Trinh Ba Phuong

Current Status: Pre-trial detention

Photo of Trinh Ba Phuong

Other Names: Trịnh Bá Phương

Date of Birth: January 26, 1985

Gender: M

Ethnicity: Kinh

Last Known Prison: Hanoi Police Detention Center No. 1, Hanoi

Areas of Activism:

  • Democracy
  • Human rights
  • Land rights

Communities At Risk:

Highlighted Human Rights Concerns:

  • Denial of Legal Representation
  • Prolonged Incommunicado Detention
  • Denial of Family Visit/Punitive Prison Transfer
  • Infliction of Physical and Psychological Pain

July 2021:

Trinh Ba Phuong’s wife, Thu Do, said her husband was finally allowed to see his lawyer, Luan Le, for the first time. He also received letters and photographs sent by the family. Phuong said he was in good health and has maintained his right to remain silent throughout the investigation period. He sent his sincerest thanks to everyone who’s been advocating on his behalf. 

Trinh Thi Thao, Phuong's sister, tried to visit her brother earlier in the month, but she was not allowed to see him.

June 2021:

The Hanoi investigative security agency concluded its investigation of Trinh Ba Phuong and Nguyen Thi Tam. It has recommended that they be prosecuted under Clause 2 of Article 117 of the Penal Code, which carries  a penalty of 10 to 20 years. 

Details - Background, History of Activism, Family Situation, Contact Information.

Phuong is a son of former political prisoners Trinh Ba Khiem and Can Thi Theu, two prominent activists who participated during the land protests of Duong Noi farmers in Duong Noi District, Ha Dong Ward, Ha Noi. In 2008, the authorities released an announcement on land acquisition in Duong Noi village and the compensation price, which was extremely low. There were 356 households who refused compensation and together participated in a prolonged protest.

In 2014, his parents, Khiem and Theu, were both arrested and sentenced to 18 and 15 months, respectively while filming land-grabbing on April 25, 2014. The authorities accused them, along with some other Duong Noi petitioners (Dan Oan) of “resisting against the person on duty.” After her release on July 25, 2015, his mother continued her activism for land rights and was arrested for the second time on June 10, 2016. Theu and more than 50 Duong Noi petitioners gathered in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and requested the administrative agencies to solve their land issues. Public security arrested her and sentenced her to 20 months in jail for “disturbing public order.”

Phuong, along with his younger brother Trinh Ba Tu, has called for his parents’ release and has accompanied Duong Noi petitioners in seeking justice. His Facebook account has attracted more than 33,500 followers.

Watch an interview with imprisoned land rights activist Trinh Ba Phuong, conducted shortly before his June 2020 arrest. “I think I’m pretty easy going, not the picky type,” he says when asked to describe himself. Even the public security officer who had been assigned to follow him for years said he was a nice guy, Phuong joked to the interviewer. This intimate video covers a variety of topics, ranging from his background to his relationship with his family. Phuong has been in pre-trial detention since his arrest in June 2020.

Profile photo source: Facebook Trịnh Bá Phương

Phuong and other family members have been suffering from restricting surveillance and harassment by the authorities. 

On August 26, 2016, while gathering with Duong Noi farmers in front of the Office of Prime Minister to appeal their case and request Can Thi Theu’s release, Phuong was arrested and taken to a police station of La Khe District, Ha Dong Ward. Public security forces also surrounded them and pulled other petitioners into a bus. Before his release, Phuong was accused of “disturbing public order” and was put under house arrest for one year.

At around 7:30 AM on April 17, 2017, a group of public security officers in plain clothes stormed into Phuong’s house and took him to an unknown place without a warrant. These people had followed Phuong on the way from Hanoi to his house and surrounded his residence during the night before arresting him the next day. Phuong was released after being detained for nine hours

On February 27, 2018, Phuong was among dozens of activists to be watched and surveilled, which was probably to prevent a meeting of Hanoi-based activists on the occasion of the Lunar New Year. 

February 2020:

Trinh Ba Phuong met with US Embassy officials to discuss the events that took place during the Dong Tam raid on January 9, 2020. While meeting with the embassy officials, he also shared a handwritten letter from Le Dinh Kinh’s wife, Du Thi Thanh, with personal testimony. Phuong and Thanh both called for an independent investigation into the raid and the application of Magnitsky Act sanctions by the US on Vietnamese government officials involved in the planning of the attack. Read the translation of Phuong’s statement and Thanh’s letter, here.

Phuong is married and has two children. 

August 2020:

Police in Duong Noi District in Hanoi summoned Do Thi Thu, Trinh Ba Phuong’s wife, for questioning.

September 2020:

Do Thi Thu received another summons for interrogation about her husband, Trinh Ba Phuong. On September 24, Thu went to the Duong Noi Ward Police Department for questioning. Thu said the police didn't ask her much. They wanted to know if Phuong has a problem with depression because the past few months he has remained silent and will not talk to the investigating officers. The  police said that he spends most of his time sitting and closing his eyes as if in meditation. Thu said her husband has no previous mental illness. They also asked her about dissident writer Pham Doan Trang, as well as about Phuong's human rights work. She told them that she's busy with her children and so didn't pay attention to that. They also told her it would be best if she didn't livestream about this meeting.

February 26, 2018: surveilled during the Lunar New Year

  • Travel restriction
  • Surveillance
February 26, 2018
Public security
His private house in Ha Noi (map)

  • freedom of peaceful assembly
  • freedom of movement
  • respect of privacy, family, home, and correspondence

On February 26 and 27, 2018, Phuong was among dozens of activists who were watched and surveilled, which was probably to prevent a meeting of Hanoi-based activists on the occasion of the Lunar New Year. Notably, the public security of Ha Dong Ward blocked his way dangerously while he, along with his mother Can Thi Theu, was driving a motorcycle. Phuong and his mother were forced to return home and unable to join a New Year’s party at a dissident’s house.

October 1, 2019: watched on China’s National Day

October 1, 2019
His private house in Ha Noi (map)

  • freedom of peaceful assembly
  • freedom of movement
  • respect of privacy, family, home, and correspondence

On China’s National Day, several activists were watched at home, followed while in public, and even forced to return home, probably in an attempt to quell public demonstrations. Meanwhile, the authorities also mobilized a powerful security force to surround and protect China’s Embassy in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang City.

On his Facebook, activist Trinh Ba Phuong reported that two plainclothes security officers stood outside his house in Hanoi. When Phuong left, one of the two officers followed him until he went back home. The public security of Hoa Binh Province called a driver, who Phuong was going with for business, to check if his mother, land rights activist Can Thi Theu, was in the car. 

January 10, 2020: surveilled in the aftermath of the Dong Tam raid

  • Travel restriction
  • Surveillance
January 10, 2020
Public security
Yen Thuy District, Hoa Binh Province (map)

  • freedom of peaceful assembly
  • freedom of movement

On January 9, 2020, a massive police force stormed into Dong Tam commune and violently assaulted and detained citizens, as well as killed community leader Le Dinh Kinh. The area is home to a longstanding land conflict. In the aftermath of the raid, Trinh Ba Tu and his brother Trinh Ba Phuong reported on the incident and advocated for affected locals. 

Phuong was under surveillance and was also prohibited from leaving his home to attend Le Dinh Kinh’s funeral.

March 1, 2020: summoned for questioning related to land dispute

Police summons
March 1, 2020
Public security
His private house in Ha Noi (map)

freedom of expression

On March 1, 2020, when Trinh Ba Phuong was travelling home with his wife, the local residential leader gave him an invitation to work with local authorities, this time for his posts and information about the land dispute in Duong Noi, where he lives and works. However, this summons was also likely due to his land rights activism after the police raid in Dong Tam Commune in January 2020. He noted that he has been all too familiar with these tactics, and the police might try to frame him again on charges of “acting against public officials” or “disrupting public order.” He said that they tried this once back in 2016, and on January 9, 2020, a plainclothes police official named Nguyen Van Binh also tried to attack and frame him for the above mentioned crimes.

March 5, 2020: harassed at family home regarding household registration process

Harassment at private residence
March 5, 2020
Public security
Yen Thuy District, Hoa Binh Province (map)

respect of privacy, family, home, and correspondence

Starting on March 5, 2020, the public security of Ngoc Luong commune, Yen Thuy district, Hoa Binh province continuously surrounded the family's home and forced the family to work with them on the issue of their “residency status and household registration." Each of the meetings had at least 10 public security officers present, and some even were in plain clothes. This is highly unusual and highlights the harassment of these procedures. In Vietnam, the household registration and residency status processes rarely attract this many resources.

Arrested June 24, 2020. Charged under Art. 117 (2015 Code).

June 24, 2020
  • Art. 117 (2015 Code)
Hanoi city public security, Hanoi
His private house in Ha Noi (map)
Le Van Luan
  • freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention
  • liberty and security of the person
  • freedom of expression
  • respect of privacy, family, home, and correspondence
  • UN Special Rapporteurs
  • UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

On June 24, 2020, 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 2020. 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. 

March 2021:

Trinh Ba Phuong’s wife reported that when she brought some supplies to the prison in Hanoi on March 18, she was told that Phuong had been moved, but no one was able to tell her where he was. They also gave her back the money she had deposited at the prison for her husband’s use, without any explanation. When she called the Investigation Bureau to inquire about this transfer, she was told that the officer in charge was not available. According to the law in Vietnam, whenever a prisoner is moved, the family must be notified. 



Trinh Ba Phuong’s wife, Thu Do, says that Phuong is back in Prison No. 1 in Hanoi, after being evaluated at Mental Hospital Central 1. She delivered supplies and money to him in March. The authorities refused to tell his wife the reason for the initial transfer. Phuong’s sister, Thao Trinh, said that her brother had maintained his right to remain silent in detention and refused to answer questions, prompting the main investigator to question his wife two months ago about his mental state. Phuong is a land rights activist awaiting trial on charges of “conducting propaganda against the state.” 

May 2021:

Trinh Ba Phuong, who also was arrested at the same time as his mother and brother last June, is still in pre-trial detention and has yet to see a lawyer (though his mother and brother were tried on May 5, 2021). The authorities have extended the deadline for their investigation of Phuong until June 18, according to a family source. This extension is a violation of Vietnamese law regarding the length of maximum pre-trial detention. 

June 2021:

The Hanoi investigative security agency has concluded its investigation of Trinh Ba Phuong and Nguyen Thi Tam. It has recommended that they be prosecuted under Clause 2 of Article 117 of the Penal Code, which carries  a penalty of 10 to 20 years. 

August 2020:

In a letter addressed to the UN Subcommittee on Human Rights, the group Voice (Australia) called on the Australian government to require the government of Vietnam to allow political prisoners to have access to lawyers; to let international observers witness their trials; to observe UN conventions on torture; to release unconditionally Trinh Ba Phuong and his brother and mother; and to pass legislation similar to the Magnistky Act so that lawmakers can sanction perpetrators of human rights violations as needed. 

October 2020:

A group of Vietnamese in Tokyo protested in front of the residence of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga ahead of his visit to Vietnam on October 18-20. They carried pictures of political prisoners such as Trinh Ba Phuong, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Pham Doan Trang, Le Dinh Luong, and Nguyen Nang Tinh. The group also went on a 24-hour hunger strike to call attention to the government’s continued crackdown on peaceful dissent and violations of freedom of speech.

November 2020:

The UN Special Rapporteurs on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and on the situation of human rights defenders, as well as the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls, sent a petition to the Vietnamese government concerning the cases of five people arrested for their reporting on and activistm in the aftermath of the violent police raid in Dong Tam Commune in January 2020: Can Thi Theu, Trinh Ba Phuong, Trinh Ba Tu, Pham Doan Trang, and Nguyen Thi Tam. All five were known activists before the Dong Tam raid, particularly in the area of land rights;they are still awaiting trial at the time of this writing. This is Theu’s third arrest. 

The parties wrote of these cases: “We are troubled by the fact that these arrests and the charges brought against them appear to be an attempt to criminalise their efforts to investigate, document and bring public attention to the alleged human rights violations that occurred during the raid.” They expressed concern about the arbitrary arrests and lack of information available to family members and lawyers.They also called on the government to provide more information on the legal basis for the arrests and detentions and the safeguards in place to protect the human rights of activists.

On February 4, 2021, the government of Vietnam finally responded to the UN regarding their concerns over the Dong Tam trial and for political prisoners Trinh Ba Phuong, Trinh Ba Tu, Can Thi Theu, Nguyen Thi Tam, and Pham Thi Doan Trang. Not unexpectedly, Vietnam said that “the allegations made in the Joint Communication were not accurate, mostly drawn from unverified sources and did not reflect the nature of these cases.”

Profile last updated: 2021-08-17 02:34:15

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