Can Thi Theu
Current Status: Pre-trial detention
Other Names: Cấn Thị Thêu
Date of Birth: August 14, 1962
Current Prison: Cham Mat Detention Center
Areas of Activism:
- Land rights
Communities At Risk:
- Duong Noi farmers
Our full interview with Can Thi Theu is out now! As one of the leading activist against land grabs, there is no way back from this lifestyle. But it's all worth it. She explains to us why.
Details - Background, History of Activism, Family Situation.
Can Thi Theu is from Duong Noi, outside of Hanoi.
Theu is a leading activist against land grabs in Duong Noi, in which fertile land is confiscated by the government, usually for industrial use and without proper compensation. This issue has been particularly problematic as Vietnam's economy continues to grow. Theu and her family have been victims on forced eviction and land confiscation themselves. Theu has also been a vocal supporter of other political prisoners, such as Nguyen Van Dai, Le Thu Ha, and Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, staging a hunger strike for the latter. She also participated in protests after the Formosa environmental disaster began in April 2016.
The 88 Project's archives
Defend the Defenders's archives
Sentencing of Land Rights Defender, Can Thi Theu, Front Line Defenders (multiple entries)
Can Thi Theu's Letter from Gia Trung Prison, 20 December 2016, The 88 Project, January 25, 2017
Free Vietnam's Political Prisoners!, Human Rights Watch, November 3, 2017
Vietnam upholds 20-month jail term for land grab protester, Reuters, November 30, 2016
Interview with Can Thi Theu, The 88 Project
Can Thi Theu's story and the context of land confiscation in Vietnam are told in this bilingual video produced by artist Kim Chi, Hélèna Lee, and friends.
Arrested April 25, 2014. Sentenced to 1 year 3 months in prison under Art. 104 (1999 Code), Art. 257 (1999 Code). Released July 27, 2015.
- Art. 104 (1999 Code)
- Art. 257 (1999 Code)
Arrested June 11, 2016. Sentenced to 1 year 8 months in prison under Art. 245 (1999 Code). Released February 10, 2018.
- Art. 245 (1999 Code)
- Ha Huy Son
- Vo An Don
- Nguyen Kha Thanh
- Le Van Luan
Can Thi Theu was arrested in 2014 under Article 257 ("activities against public officials"). She was sentenced to 15 months in prison. The arrest was allegedly for leading a protest in Duong Noi when authorities came to conficate community land.
Can Thi Theu was arrested for a second time on June 10, 2016, for leading a nonviolent demonstration of people seeking government accountability for land grabs. She was sentenced to 20 months in prison in September 2016 by the People's Court of Dong Da district. Supporters were systematically blocked from attending her trial and some were assaulted. The sentence was upheld on appeal on November 30, 2016. Shortly thereafter, Theu was transferred from Hoa Lo prison in Hanoi to Gia Trung prison in Gia Lai, 1,000 km from her home. The transfer was interpreted by some as a way to distance Theu from her network of support. She wrote a letter to the community at the time of the transfer. Theu has reported back on severe mistreatment of other prisoners while herself imprisoned.
Can Thi Theu upon release. Source: Nguyen Lan Thang
Theu went on hunger strike for 13 days following her arrest in 2016; her health faltered as a result. She was reported to be in poor health condition while in prison.
Front Line Defenders released an Urgent Appeal on Theu's behalf.
Human Rights Watch called for Theu's release from prison ahead of her original trial.
Four UN Special Rapporteurs sent a letter to the Vietnamese authorities asking for clarifying information about Can Thi Theu's pre-arrest harassment, arrest, detention, and deprivation of a lawyer, and how those actions fit into established international human rights agreements. They had previously sent a similar letter in June 2016.
September 19, 2018: watched by local commune officials
On September 19, 2018, Can Thi Theu and her family were watched by dozens of plainclothes public security officers when she and her husband were on the way to supermarket. On the same day, the first instance court of Dao Quang Thuc, a former teacher, was held in Hoa Binh Province, which could be the reason for this incident.
Police from both Hoa Binh Province and Ha Noi raided every corner of Can Thi Theu’s living place and tried to prevent their family from attending Dao Quang Thuc’s trial.
From nearly 9:00 am, she started to live-stream on Facebook several times about this incident. In one of her videos, she indicated that one of two men in that clip was Mr. Vuong, a public security officer in Ngoc Luong commune. He and a man sitting behind him were following them on a motorcycle. Being filmed, they kept silent, then quietly rode their motorcycle in the opposite direction and stopped after riding only around 20 meters. When Mrs. Theu reached their stand, they left their motorcycle, walked slowly onwards, and went into a local house to escape from the camera.
In another video, live streamed by Trinh Ba Tu, Can Thi Theu’s son, Hanoi security forces even drove a car, licensed of 29A196.98, to block their way.
July 12, 2019: beaten by thugs when visiting prison No. 6
- liberty and security of the person
- freedom of peaceful assembly
- equal protection of the law
- freedom from discrimination
On July 12, 2019, Can Thi Theu (who is a former political prisoner) and 19 family members and supporters of political prisoners were physically attacked by thugs who they believed to be plain-clothes prison officers and public security officers. Activist Trinh Ba Phuong, son of Theu, told VOA Vietnamese that the group was on its way to Prison No. 6 with some posters solely to visit and support prisoners such as Truong Minh Duc, who were on hunger strike at the time. When the visitors group tried to approach Camp 6 by car, a truck seemed to purposely park to block the road, so they decided to walk the rest of the way. This is where the attack took place. Activists Trinh Ba Khiem, Nguyen Thuy Hanh and Huynh Ngoc Chenh were not only physically assaulted, but their belongings, including money, phones, and personal documents were taken by the attackers.
After the attack, the group was forced to go back to the main road and was escorted to Vinh city, unable to complete the visit.
Người bị hành hung gần trại 6 Nghệ An kể gì?, BBC, July 13, 2019
Nguyen Thuy Hanh Testimony on the Violent Assaults Against Activists By Prison Camp No.6, Nghe An, The 88 Project, July 23, 2019
Arrested June 24, 2020. Charged under Art. 117 (2015 Code).
- Art. 117 (2015 Code)
- freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention
- liberty and security of the person
- freedom of expression
- respect of privacy, family, home, and correspondence
On June 24, authorities surrounded and stormed into Trinh Ba Phuong’s home and arrested him and later his mother, Can Thi Theu (at a different residence). Theu is a former political prisoner (watch our interview with her about her activism, here) who has twice been jailed for her land rights activism, and Phuong is also a well-known activist who is very active in issues of land rights in his own community as well as advocating for the Dong Tam residents in the aftermath of the deadly police raid there in January 2019. Phuong’s wife had given birth just a few days ago prior to his arrest.
Police also searched a third member of the family’s home– Trinh Ba Tu (Theu’s son and Phuong’s brother)– and arrested him. Tu is also engaged in land rights issues and commentary on the Dong Tam incident. All three members of the family have allegedly been charged under Article 117 but the government has only confirmed that Trinh Ba Tu is charged under Article 117. It is unclear where the three are being held.
Profile last updated: 2020-07-12 03:30:00