Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 12/2022 – Week of March 21-27
Greetings from The 88 Project. We bring you news, analysis, and actions regarding human rights and civil society in Vietnam during the week of March 21-28. One more activist has been sentenced to prison while another had his appeal denied. The surprise arrest of a well-heeled female CEO strangely resulted in widespread celebration. The wife of an imprisoned activist is herself threatened with arrest. There are updates on the well being of several prisoners from their families. Vietnam suspends flights to Russia. Vietnamese fishing boats keep getting attacked and robbed by Chinese vessels near the Spratlys. The US ambassador hopes relations with Vietnam can be elevated. Will Ukraine be Putin’s Vietnam?
HUMAN RIGHTS & CIVIL SOCIETY
Le Van Dung and Bui Van Thuan
On March 23 Le Van Dung, aka Le Dung Vova, was sentenced to five years in prison plus five years of probation by a Hanoi court for “anti-state propaganda” under Article 117. Dung was accused of posting video clips that allegedly defame the Communist Party. In court, he did not deny posting the material but insisted it was legal to do so. Dung’s lawyer said his client would appeal the verdict. Even though the trial supposedly was open, Dung’s wife and his mother were not allowed inside the courtroom.
Dung was on the run for a few months before he got arrested at a relative’s house. His relative, Nguyen Van Son, was also tried on the same day and was given an 18-month suspended sentence and 36 months of unsupervised probation.
Do Nam Trung had his appeal trial on March 24. Trung was convicted of “anti-state propaganda” in December 2021. In a highly unusual move, the authorities allowed Trung’s parents and sister into the courtroom. Unsurprisingly, however, the judges upheld Trung’s sentence of 10 years in prison for posting video clips that allegedly “opposed the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”
Nguyen Phuong Hang, 51, was arrested by HCMC police on March 24 and charged with “abusing democratic freedoms” under Article 331. Hang is the CEO of Dai Nam Joint Stock Company and in the past year has been a controversial figure for her relentless attack on charitable activities by showbiz celebrities. The authorities accuse her of “defaming others with untruths, using rude language that demeans their characters.” They also said she refused to cooperate with the police investigation. News of her arrest was met with instantaneous celebration throughout social media and within the showbiz world.
Thanh Hoa provincial police summoned Trinh Thi Nhung, the wife of political prisoner Bui Van Thuan, and threatened to arrest her if she continued to advocate for her husband. Since Thuan’s arrest in August of last year, Nhung has been updating his situation regularly on social media and tirelessly petitioning the authorities to make sure his rights are protected. Thuan is currently in pre-trial detention, charged with “anti-state propaganda.” Nhung did not receive any letter from Thuan until March of this year. She told RFA that police investigators tried to trick her into confirming her husband’s Facebook account. They also warned her that she shouldn’t have posted on her Facebook account the summons they issued because “it was wrong to do so and could be bad for her.”
Tran Duc Thach and Nguyen Trong Ton
Nguyen Thi Chuong, the wife of writer Tran Duc Thach, visited Thanh Hoa Detention Center No. 5 on March 15, 2022 but was not allowed to see her husband. She said she could not give him food and necessities via the prison guards but only via the post office. Tran Duc Thach is reportedly healthy and mentally strong.
Nguyen Thi Chuong also mentioned that she travelled together with Nguyen Thi Lanh, the wife of Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton. Lanh also was not allowed to see her husband. There is no update on Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton’s health condition. However, Lanh posted on Feb 19, 2022 that he was well and that he sent her a poem wishing his friends and relatives a happy Lunar New Year.
On March 18, 2022, Do Le Na, wife of Le Trong Hung, visited the prison to see him on his first anniversary in jail. She was not allowed to meet with him in person but was able to give him some food and necessities. Na shared on her Facebook account that she and her friend were treated nicely by the prison guards. This week marks a year since Hung was arrested.
According to Dinh Thu Hien, the younger sister of Dinh Thi Thu Thuy, Thuy was allowed to call home on January 15, 2022. She spent most of that time talking to her young son. Hien assumed that Thuy is in good health, based on the coherence and clarity in her voice. Thuy is an environmental activist who’s serving a seven-year sentence for Facebook postings calling for protection of the environment.
This week, we think of the trial anniversaries of the following political prisoners:
Nguyen Thi Cam Thuy and Vu Tien Chi
- Teaching professional Nguyen Thi Cam Thuy, tried on March 30, 2021, and sentenced to nine years in prison for “conducting propaganda against the State”
- Democracy activist Ngo Thi Ha Phuong, tried on March 30, 2021, and sentenced to seven years in prison for “conducting propaganda against the State”
- Democracy and human rights Vu Tien Chi, tried on March 31, 2021, and sentenced to ten years in prison for “conducting propaganda against the State”
- Land rights activist Le Van Hai, tried on March 31, 2021, and sentenced to four years in prison for “abusing democratic freedoms”
- Democracy activist Le Viet Hoa, tried on March 31, 2021, and sentenced to five years in prison for “conducting propaganda against the State”
Dang Dinh Bach
The wife of arrested environmental lawyer Dang Dinh Bach, who was scrutinizing Vietnam’s trade deal with the EU, urges Brussels to “take responsibility to intervene in my husband’s release immediately.”
NEWS & ANALYSIS
Vietnam Airlines to suspend regular flights to Russia from March 25, Phuong Nguyen, Reuters, March 22, 2022: “National flag carrier Vietnam Airlines will temporarily suspend regular flights from Hanoi to Moscow starting from March 25 until further notice, the state run Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported on Wednesday. The suspension was to review procedures, requirements and regulations related to flight operations in Russia, VNA reported. The two countries have close ties dating back to the Soviet era and Vietnam has not so far condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
Vietnam: The Fishermen and the Sea, Chan Nhu, RFA, March 2022: “A fisherman from Ly Son surnamed Hai told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that he had been detained by China’s navy in the area four times in recent years. ‘[Each time] they took away our equipment, the fish … everything,’ he said. ‘They took our boats and towed us [away] and we often didn’t know where we were because they put us on their ship and blindfolded us.’ According to Hai, Chinese naval personnel have repeatedly confiscated Vietnamese vessels and demanded that residents of Ly Son pay ‘fines’ to get them back. ‘Actually, the payment was [a form of ransom] so fishermen would be released’ he said.”
US hopes to elevate relations with Vietnam: Ambassador, Asia News Network, March 26, 2022: “The US supports an independent, strong and prosperous Việt Nam, he said, stressing that the US hopes to elevate its relationship with the Southeast Asian nation to a new height. The diplomat pledged to coordinate closely with Vietnamese ministries and agencies, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to foster the exchange of high-level visits in 2022 and boost cooperation between the two countries across several fields, from trade and national defence-security to healthcare, climate change response and energy transition. Regarding the Ukraine issue, Sơn reiterated Việt Nam’s stance that international disputes and differences should be addressed via peaceful measures in accordance with the basic principles of the United Nations Charter and international law, especially those respecting independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Ukraine is Putin’s Vietnam, Harlan Ullman, The Hill, March 21, 2022: “Russian President Vladimir Putin’s outrage in Ukraine has been called his Afghanistan. A better analogy is Vietnam. Why? First, North Vietnam won by not losing. Ukraine can do the same by not losing and bleeding the Russian army to defeat. The North lost every battle and won the war. One big difference perhaps: Ukraine seems to be winning on the ground. Second, Putin’s rationale for ‘special military operations’ against Ukraine was even more flawed and fabricated than America’s reasons for war in Vietnam. Putin claimed Ukraine was a direct threat to Russia; that its neo-Nazi government, headed by a Jewish president, was attacking innocent Ukrainian Russian speakers and murdering its citizens; and then created fake news stories to prove its case.”
Share this statement from Human Rights Watch, who called for the release of ‘Citizen Reporter’ Le Van Dung ahead of his trial this week. Dung was sentenced to five years in prison.
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