Bui Van Tham

Current Status: Released - at risk

Photo of Bui Van Tham

Other Names: Bùi Văn Thâm

Date of Birth: 1987

Gender: M

Religion: Buddhist (Hòa Hảo)

Ethnicity: Kinh

Last Known Prison: Chau Doc city detention center, An Giang province

Areas of Activism:

  • Anti-corruption
  • Religious freedom

Highlighted Human Rights Concerns:

  • Former Political Prisoner

June 2023:

Bui Van Trung and his son Bui Van Tham, members of the non-state sanctioned Hoa Hao Buddhist Church, were released from prison in the last week of June. The father-and-son pair were convicted in 2018 for creating a “public disturbance” and were sentenced to six years each. In mid-2022, Trung was diagnosed with colon cancer but had issues in receiving adequate medical treatment, according to his family.

Details - Background.

For more background on the harassment of members of the Hoa Hao Buddhist sect, you can view this video (in Vietnamese, with English subtitles), which highlights the struggle of Hoa Hao Buddhist and former political prisoner Mai Thi Dung, who endured horrible treatment in prison.


Arrested July 26, 2012. Sentenced to 2 years 6 months in prison under Art. 245 (1999 Code). Released January 26, 2015.

July 26, 2012
  • Art. 245 (1999 Code)
September 21, 2012
2 years 6 months in prison
January 26, 2015

Arrested June 26, 2017. Sentenced to 6 years in prison under Art. 245 (1999 Code), Art. 257 (1999 Code). Released June, 2023.

June 26, 2017
  • Art. 245 (1999 Code)
  • Art. 257 (1999 Code)
An Phu district public security, An Giang province
February 9, 2018
The People's Court of An Phu district, An Giang province
6 years in prison
June 26, 2023
June, 2023
  • freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention
  • liberty and security of the person
  • freedom of expression
  • freedom of peaceful assembly
  • fair trial
  • freedom of belief and religion
International government officials

First Arrest:

Bui Van Tham was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison on September 21, 2012, after his July 2012 arrest under Article 245 of the 1999 Criminal Code. He was released in January 2015. 

Second Arrest:

February 2018:

Six Hoa Hao Buddhists: Bui Van Trung, Bui Van Tham, Nguyen Hoang Nam, Le Thi Hong Hanh, Le Thi Hen, and Bui Thi Bich Tuyen were tried on February 9 in An Giang province. Bui Van Tham was charged under Article 257 (“resisting persons in the performance of their official duties”) and Article 245 (“causing public disorder”), while the other five were charged under Article 245 of the 1999 Criminal Code. Trung and Tham were sentenced to six years in prison; Nam was sentenced to four; Hanh and Tuyen were sentenced to three; and Hen was given a two-year suspended sentence. According to the indictment by the People's Procuracy of An Phu district on November 30, 2017 (available in Vietnamese here), the defendants "disturbed the public order and impacted the safety and order of the traffic, causing a traffic jam on national route 91C by hindering, obstructing, pushing, and screaming to provoke and denounce transportation police." According to supporters, this is a case of repression against Hoa Hao Buddhist disciples who came for the commemoration of the death of Bui Van Trung's mother at Ut Trung sangha. The cermony was violently attacked by authorities. 

May 2018:

On May 24, a Vietnamese Court in An Giang province denied Bui Van Tham's and five other Hoa Hao Buddhists' appeals of their February 2018 sentences. Authorities tried to prohibit relatives and other Hoa Hao Buddhist followers from attending the appeal trial in support of the six.


August 2020:

The family of Bui Van Tham raised alarms that he has been mistreated in prison and possibly subjected to torture.


February 2018:

Human Rights Watch called on the Vietnamese government to halt the trial and take time to evaluate whether this was a case of persecution and discrimination based on religious belief. “The government should stop harassing and arresting those who belong to unsanctioned religious groups and leave people to practice their faith as they see fit," said Brad Adams, Asia Director, in the appeal

The EU's External Action division also denounced the sentences, calling on Vietnam to release those jailed for their beliefs and peaceful practices and to uphold international human rights obligations to protect freedom of religion.

December 2020:

German member of Parliament Martin Patzelt agreed to sponsor Bui Van Tham. Tham, who began serving his sentence in 2018, has allegedly been tortured and mistreated in prison. Mr. Patzelt has reminded the government of Vietnam of the need to respect its own laws and regulations.

Profile last updated: 2023-10-04 22:33:50

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