The Global Coalition for Language Rights is concerned by the recent closure of several bilingual education programs for Deaf students associated with Dong Nai University in Vietnam. These programs had run successfully for over twenty years, and played a critical role in ensuring language rights for Vietnam’s one million Deaf people.
According to a source close to the issue, these programs were closed by the university’s new rector, who was appointed by the People’s Committee of Dong Nai Province. Students who previously participated in this program, which taught Deaf students through sign language, have been sent to other institutions where they are denied the right to access education in sign language.
The closure of these programs is likely linked to the new government decree on foreign Non-Government Organizations in Vietnam, announced in August 2022, which severely curtails the capacity of international organizations to operate in Vietnam. Given the Vietnamese government’s refusal to support the language rights of Deaf people, Dong Nai University’s sign language education programs were supported by The Nippon Foundation (Japan).
More broadly, the closure of these programs should be viewed within the context of wider attacks on human rights activists and closing space for civil society in Vietnam. A particularly concerning aspect of the current situation in Vietnam has been the use of tax laws to arrest and detain activists, such as land rights activist Truong Van Dung and climate change activist Hoang Thi Minh Hong. This highlights the need to ensure fundamental civil and political rights in order to protect language rights.