Take action for Phan Van Thu

Phan Van Thu at trial

Phan Van Thu at trial in 2012

Who is Phan Van Thu?

Phan Van Thu is a religious leader and environmentalist who in 1969 founded An Dan Dai Dao (ADDD), a Buddhist sect which was outlawed after the Communist party took control of South Vietnam in 1975. Thu was first arrested in August 1975 and spent eight years in prison, including five years in solitary confinement. Upon his release in 1983, he fled probation in order to continue his religious practice with his disciples. In 2003, he appointed one of his disciples to start an eco-tourism project in Phu Yen province aimed at protecting the local environment. The ADDD believe in creating a utopian society in which humanity live in harmony with nature. The group organized conferences and distributed literature to promote their beliefs, but were not involved in politics. In 2012 Thu was arrested again.



The Case

In 2012, Phan Van Thu and 21 other members of the group were charged with ‘abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State’ under Article 258 of the 1999 Penal Code. The group was then found guilty and convicted under Article 79 for ‘carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration’. Articles 79 and 258 have been used to stifle free expression in Vietnam. The group were accused of writing documents critical of the government and using the eco-project as a cover for recruiting supporters. Thu is currently serving a life-sentence in prison. Thu’s sentence was the longest sentence ever given under Article 79.

Human rights violations

Phan Van Thu has been denied basic human rights including the right to freedom of religion and the right to a fair trial. ADDD affiliates maintain that their activities were purely religious. He has also been denied humane treatment while serving his sentence. He suffers from a range of health issues including diabetes, arthritis and heart failure. Thu has been denied specialist medication and dental visits. His family has reported that he is in very poor health and struggles to walk. Requests by his family for his release or temporary postponement of his sentence to seek treatment have been denied. One other member of the An Dan Dai Dao group, Doan Dinh Nam, has already died of kidney failure because of inadequate medical treatment.  It is especially important that Thu receives treatment now because of his vulnerability to the coronavirus.

What action can you take?

  • Please share the International Commission of Jurists open letter calling for Thu and other ADDD members to be given the medical treatment that they desperately need:
  • Please share this this letter with your local political representative to raise awareness of Thu’s case.
  • Share this page on social media (via the icons on the bottom of this page) and include the below text:

“Stand up for #humanrights in #Vietnam. We urge the Vietnamese government to release Phan Van Thu and allow him to access the medical treatment he desperately needs. Read more and take action for Thu here:”


Read more about Phan Van Thu’s background and activism in his profile in our Database of Persecuted Activists in Vietnam


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