HRW said bloggers, human rights defenders, workers' rights activists, democracy and anti-corruption campaigners faced intimidation, arrest, torture and imprisonment.

Vietnam's crackdown on religion was systematic, severe and getting worse by the day, the New York-based group added.

'Peacefully expressing views should not be a crime, but the government apparently fears what these individuals have to say,' said Phil Robertson, HRW deputy Asia director. 'What's needed now is for Vietnam's international donors to clearly tell the government to release all dissidents arrested for peaceful activities.'

'The police in Vietnam violate rights with impunity, and the government too often looks the other way in the interest of maintaining order,' Robertson said. 'Police brutality was reported in all regions of Vietnam, but central government authorities responded with a deafening silence.'

HRW said Vietnam extended its regime of media and internet censorship and introduced new regulations for monitoring internet use. The Vietnam government also pressured neighbouring countries such as Cambodia and Thailand to crack down on activities aimed against the government in Hanoi.

HRW called on the United States to re-designate Vietnam a 'country of particular concern' for its continuous violations of religious freedom. The 649-page report summarizes major human rights developments in more than 90 countries and territories worldwide.

Deutsche Presse Agentur - january 25, 2011