Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 15/2022 – Week of April 11-17
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 11-17. A former prison official’s appeal of his prison sentence was denied. A state media journalist and a businessman were sentenced to re-education. A Facebooker was arrested for writing about the arrests of two high-profile business moguls. There are several important international papers and reports on Vietnam’s human rights situation, including from the UN, the U.S. State Department, PEN International, and Reporters Without Borders. Read a highly detailed legal analysis of author Pham Doan Trang’s trial by TrialWatch. Vietnam’s vote against a resolution on Russia in the UN Human Rights Council might have doomed its bid to lead the Council. China used the Ukraine crisis to remind Vietnam to stand together with it against the United State’s Indo-Pacific strategy, while other countries in the region were seeking clarity from the United States on exactly what that strategy is.
HUMAN RIGHTS & CIVIL SOCIETY
Le Chi Thanh
An appellate court in Ho Chi Minh City upheld the two-year sentence for Le Chi Thanh, a former official at Ham Tan Prison. Thanh was fired from his job in July 2020 after accusing his supervisors of corruption. Afterwards, he began livestreaming videos that monitored traffic police, exposing their wrongdoings. Thanh was initially charged with “resisting officers on official duty” after he was arrested in April 2021 for a minor traffic violation and held incommunicado. After his first instance trial in January 2022, another charge of “abusing democratic freedoms,” was added, which Thanh unsuccessfully appealed.
Phan Bui Bao Thy
After five days of deliberation, a court in Quang Tri Province sentenced journalist Phan Bui Bao Thy and businessman Le Anh Dung to one year each of “non-custodial re-education” for allegedly defaming government officials. The two men posted dozens of posts on several Facebook pages that supposedly infringed on the “reputation, honor and dignity” of provincial leaders.
Dang Nhu Quynh, Source: his Facebook account, via Radio Free Asia
Facebooker Dang Nhu Quynh was arrested in Hanoi for postings about the recent arrests of two highly connected businessmen. The first is financial mogul Trinh Van Quyet, chairman of the FLC Group, and the other is Do Anh Dung, chairman of the Tan Hoang Minh Group. The Minister of Public Security said that Quynh’s posts contained “unverified information” that had a negative impact on Vietnam’s stock market. In 2020, Quynh was summoned by the police for his hundreds of posts on COVID-19.
This week, we think of the birthdays, trials, and arrest anniversaries of the following political prisoners:
Dinh Thi Thu Thuy and Nguyen Van Phuoc
- Land rights activist Trinh Ba Tu, birthday April 24, serving eight years in prison for spreading “anti-State propaganda”
- Engineer and female activist Dinh Thi Thu Thuy, arrested April 18, 2020, and sentenced to seven years in prison for spreading “anti-State propaganda”
- Online commentator Nguyen Van Phuoc, arrested April 19, 2019, and sentenced to five years in prison for spreading “anti-State propaganda”
- Journalists and members of the Clean News group, Nguyen Thanh Nha, Doan Kien Giang, and Nguyen Phuoc Trung Bao, arrested April 20, 2021, and sentenced to two, three, and two years in prison respectively for “abusing democratic freedoms”
- Montagnard Christian Runh, arrested April 23, 2012, and expected to be released from prison later this month
Nguyen Chi Vung and Le Thi Binh
- Hoa Hao Buddhist Tran Thanh Giang, arrested April 23, 2019, and sentenced to eight years in prison for spreading “anti-State propaganda”
- Online commentator Nguyen Chi Vung, arrested April 23, 2019, and sentenced to six years in prison for spreading “anti-State propaganda”
- Author Tran Duc Thach, arrested April 23, 2020, and sentenced to 12 years in prison for “subversion”
- Female activist Le Thi Binh, tried April 22, 2021, and sentenced to two years in prison for “abusing democratic freedoms”
- Former state journalist Tran Thi Tuyet Dieu, tried on April 23, 2021, and sentenced to eight years in prison for conducting “anti-State propaganda”
Activists at Risk
In Thailand, an activist who was charged in 2017 for “anti-state propaganda” and had to flee Vietnam was arrested for not having a passport. Chu Manh Son was later released on bail along with another political refugee, Nguyen Van Luyen. Luyen’s wife, Nguyen Thi Them, and his child are still in detention for having tested positive for COVID-19.
Nguyen Hoai Nam and Pham Doan Trang
Reporters Without Borders has called for the immediate release of journalist Nguyen Hoai Nam, jailed for exposing corruption. Their thorough analysis of his situation can be read here.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Trafficking has issued a communique on “alleged cases of trafficking of Vietnamese migrant workers to Serbia.” The report can be viewed here.
The Clooney Foundation for Justice has published a highly detailed legal analysis of the trial of author Pham Doan Trang. Its TrialWatch expert has given the proceedings a grade of “F”. Read the highly recommended and superbly written exposition here.
PEN International has published its 2021 global report, the Freedom to Write Index.
The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor has also issued a scathing country report on Vietnam’s human rights practices in 2021. Read the executive summary and download the report here.
NEWS & ANALYSIS
Vietnam’s vote for Russia on UN council could damage campaign to lead it. RFA; April 8, 2022: Vietnam’s vote against a U.S.-led resolution to remove Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council on Thursday likely ends any hope Hanoi had to lead the body, one analyst told RFA. Vietnam has publicly voiced its intention to run for chairmanship of the council for the 2023-2025 term, but experts told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that Hanoi will now find it difficult to gain support from Western countries. “I should say that Vietnam has shot itself in the foot,” Carl Thayer of New South Wales University in Australia told RFA.
Vietnam’s new conglomerates in crosshairs of corruption crackdown. Tomoya Onishi, Nikkei Asia; April 13, 2022: Several of Vietnam’s fast-growing new conglomerates have been caught in the government’s corruption dragnet, signaling a turning point for the cozy relationships with the Communist Party that helped many of these companies grow.
China warns of Ukraine-style ‘tragedy’ for Asia in US Indo-Pacific plan. Kinling Lo, South China Morning Post; April 25, 2022: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has told Vietnam the Ukraine crisis is an important time for the two countries, which together can “make contributions to regional peace” in the face of the “damage” caused by the US Indo-Pacific strategy. In a phone conversation on Thursday with his Vietnamese counterpart Bui Thanh Son, Wang said the Ukraine issue “has once again made Asian countries realise that maintaining peace and stability is precious and indulging in group confrontation will lead to endless risks”. China has been under pressure from the United States and Europe for refraining from calling Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February a war. Instead, China has backed Russia’s “reasonable security concerns” and accused the US and Nato of driving the conflict.
Regional Partners Seek Clarity on Biden’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. Matthew Goodman, Aidan Arasasingha, The Diplomat; April 15, 2022: Ever since the United States withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) five years ago, Indo-Pacific partners have called for an affirmative U.S. economic strategy for the region. Last October, President Joe Biden answered that call by proposing “a new Indo-Pacific economic framework.” Unlike a traditional trade agreement, the IPEF is envisioned as a platform for negotiations on a variety of economic issues arranged in four pillars: fair and resilient trade; supply chain resiliency; infrastructure, clean energy, and decarbonization; and tax and anti-corruption.
When a Monk Joins the Communist Party. The Vietnamese; April 13, 2022: In 2018, the public was surprised when a senior leader of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha, Venerable Thich Thanh Sam, was revealed to have been in the Party for around 50 years before he passed away. Although the official number of dignitaries from the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha religion who are Party members has yet to be announced, being accepted into the Party has become a thing of pride for the Sangha monks.