Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 14/2022 – Week of April 4-10

Greetings from The 88 Project. We bring you news, analysis, and actions regarding human rights and civil society in Vietnam during the week of April 4-10. Another former state media journalist was sentenced for writing about corruption. An advocate for the families of political prisoners remains in pretrial detention one year after her arrest. The government approved a list of religious texts for prisoners to read. The EU prepares to have its human rights dialogue with Vietnam. The war in Ukraine is exposing divisions within ASEAN over support for Russia. Vietnam voted against a UN resolution to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council. The complicated relationship between Vietnam and Russia is explained. Does Vietnam hold the trump card when it comes to its partnership with the United States? For the first time, a Vietnamese company seeks to have an IPO in the United States.


Political Prisoners

Nguyen Hoai Nam

Investigative journalist Nguyen Hoai Nam, who wrote for state media until he was dismissed in 2015, was sentenced on April 5 by the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City to three and a half years in prison for “abusing democratic freedoms” based on Article 331. According to the prosecution, in 2018 Nam posted a series of articles online which accused several officials of the Vietnam Inland Waterways Administration of corruption. After refusing to heed warnings to cease posting, Nam was arrested in March 2021.

Nguyen Thuy Hanh

This week marks one year since activist Nguyen Thuy Hanh was arrested. Hanh operated the 50K Fund whose purpose is to ease the financial burdens shouldered by the families of political prisoners. She also tried to run as an independent for a seat in the National Assembly. As is typical of political prisoners, Hanh has been held in pretrial detention without access to legal counsel or family visits.

Several ministries collaborated to approve a list of 17 religious books that prisoners are allowed to read, in what many former prisoners call a PR move aimed at deceiving the public about the true state of religious suppression inside Vietnamese jails. Besides the Bible and some Buddhist texts, the list also includes at least two books on Ho Chi Minh’s thought and philosophy. The authorities plan to distribute 4,400 copies of the approved books to 54 prisons throughout the country.

Huynh Thuc Vy

Huynh Thuc Vy wrote home to say she’s healthy and is treated well in prison. She asked that her supporters help out by supporting her family’s home businesses. The letter was posted to Vy’s Facebook page.

This week, we think of the birthdays and arrest and trial anniversaries of the following political prisoners:

Tran Thi Xuan and Nguyen Viet Dung

  • Blogger Nguyen Van Hoa, birthday April 15, currently serving seven years in prison for spreading “anti-State propaganda”
  • Former police captain and blogger Le Chi Thanh, arrested April 14, 2021, and sentenced to two years in prison for “abusing democratic freedoms” and “resisting officers”
  • Catholic activist and member of the Brotherhood for Democracy Tran Thi Xuan, tried on April 12, 2018, and sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of “subversion”
  • Political activist Nguyen Viet Dung, founder of the Republican Party of Vietnam, tried on April 12, 2018 and sentenced to six years in prison for conducting “anti-State propaganda”

International Advocacy

Pham Doan Trang (pictured above) has been featured in an informative and detailed article by Women in Journalism. Read it here.

Ahead of the EU-Vietnam dialogue on human rights, Human Rights Watch submitted its summary report on the worsening situation in Vietnam and called on the EU to apply pressure on Vietnam to comply with human and labor rights provisions of the EVFTA.


Putin’s war in Ukraine has deepened ASEAN disunity. Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Nikkei Asia; April 5, 2022: When it comes to China’s interests in the South China Sea and the coup in Myanmar, Cambodia has remained supportive of Beijing and the Tatmadaw but has refused to support Russia, while Laos has appeared to back all three — China in the South China Sea, the Tatmadaw and Moscow. Vietnam has been critical of China, silent on Myanmar’s coup and sympathetic to Russia. Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore have remained aligned in their concerns about China’s role in the South China Sea, Myanmar’s military takeover and Russia’s war in Ukraine. Thailand has been soft on China’s South China Sea belligerence and Myanmar’s coup but has taken a measured stand against Russia’s invasion.

UN General Assembly votes to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council. UN News; April 7, 2022: The resolution received a two-thirds majority of those voting, minus abstentions, in the 193-member Assembly, with 93 nations voting in favour and 24 against. Fifty-eight abstained from the process. Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Vietnam, were among those who voted against. . . Gennady Kuzmin, Deputy Russian ambassador, in remarks before the vote, called for countries to “vote against the attempt by Western countries and their allies to destroy the existing human rights architecture.”

Russia and Vietnam: An alliance of convenience. Nikola Mikovic, The Interpreter; August 2021: Formally, Russia and Vietnam are strategic partners, committed to helping each other in terms of defence and security. It is no secret that Vietnam is interested in purchasing the BrahMos medium-range ramjet supersonic cruise missile produced by the Russian-Indian joint venture BrahMos Aerospace. In November 2020, Russian Deputy Chief of Mission Roman Babushkin said that India and Russia are planning to export the BrahMos cruise missile to the Philippines and several other countries. It remains unclear if Vietnam is among them…. Beyond defence relations, Russia is also seeing to boost its economic ties with Vietnam, especially in the energy arena.

Why Vietnam Holds the Trump Card in the US-Vietnam Partnership. Khang Vu, The Diplomat; April 5, 2022: In major aspects, the convenient U.S.-Vietnam partnership is similar to the U.S.-China “quasi alliance” in the 1970s and 1980s, during which Washington and Beijing worked together to check the Soviet Union. Hanoi still perceives Western influence as posing challenges to its regime security. And to complicate matters further, under the pressure of the anti-communist Vietnamese American community, the U.S. condemns Vietnam’s poor human rights practices and may sanction Vietnamese officials under the Global Magnitsky Act. However, it is exactly these weak spots in U.S.-Vietnam relations that afford Vietnam a strong bargaining leverage in the bilateral relationship. Although Vietnam is an autocratic state like China, the United States perceives Vietnam to be too important to its Indo-Pacific strategy to let issues concerning human rights or political differences derail the upward trajectory of the partnership.

VinFast, the Latest EV IPO, Comes to U.S. From Vietnam. Luisa Beltran, Barron’s; April 7, 2022: VinFast Trading & Investment, an EV auto maker, has confidentially filed to go public in what would be the first U.S. IPO of a Vietnamese company. VinFast, a unit of Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup, said Thursday it had submitted ​​a draft registration statement to the Securities and Exchange Commission for a proposed initial public offering of its ordinary shares. VinFast said it hadn’t determined how many shares it would offer or their price range. A VinFast IPO would be the first traditional offering on a U.S. exchange from a Vietnamese company, according to Dealogic.


The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organization Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) released a statement this week calling on the EU to hold Vietnam accountable to its human rights agreements made as part of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement. Of the upcoming human rights dialogue between the EU and Vietnam, they said: “FIDH and VCHR urge the EU to seriously reconsider the merits of the human rights dialogue, which is portrayed by the Vietnamese government as a demonstration that it fully complies with the country’s human rights obligations.” Read the full statement and share it.
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