Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 26/2024 – Week of June 25-July 4

Greetings from Project88. We bring you news, analysis, and actions regarding human rights and civil society in Vietnam during the week of June 25-July 4.

A group of U.S. Senators called on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to raise human rights issues with Vietnam. The letter specifically mentions Directive 24 and raises the cases of climate defenders Dang Dinh Bach and Hoang Thi Minh Hong, Do Nam Trung – who became an activist after a wrongful conviction, and several journalists. UN experts have raised alarms of the possible extradition of Montagnard activist Y Quynh Bdap and highlight the trend of transnational repression in the region.

Political prisoner Truong Van Dung reported he was shackled for a week and has been put under additional disciplinary restrictions for two months in Gia Trung Prison after he allegedly violated prison regulations. A cellmate has confirmed that Dung was put in shackles.

This week in the news, we focus on environmental stories. Both climate change and mismanagement of environmental projects alike can negatively affect land and livelihoods, often impacting minority groups disproportionately. A coal power plant project has now allegedly been terminated after receiving widespread criticism. We remind readers that the majority of the country’s environmental defenders, including grassroots and policy activists, remain in jail, in exile, or otherwise silenced.


Phan Van Bach

Phan Van Bach’s wife, Nguyen Thi Yeu (also known as Nguyen Thi Lieu), told Project88 that there is still no news of when Bach’s trial will take place. Bach was arrested in December 2023 and is being held incommunicado in pre-trial detention. The family has not been allowed to contact him. Yeu can only send her husband money each month but not anything, else such as food, medicine, or clothing. A YouTuber and former member of Chấn hưng Việt Nam TV (CHTV), Bach was detained in December 2023 and later charged with spreading “anti-state propaganda.”

Luu Van Vinh

Luu Van Vinh’s wife, Le Thi Thap, managed to visit her husband at Gia Trung Prison in Gia Lai province on the last day of June. The prison is 500 km away from their home in Ho Chi Minh City, making these visits extremely hard on the family, both physically and financially. Thap was able to bring Vinh a letter from their youngest daughter with her drawings and birthday wishes for him. Vinh told Thap that his cellmate, Truong Van Dung, was disciplined and put in shackles for seven days. Vinh is serving a 15-year sentence for “abusing democratic freedoms” under Article 331.

Truong Van Dung

Truong Van Dung’s wife, Nghiem Thi Hop, confirmed to us her account in RFA, that her husband was shackled for allegedly “violating prison regulations.” She received a notice from Gia Trung Prison authorities, dated June 21, telling her that Dung was disciplined for “insulting another person according to section 2, article 1 of prison rules.” The notice did not say which individual was insulted. Hop believes her husband must have responded to wrongdoings by someone in authority at the prison and so was punished for it. In addition to being shackled for a week, Dung will not be allowed to contact the family or buy supplies from the canteen from June 20 to August 20. After that date, and until the prisoner “displays good behavior,” Dung will only be allowed family visits every two months instead of monthly. A long-time dissenter and human rights activist, Truong Van Dung was arrested in May 2022 and sentenced to six years in prison under Article 117 for alleged “anti-state propaganda.” He was allegedly also held in solitary confinement for month from Jan.-Feb. 2024.

Y Quynh Bdap

UN experts have called on Thailand to refuse Vietnam’s request to repatriate Montagnard activist Y Quynh Bdap. “We believe that, if extradited, Y Quynh Bdap would be at risk of enforced disappearance and torture or other ill-treatment or punishment, in violation of non-refoulement,” they remarked. Y Quynh Bdap was detained in June, one day after meeting with Canadian representatives at the embassy about his asylum application. He was convicted in absentia in Vietnam in January 2024 on charges of “terrorism” – an accusation that has previously been used by the one-party state to imprison people.

A long-time activist, in 2018, Y Quynh was forced to flee to Thailand as a refugee. There, he founded Montagnards Stand for Justice (MSFJ) to help fight for religious freedom and an end to discrimination of ethnic minority groups in Vietnam. Human rights organizations continue calling for Y Quynh’s release into safety. The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) say that his detention “appears to be solely aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities.” VOA has reported that Bdap’s extradition hearing will take place on July 15. Read our statement and more background on on Y Quynh Bdap’s arrest here, along with a brief video interview we made of Y Quynh speaking in his own words.

Duong Van Thai and Truong Duy Nhat

Global human rights experts have flagged transnational repression, particularly in Southeast Asia, as an increasing concern. Thai authorities are believed to have assisted Vietnam in extraditing blogger Duong Van Thai in 2023 and journalist Truong Duy Nhat in 2019. Releasing a new report this week specifically focusing on transnational repression against journalists, a UN Special Rapporteur said, “Journalists should not be treated as political pawns but as human beings in distress who, at great cost to themselves, are contributing to the realisation of our human right to information.”

Nguyen Nang Tinh

Nguyen Thi Tinh, wife of music teacher Nguyen Nang Tinh, was allowed to visit her husband on the last day of June at Prison No. 5 in Thanh Hoa province. She managed to bring their five children to the prison, which made the surprise visit extra special for him, even though Tinh said the trip did take a toll on her family’s finances as her father-in-law has a serious illness. Nguyen Nang Tinh is serving an 11-year sentence for allegedly spreading “anti-state propaganda.”


Cardin, Coons, Van Hollen, Merkley Call on State Department to Prioritize Human Rights in U.S.-Vietnam Bilateral Relationship. U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee; 2024-06-26. Today, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) sent a letter to Secretary Antony Blinken urging him to ensure the State Department addresses mounting human rights concerns and fully integrates human rights priorities into the U.S.-Vietnam bilateral relationship. The letter calls on the State Department to leverage the many dimensions of the United States’ bilateral partnership with Vietnam – including economic, trade, and security cooperation – to seek tangible and sustained progress in Vietnam’s human rights record.

2023 Report on International Religious Freedom: Vietnam. U.S. Department of State. NGOs and faith adherents reported cases of government officials physically abusing individuals from religious minority groups, particularly ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands and Northern Highlands, although it was not clear whether the reported cases were related solely to religious affiliation. In the Northwest and Northern Highlands, leaders representing both registered and unregistered religious groups said authorities frequently used nonviolent or less physically aggressive approaches in their dealings with religious groups compared with prior years. Members of unregistered religious groups reported authorities pressured recognized religious groups to interfere in the internal affairs of unregistered groups. On December 29, 2023, in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, as amended, the Secretary of State placed Vietnam on the Special Watch List for having engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom.

US welcomes Vietnam minister for economic talks days after Putin visits Hanoi. Reuters; 2024-06-26. The U.S. welcomed Vietnam’s planning and investment minister on Tuesday for talks on enhancing economic cooperation, and said ties were stronger than ever, days after Hanoi upset Washington by hosting Russian President Vladimir Putin. The State Department said this week’s dialogue would cover economic security, semiconductors, the investment climate, digital economy, cyberspace, energy, and critical minerals. Last year, Washington upgraded U.S.-Vietnam ties to a “comprehensive strategic partnership”. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Vietnam last week drew sharp U.S. criticism. Washington subsequently said it would stay focused on deepening ties with Hanoi as the U.S. works to counter rivalry with China. The U.S. is to decide by July 26 on whether to elevate Vietnam to market-economy status, which would reduce punitive anti-dumping duties set on Vietnamese imports given its current status as a non-market economy marked by heavy state influence.

California congressman raises case of missing ‘monk’. RFA Vietnamese; 2024-07-02. On July 1, Thich Minh Tue’s younger brother Le Anh Thin wrote to the police at the commune, district and provincial level requesting help finding his brother. The same day, congressman Ta Duc Tri wrote to U.S. Ambassador Marc Knapper, to express his concern about Tue, who became an internet sensation after going on a pilgrimage across Vietnam.

Statements ahead of the EU-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue:

  • From Human Rights Watch: “The EU and Vietnam have engaged in human rights discussions since the 1990s. Over the years, the Vietnamese government has made very little progress on numerous issues raised by EU officials, and in recent years its repression has considerably intensified.” Full submission, here.
  • From Article 19 and partner organizations: “According to ARTICLE 19’s Global Expression Report 2024 which highlights a significant decline in freedom of expression globally, Viet Nam is classified in the ‘in crisis’ category due to severe restrictions on freedom of expression.”



Malaysian development bank’s funding of Vietnam coal plant casts shadow over climate pledges. Eco-business; 2024-06-30. In the same week that Malaysia declared it would retire its entire fleet of coal-fired power stations over the next two decades to curb climate-wrecking greenhouse gas emissions, one of the country’s major development banks is facing scrutiny for financing a new coal plant in Vietnam. The 2,120-megawatt Song Hau 2 project in southern Vietnam, its construction delayed for over a decade as it struggled to attract financing, can now proceed after securing a US$980 million loan from Export-Import Bank of Malaysia (Exim Malaysia), a development bank owned by the Malaysian government. The deal to fund the US$3 billion coal plant in Hau Giang province has drawn criticism for undermining Malaysia’s climate commitments and jeopardizing Vietnam’s US$15 billion Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) climate aid package. Vietnam committed to wean itself off coal as part of its JETP agreement with rich countries in 2022. This agreement included a promise by Vietnam to limit its coal-powered generation capacity at 30.2 gigawatts by 2030.

Editor’s Note: In response to the above article, the same outlet reported Exim Bank said it was only ‘assisting to raise funds for the project’. Several outlets reported that the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade announced termination of the Song Hau 2 project on July 1. 

Laos agrees to build dam in remote, mountainous area near Vietnam border. Radio Free Asia; 2024-06-27.Government officials have signed an agreement with a joint venture company to build a US$184 million dam in northern Laos that will send most of its generated electricity to neighboring Vietnam, a Ministry of Energy and Mines official told Radio Free Asia. The hydropower project on the Nam Neun river in a mountainous area near the Vietnam border will generate 124 megawatts and is the latest dam planned for the impoverished, landlocked country, which has already built dozens with the aim of selling 20,000 megawatts of electricity to neighboring countries by 2030 and becoming the “battery of Southeast Asia.” Though the Lao government sees power generation as a way to boost the country’s economy, many of the projects have been controversial because of their environmental impact, displacement of people without adequate compensation and questionable financial and power demand arrangements.

Vietnam’s All-Out Hydrogen Gambit. Forbes; 2024-06-27. In April 2024, Vietnam and the United States embarked upon one of the world’s most ambitious green hydrogen collaborative strategies. The United States Agency for International Development and Standard Chartered Bank Vietnam signed a Memorandum of Understanding to support Vietnam’s transition towards a hydrogen-centric renewable energy model. Building upon President Joe Biden’s visit to Hanoi in September 2023, this MOU aims to facilitate private-sector investment and help Vietnam achieve its net-zero emission goals by 2050. In doing so, Hanoi and Washington aspire to bolster Vietnamese-American relations which are so vital for both parties’ geopolitical concerns vis-a-vis Vietnam’s domineering neighbor: China.

Six Vietnamese sentenced in long-running land dispute. Radio Free Asia; 2024-06-28. The Dak Lak People’s Court on Thursday sentenced six farm workers to between five and seven years in prison on charges of “destroying assets,” amid a longstanding dispute between an indigenous Ede village and a coffee company. According to a report from state-owned media outlet, Cong Ly, Y Luh Nie and Y Coh Nie were each sentenced to seven years in prison; Y Luong Hlong, Y Nguot Hdok, and Y Hoan Bya, to six years in prison; and Y Rosi Nie to five years. The six men were found guilty of cutting down and destroying coffee trees belonging to a local company, causing a loss of over VND2.7 billion (around US$108,000), according to the indictment, which also alleged the group incited and aided neighbors to create petitions to claim their land back.

Viet Nam’s highlanders crippled years after floods, landslides. Mekong Eye; 2024-07-01. Every rainy season, residents of the Vietnamese highlands – mostly impoverished ethnic minorities – face deadly floods and landslides. And as the climate becomes more unpredictable and deforestation worsens, these communities are finding themselves trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty.


Pham Doan Trang

Legal Initiatives for Vietnam, The Vietnamese Magazine, and Luat Khoa Magazine call on supporters worldwide to write directly to imprisoned writer Pham Doan Trang, “reminding her that she is not forgotten and that we continue to fight for her freedom.” Trang is serving nine years in prison.

© 2024 The 88 Project