In its 2004 report on Human Rights Practices, the U.S. Department of State characterized Vietnam’s human rights record as “poor” and cited the continuation of “serious abuses.” According to the report, the government has imposed restrictions on freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association. Citizens are denied the right to change their government. The government continues to hold political prisoners who have expressed views at odds with government policy. Prison conditions are generally “harsh, but not unduly so given the country's level of economic development,” according to the State Department assessment. Vietnam has no independent judiciary, and there is no right to a fair and speedy trial. Human rights organizations are not permitted to operate. Discrimination against women and ethnic minorities, child labor, and prostitution are serious problems. The government is attempting to address the child labor issue. The government officially provides for freedom of religion and recognizes Buddhist, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Hoa Hao, Cao Dai, and Muslim denominations. However, non-sanctioned groups, including branches of even the recognized denominations, face harassment. Furthermore, the government insists on supervising the clergies of the sanctioned groups (by approving appointments, for example) in the interest of “national unity.” In April 2004, 20,000 to 30,000 members of the Montagnard ethnic minority gathered to protest for the return of their ancestral lands in the Central Highlands and an end to religious repression. Human Rights Watch alleges that hundreds of demonstrators were wounded and at least 10 killed in a clash with Vietnamese officials and civilians. The Vietnamese government is concerned that the Montagnards are seeking an independent state. As a result of the state oppression there has been an underground human-rights movement in Vietnam supported by the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam. Because of this the buddhist monk Thích Quảng Độ was awarded the Rafto Human Rights Prize on 21 September 2006 for his long time work for democracy in Vietnam. He has been in prison several times, a total of 25 years, because of his struggle for human-rights. Other well-known current and former political prisoners include Pham Hong Son, Nguyen Khac Toan, Nguyen Van Ly, Phan Van Ban, Nguyen Chi Thien and Nguyen Van Dai.
The communist government has still to account for numerous religious and political prisoners remaining in prisons and Human-rights groups said Vietnam has stepped up its crackdown on dissidents. More than a dozen pro-democracy activists have been arrested since November 2006. The United States in 2006 placed Vietnam on a blacklist of "countries of particular concern" for abusing rights to worship.