, several others have a population of several hundred, such as the Pu Peo, Romam and Brau. Most of the minority groups live in the mountainous regions, which account for three fourths of the country’s total area.

Each ethnic group has its own cultural characteristics, reflecting their long-lasting traditions, history and pride.-VNA