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 28-April 3. It was a relatively quiet week, with only three persons put on trial for defaming high-level government officials. The CEO of a large conglomerate and powerful ally of top Party members was arrested for “economic crimes.” A vice minister let it be known that the State has been planting Party members in religious organizations for monitoring and manipulation purposes. For the first time ever, a Vietnamese company plans to invest billions to make electric vehicles and batteries in the US. A Ukrainian representative in Hanoi speaks out about Vietnamese reactions to the invasion of the country and the role of Russian propaganda in Vietnam.
HUMAN RIGHTS & CIVIL SOCIETY
The defendants at trial on March 30, 2022, Source: Toui Tre
On March 30, a court in Quang Tri Province put three men on trial for the second time for “abusing democratic freedoms.” Their first trial in October 2021 was adjourned prematurely so that the prosecution could gather more evidence to press more charges. The men are accused of making online postings that “discredit, violate the prestige, honor and human dignity of a number of Quang Tri leaders.”
The defendants are: Phan Bui Bao Thy, 50, former journalist with the publication Education Of The Times; ex-police officer Nguyen Huy, 44, who worked for Quang Tri Public Security; and Le Anh Dung, 56, a businessman in Ho Chi Minh City. The plaintiffs include: Nguyen Van Hung, former chairman of the Quang Tri People’s Committee and current Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism; Vo Van Hung, chairman of the Quang Tri People’s Committee; Tran Duc Viet, former Chief of Public Security in Quang Tri; and several others. According to Tuoi Tre Online, none of the plaintiffs appeared at the trial, but it was still allowed to proceed.
This week we think of the arrests and trial anniversaries of the following political prisoners:
Truong Minh Duc and Nguyen Van Tuc
- Nguyen Thuy Hanh, fervent supporter of political prisoners and their families, arrested April 7, 2021, and still awaiting trial on charges of conducting “anti-state propaganda”
- Human rights and democracy activists Nguyen Bac Truyen, Pham Van Troi, Truong Minh Duc, and Nguyen Trung Ton, tried on April 5, 2018, and sentenced to between seven and 12 years in prison each on charges of “subversion”
- Brotherhood for Democracy activist Nguyen Van Tuc, tried on April 10, 2018, and sentenced to 13 years in prison for “subversion”
NEWS & ANALYSIS
Vice Minister of Home Affairs wants to develop a force of religious party members to grasp the state of religious followers, The Vietnamese, March 31, 2022. In an article published by State Organizations Magazine in January 2022, Vice Minister of Home Affairs Vu Chien Thang slightly mentioned the directions that the state management of faiths and religions would take, containing a number of notable points regarding increasing control over religious organizations.  Most noteworthy are the instructions to “develop Party members who are religious and assign these Party members to monitor and effectively carry out public relations work with religious followers and the public.” The Vietnamese government has acknowledged using Party members in the past to control religious activities, confirming in 2020 that the State and the Party secretly assigned Party members to religious organizations.
Vietnam arrests chairman of FLC, Bamboo Airways over alleged market manipulation, Reuters, March 29, 2022. Vietnamese police on Tuesday arrested the chairman of one of the country’s largest private groups on suspicion of manipulating the stock market, the Ministry of Public Security said. Trinh Van Quyet, chairman of property and leisure company FLC Group (FLC.HM) and its Bamboo Airways subsidiary, is also accused of hiding stock transaction information, the ministry said in a statement. FLC, which owns dozens of resorts and golf courses throughout the country, said Quyet had been cooperating with investigators and no final decision had been reached.
Vietnam’s Vinfast to build $2 bln electric vehicle factory in U.S., Phuong Nguyen and Hyunjoo Jin, Reuters, March 30, 2022. Vietnam’s automaker VinFast said on Tuesday it has signed a preliminary deal to initially invest $2 billion to build a factory in North Carolina to make electric buses, sport utility vehicles (SUVs) along with batteries for EVs. The unit of Vietnam’s biggest conglomerate Vingroup (VIC.HM), said it plans to have a total investment of $4 billion in its first U.S. factory complex. Construction should begin this year as soon as the company gets necessary permits, and is expected to finish by July 2024. The plant’s initial capacity will be 150,000 units per year, Vinfast said.
US State Department concludes Indo-Pacific visit. Promod Tandan, Foreign Brief. April 2, 2022. While the concern about increasing Chinese influence in the region is a shared one, the US also remains interested in keeping the Sea’s access unrestricted. Specifically, so that it can gain access to those islands that serve as strategic military choke points with the potential of contesting regional trade routes. In the interest of the regional strategic partnership, the visit marked the US commitment to its bilateral and multilateral partnership with Indo-Pacific alliances. Equally, it demonstrated the US’ need for assistance in maintaining the unrestricted freedom of navigation within the South China Sea. For the moment, the US looks like it will focus on shoring up security and economic cooperation with these countries to counter the Chinese advancement. In the event of Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, the US may call upon these partners for a unified response.
Interview: ‘I can see how the Russian propaganda machine works here’. RFA’s Vietnamese Service. March 30, 2022. So are you aware of this ongoing war of information in Vietnamese social media and how do you feel about it? Zhinkyna: Of course I’m aware of that. Just yesterday, I saw a reader taking my picture and totally distorting the words that I say, so I can see how the Russian propaganda machine works here and how much money Russia puts into those efforts, into spreading disinformation and to spreading fake news into transferring their own narratives here. This is to some extent a good point. Let them spend their money on propaganda, but not on new rockets and tanks. But of course, it makes our work here difficult.