Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 45/2023 – Weeks of Nov. 22-28 and Nov. 29- Dec. 5

Greetings from Project88. We bring you news, analysis, and actions regarding human rights and civil society in Vietnam during the weeks of Nov. 22-28 and Nov. 29- Dec.5.

“By arresting [Ngo Thi To] Nhien, the Vietnamese government has sent the message that research on energy policy is now off limits to civil society.”

– Project88 issue brief on the arrest of Ngo Thi To Nhien


COP28 makes up the majority of the news this week, with several articles on Vietnam’s much anticipated JETP plan and related items. Meanwhile, repression of freedom of speech and abuse of political prisoners continues. Vietnamese all over the world mourn the passing of a Buddhist scholar formerly put on death row.


Nguyen Viet Dung

Former two-time political prisoner Nguyen Viet Dung escaped to Thailand in fear of being re-arrested. Dung told RFA, “[The police] said the third verdict is waiting for me, and it would not be as light as the one I received six years ago, and it could be rather long.” Dung was released in September after serving a six-year sentence for spreading “anti-state propaganda,” and he was still under five years of supervised probation. According to RFA, his recent Facebook activities have been attracting the attention of the police

Tran Minh Loi was arrested on Dec. 1  by Dak Lak Provincial Police for allegedly “abusing democratic freedoms.” In 2018, Loi was convicted and sentenced to four and a half years in prison for giving an official a bribe of 60 million dong ($2,470) in 2016, and another bribe of 150 million dong in 2014. After completing his latest prison sentence, Loi resumed using his old Facebook account to post social commentaries.

Nguyen Thu Hang was arrested by Quang Binh Police for making posts and video clips on Facebook that allegedly insulted judges and officials involved in a lawsuit in April about land disputes that was not ruled in her favor.

Tien Giang Provincial Police have issued a warrant for the arrest of Facebook user Le Quoc Anh, charging him with spreading “anti-state propaganda” without specifying the offending content. Anh has gone into hiding. The authorities have announced that anyone who sees him can make a citizen’s arrest.

Dang Dinh Bach

Dang Dinh Bach told his wife on Nov. 30 that two letters he sent to the Procuracy Office in August and September complaining about physical abuse in prison still have not been answered. He told her that his prison conditions have worsened and that the authorities had confiscated items such as his reading light, diary, and asthma medication, which have not been returned to him. He said further that monetary limits had been placed on how much he can buy at the canteen, which has been charging him 3-4 times the regular prices. He said he still has no hot water to cook ramen. Before the visit was abruptly cut short, Bach was able to shout to his wife the identity of a prison official who had allegedly abused him: Nguyễn Doãn Anh, badge No. 554-526.


Nguyen Ngoc Anh

Nguyen Thi Chau, wife of prisoner Nguyen Ngoc Anh, told Project88 that she was summoned by Ben Tre Police and warned about her Facebook activities. They said her posts violate cybersecurity laws and will be “reported to higher authorities.”


Ngo Thi To Nhien

Ahead of COP28, on Nov. 28, Project88 released a new issue brief covering the arrest of Ngo Thi To Nhien by Vietnamese authorities and documenting how her arrest is part of Vietnam’s ongoing suppression of climate activists. Read the full issue brief here.

Vietnam’s Prime Minister released the Resource Mobilization Plan for the country’s $15.5 billion Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) at COP 28 on Dec 1.

Read a summary of the plan’s financial breakdown by the Vietnam Briefing.
On Vietnam, COP28, and political responses to the resource mobilization plan:

Vietnam Relied on Environmentalists to Secure Billions. Then It Jailed Them. New York Times; Nov. 28, 2023: Several countries behind the climate deal have expressed concern about the detentions in Vietnam, but rights groups say those nations need to predicate their financial support on the release of the environmentalists or a pledge from the government that there will not be additional arrests. So far, the countries have been unwilling to do so, said Ben Swanton, a director at The 88 Project, a U.S.-based nonprofit that focuses on human rights issues in Vietnam.

Countries promise clean energy boost at COP28 to push out fossil fuels. Reuters; December 2, 2023: In one of the most widely supported initiatives, 118 governments pledged to triple the world’s renewable energy capacity by 2030 at the U.N.’s COP28 climate summit on Saturday, as a route to cut the share of fossil fuels in the world’s energy production.

Viet Nam Just Energy Transition Partnership: joint statement. Government of UK; December 2, 2023: Civil society also plays a crucial role for the advancement and acceptance of measures and impacts related to the energy transition. As stated in the Political Declaration, it is vital that civil society is actively involved in a transparent manner at all stages of the JETP to make sure the necessary transition will be just and inclusive.

Statement by President von der Leyen at the Coal Transition Accelerator initiative. December 2, 2023: We also know that this has to be a global movement. It requires partnership. This is why we developed a just energy transition partnership with Vietnam. Europe is glad to contribute to Vietnam’s green investment plan.


Recent developments on other green project funding:

Experts share international experience in promoting carbon market in Vietnam. Vietnam Plus; Dec, 5, 2023: Representatives from international organisations advised Vietnam to pay greater attention to promoting a multi-stakeholder approach, strengthening cooperation among sectors, fields and levels, encouraging the participation of the private sector in the work, while building a carbon database.

Energy Capital Vietnam Signs Six Memoranda of Understanding During the Asia-Pacific Cooperation Leaders’ Week 2023 Conference. Yahoo Finance; Dec. 1, 2023: ECV originated the Green Infrastructure Development Alliance (Green Alliance) in partnership with Saigon Telecommunications & Technologies Corp. (SaigonTel), an open-ended platform to align like-minded enterprises to advance pragmatic emissions reduction expertise for next-generation infrastructure alongside green financing for tailored, turnkey solutions to help Vietnam reach its net-zero goals for 2050.

U.S. International Development Financial Corporation Signed Letter of Interest Considering USD500 Million Loan to VinFast. Berkshire Business Wire; Dec., 4 2023: Within the framework of COP28, VinFast Auto (Nasdaq: VFS) and the United States International Development Financial Corporation (DFC) have signed a letter of Interest to consider a formal application by VinFast for a USD500 million loan to establish a lithium-ion battery manufacturing facility in Vietnam.



Dak Lak authorities intensify repression against Vietnam’s Church of Christ. RFA; Nov. 22, 2023: Authorities in Vietnam’s Dak Lak province are increasingly persecuting members of the Central Highlands Evangelical Church of Christ, forcing them to abandon prayer meetings or even leave the group, according to one of its founders.

Vietnam upgrades ties with Japan to highest level. Reuters; Nov. 27, 2023: Vietnam and Japan on Monday officially upgraded their relations to a “comprehensive strategic partnership” during a visit by Vietnamese president Vo Van Thuong to Tokyo. The move underlined Vietnam’s increasingly strategic role as an important link in global supply chains amid trade tension between China and the West, which is helping to bring foreign investment to the southeast Asian country as some companies relocate operations from China.

Six more Montagnards wanted by Vietnamese police in Dak Lak attacks. RFA; Nov. 30, 2023: Six Montagnards are wanted on terrorism charges by Vietnamese police for their alleged involvement in deadly attacks nearly six months ago on government facilities in the southern province of Dak Lak, which left nine people dead, state media reported on Thursday. The security investigation agency of the Dak Lak provincial police has issued a special warrant for the six, who are charged with terrorism under Article 299 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.

Vietnam lawmakers pass law creating new grassroots security force. RFA; Nov. 29, 2023: Vietnam’s National Assembly on Monday approved a law consolidating volunteer civil defense team leaders, residential ward lookouts and part-time commune police officers into a local security force that will have arrest powers, uniforms and local offices. The law states that “forces participating in protecting security and order at the grassroots level” will supplement full-time commune and ward police officers in an effort to create a “whole people’s movement to protect the Fatherland’s security.”
For more on this development in Vietnamese, click here


Vietnam’s just energy transition partnership plan has no timeline for retiring coal, as backers offer mainly commercial loans, not grants. Vietnam charts uncertain coal path as finance falls short. Climate Home News; Dec. 3, 2023.

The lack of support for private recycling businesses and recent crackdowns on environmental NGOs not only hampers productivity in waste management but also undermines the potential for effective, society-driven solutions. Turning the Tide: Vietnam’s War Against Plastic Waste. Nguyen Khac Giang, Fulcrum; Nov. 23, 2023.


Thich Tue Sy, Source: Nga Pham Twitter

Buddhist monk Thich Tue Sy, leader of the non-state affiliated Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, passed away on Nov. 24 at the age of 80. Tue Sy was arrested in 1984 and charged with “conspiracy to overthrow the people’s government.” He was convicted in 1988 and sentenced to death. Under international pressure, his sentence was commuted to 20 years in prison. He was released five years early to house arrest. A prolific poet and multi-linguist, as well as a leading scholar in Vietnamese Buddhist literature, Tue Sy’s passing was briefly reported in just one state-run paper without any mention of his death sentence.

Vietnam General Confederation of Labour convenes National Congress. Vietnam Plus; Dec. 2, 2023: The 13th National Congress of the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL) for the 2023-2028 tenure opened in Hanoi on December 2, bringing together 1,100 delegates representing more than 11 million trade union members nationwide.

© 2023 The 88 Project