Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 27/2023 – Week of July 18-24

Greetings from The 88 Project. We bring you news, analysis, and actions regarding human rights and civil society in Vietnam during the week of July 18-24. Several individuals were arrested without warrants for spreading “anti-state propaganda.” A person who was allegedly illegally abducted in another country has finally been charged. Janet Yellen visited Vietnam and promised financial support. Intimidation against Montagnards continues after an armed uprising. “Barbie” the movie is banned in Vietnam.



Political Prisoners

Quang Ngai provincial police on July 11 arrested a 21-year-old Facebooker for posts that allegedly “defile the government and deny the role of the Party,” violating Article 117 of the Criminal Code, commonly known as disseminating “anti-state propaganda.” The man, whom police identified only as P.V.L., is also accused of being a supporter of Viet Tan – an overseas pro-democracy organization labeled by the government as a terrorist group. However, the police did not say what kind of material support P.V.L. gave to Viet Tan, if any.

Thai Van Duong, Source: YouTube screenshot via RFA

The family of blogger Duong Van Thai was finally informed that he is in police custody and will be charged with spreading “anti-state propaganda.” Thai had been living in Thailand since 2019 and had already been given refugee status when he was allegedly abducted by Vietnamese operatives in Bangkok on April 13. Thai’s mother, Duong Thi Lu, said that according to the police, Thai is being held in B14 detention center in Hanoi.

Phan Tat Thanh’s family told Project 88 that the police asked him and his brother to come to the police station on July 5 to sign paperwork regarding a traffic accident involving Thanh’s brother. When they arrived, however, both men were detained. Thanh’s brother was later released, but Thanh was kept there for a week against his will. Thanh then managed to escape. Afterwards, his brother and mother reported that they faced threats and intimidation from the police. Thanh was re-apprehended on July 13. On July 15, the police went to search his house without a warrant. His family was told verbally that he was being charged with disseminating “anti-state propaganda” but no warrant was presented.”

Duong Tuan Ngoc, Source: Duong Tuan Ngoc Facebook via Radio Free Asia

Duong Tuan Ngoc, also known as Teacher Tuan Ngoc, was “invited” to the Lam Dong provincial police station on July 10 to answer questions about his potential violations of Article 117. Afterwards, he was allowed to go home. For unknown reasons, Ngoc’s wife, Bui Thanh Diem Ngoc, said it was Ngoc’s brother who sent the police an anonymous letter accusing him of drug dealing. Ngoc was re-arrested on July 11 after he and his wife went back to the police station for a second round of questioning. His wife has not seen her husband since his arrest, and she herself was detained for two days. It’s not clear if there ever was a warrant for Ngoc’s arrest.



Yellen visits Vietnam, seeking to build US ties and supply chains, and offset tensions with China. AP; July 20, 2023: The U.S. considers building strong economic and security ties with Vietnam a priority, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Thursday as she met with Vietnamese officials in a visit aimed at fortifying America’s relations across Asia. Yellen said the U.S. is committed to mobilizing $15 billion to support Vietnam’s adoption of renewable energy as a part of the Just Energy Transition Partnership or JETP. …Yellen also met Thursday with the governor of Vietnam’s central bank, Nguyen Thi Hong, and announced a new economic policy dialogue between the State Bank of Vietnam and the U.S. Treasury Department.


Deadly Conflict in Vietnam’s Central Highlands Ramps Up Persecution of Ethnic Minorities. VOA News; July 17, 2023: “They’re deploying guys with very high-end sniper rifles,” Zachary Abuza, a Southeast Asia expert and professor at the National War College in Washington, said of the response to the attacks. “They were taking this pretty damn seriously with shoot-to-kill orders.” Cambodia’s Khmer Times reported June 14 that police in provinces bordering Vietnam were increasing security on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order following the Dak Lak attacks. Hun Sen also reportedly ordered that those crossing into Cambodia would be arrested and sent back to Vietnam, and warned that international organizations in Cambodia would be shut down if they offered refuge to “fugitives” fleeing Vietnam.




Vietnam has an instrumental role to play in ensuring a just, equitable response to climate change. But this cannot happen with climate leaders like Hong in jail. Hoang Thi Minh Hong’s Release Is Vital for Vietnam’s Energy Transition. Norly Mercado, The Diplomat; July 18, 2023.

The overreaction to the film’s alleged depiction of China’s “nine-dash line” claim is a feature, not a bug, of the country’s culture of censorship. Vietnam’s Censoring of ‘Barbie’ Is a Reflection of the Party’s Paranoia. Minh Tran, The Diplomat; July 15, 2023.

Vietnam deploys a three-pronged approach in its crackdown on freedom of religion in the Central Highlands. In addition to investing vast amounts of funding in constructing a comprehensive policing network in the region, Vietnam defames independent religious sects of the Montagnards in state media by describing them as “false religions.” At the same time, the regime legalizes its suppression of the spiritual beliefs of local people with its penal code. Vietnam’s Three-Pronged Crackdown on Religious Activists in the Central Highlands. Jason Nguyen, The Vietnamese; July 21, 2023.


Hoang Thi Minh Hong, Source: CHANGE via RFA

Join’s call for Hoang Thi Minh Hong’s release.


© 2023 The 88 Project