Bui Tuan Lam
Current Status: Sentenced to prison
Other Names: Thánh Rắc Hành, Peter Lam Bui
Date of Birth: 1984
Last Known Prison: Hoa Son detention center, Danang
Le Thanh Lam, the wife of noodle seller Bui Tuan Lam, told Project 88 that her husband is being held at Hoa Son detention center in Danang. When she went to visit him on Sept. 6, she was told Lam was being “disciplined” and could not have visitors. She filed a request for an official explanation.
Bui Tuan Lam’s appeal trial resulted in no change to his five-and-half-year sentence. Nicknamed “Onion Bae,” Lam was known for imitating famous chef “Salt Bae” at his noodle shop by sprinkling onion instead of salt. He was charged with “anti-state propaganda.” In his closing statement, a defiant Lam told the court: “I don’t like the Communist Party because I love Vietnam. CPV leaders are not leading Vietnam, they are lording over the Vietnamese people.” According to Lam’s wife, his lawyer, Le Dinh Viet, was not allowed to see his client before the trial.
Ahead of the appeal trial, his family told Project 88 that security police posted guards around their home since Aug. 28 and were taking pictures and videos of their movements and activities.
Bui Tuan Lam, aka Onion Bae the noodle seller, was sentenced to five and a half years in prison for spreading “anti-state propaganda” in a supposedly open trial that his parents and wife were prevented from attending. Lam’s wife reported on her Facebook page that she was under surveillance for days beforehand and had to sneak out of the house at night, three days before the trial, in order to evade secret police.
Le Thanh Lam said after she had checked into a hotel, non-uniformed individuals repeatedly came to harass hotel staff and the manager. She had to go to another hotel to avoid trouble. When she finally made it to the courthouse with Lam’s lawyers, the guards did not let her in. As she and Lam’s parents waited outside, they were watched and filmed by plainclothes individuals.
After the trial finished around noon, Lam reported that a policeman named Dang Cong Cam (badge 350-259) attacked her. He and several others dragged her to the ground and then threw her into a police van. She also saw Lam’s two brothers being beaten by the police. All three were taken to the Hoa Cuong Bac People’s Committee Office, where she was body searched, verbally abused, and held for hours without any food.
The police took her phone and repeatedly tried to force her to unlock it with both fingerprint and facial recognition, but she refused to cooperate. They tried to get her to sign a police report but she refused to do so. She was not released until 6 p.m..
Le Thanh Lam, Bui Tuan Lam's wife, the noodle seller and activist known for imitating Salt Bae, told Project 88 that her husband still has not been able to talk to a lawyer since his arrest in September 2022. Le Thanh Lam also said that on April 6 she received the notice that the Investigative Agency had finished its work. However, as of April 12, his lawyers had not received any information regarding the indictment. Then on April 18 she was notified that Lam had “refused to have legal representation.” However, Le Thanh Lam said that at the time of his arrest, Lam instructed her specifically to hire lawyers for him. When she went to the Procuracy office to inquire about this on April 20, they refused to give her an answer and referred her to the Hanoi People’s Court instead.
Details - Background, History of Activism, Family Situation, Contact Information.
Bui Tuan Lam runs a beef noodle stall in Danang city. He was previously a human rights and democracy activist but inactive at the time of his arrest.
Profile photo source: VN Express
On November, 2021, Lam posted a video on his Facebook account in which he imitated Turkish celebrity chef Nusret Gökçe, or "Salt Bae,” who had recently hand-fed a pricey chunk of gold-coated steak at his London restaurant to Vietnam’s Minister of Public Security, To Lam. Several days later he was summoned by police.
According to the Public Security of Danang City, since 2013, Bui Tuan Lam has regularly posted and shared content online that insulted the honor and reputation of the government and party leaders. His Facebook account has more than 12,000 followers. He also runs a YouTube channel named "Thánh Rắc Hành" with 15,000 followers where he shares his social and political views and has supported political prisoners like Pham Doan Trang. Also, he blogged about his charity trips.
Lam has participated in a training course on "civil society" and "nonviolent resistance.” He engaged in the UPR mechanism in 2014; upon his return, he was interrogated at the airport and his passport was confiscated.
Lam is known as a member of several state blacklisted civil society organisations, including No-U Football Club- Hanoi and Con Duong Viet Nam.
Công an Đà Nẵng bắt đối tượng tuyên truyền chống phá Nhà nước, Cong an Nhan dan, September 7, 2022
Công an Đà Nẵng bắt giam đối tượng tuyên truyền chống phá Nhà nước, Nhan dan, September 7, 2022
Vietnam arrests famous noodle vendor for 'anti-state' acts, Reuters, September 8, 2022
Vietnam Arrests Danang Noodle Seller Who Mocked Minister, The Diplomat, September 9, 2022
November 15, 2021: summoned and harassed by the local public security forces for posting parody video
- Police summons
- freedom of expression
- respect of privacy, family, home, and correspondence
Vietnam’s social media exploded at the end of 2021 as the Minister of the Ministry of Public Security, To Lam, was recorded being hand-fed a gold-covered steak at Salt Bae's London restaurant in a viral video.
Days later, on November 10, 2021, Bui Tuan Lam filmed himself imitating the famous hand gesture of Nusret Gokce, the internet famed “Salt Bae.” The video neither mentioned To Lam, nor directly referenced the golden steak video. However, it was considered sensitive enough by the local security forces for them to summon Bui Tuan Lam and “invite” him to “provide information on criminal allegations” several times. Lam refused to follow these summons, citing that they did not provide any legal justification about the meeting nor the “criminal allegations.”
As noted by Bui Tuan Lam, from the time of the incident until January 21 2022, his noodle shop was harrassed occasionally by the local public security forces.
Arrested September 7, 2022. Sentenced to 5 years 6 months in prison under Art. 117 (2015 Code). Expected Release is March 7, 2028.
- 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
Around 4pm on September 9, 2022, Bui Tuan Lam was detained on the street while leaving his brother's house, and his wife lost contact with him. Per his wife, neighbors reported that Lam was arrested by about 7-8 policemen in plain clothes. He was then taken to the police headquarters; the arrest warrant was read there. At about 7pm, Lam was taken to his home by the police; only the house search warrant (not the arrest warrant) was read to his family members there.
The police entered the house and intimidated his family members, including the elderly and children. These family members requested the police show them a search warrant. However, the police officers said they would carry out a search first and provide them with the warrant later. The police allegedly also assaulted Lam’s younger brothers. During the search, the police took Lam inside the house; Lam started to shout loudly "Freedom for Vietnam," and he also sang a religious song. But then he was forced to stop and not allowed to speak with other family members. After the search, they dragged Lam away as he continued to shout. They shoved him into the car and gagged him with a dirty towel. The police confiscated three “human rights” t-shirts, one karaoke microphone, one book of Trinh Cong Son songs, and Lam's and his wife’s phones.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch said police should immediately release Lam and stop arresting people for expressing their views. Mockery is a legitimate form of expression that should not be considered a crime.
No Joking Allowed in Vietnam. Phil Robertson, HRW-Asia; 2023.05.31: Police kept [Bui Tuan Lam] incommunicado for more than seven months, with the prosecutors claiming that he didn’t want legal counsel. When Bui Tuan Lam’s wife, Le Thanh Lam, successfully challenged this, the authorities retaliated by refusing to let her attend her husband’s May 25 trial in Da Nang. She still showed up outside the court, where police apprehended, manhandled, and dragged her in the street, injuring her legs. She said that police detained her for several hours, “searched every inch on my body” and “treated me as if I were no longer human.” They released her that evening, long after the trial had finished. The debacle continued inside the court. The judge ordered a defense lawyer, Ngo Anh Tuan, removed from the courtroom before he could even finish his argument.
VN: 'Thánh rắc hành' Bùi Tuấn Lâm bị bắt, gia đình nói gì?, BBC News Tieng Viet, September 8, 2022
Nhà hoạt động Bùi Tuấn Lâm bị bắt, VOA Tieng Viet, September 8, 2022
Bùi Tuấn Lâm bị điều tra hành vi chống Nhà nước, Vnexpress, September 7, 2022
Nhại Thánh rắc muối London, Thánh rắc hành Đà Nẵng vào tù, Thong Luan, September 8, 2022
Vietnamese police gagged ‘Onion Leaf Bae’ during arrest, his wife says, RFA, September 8, 2022
Vợ Bùi Tuấn Lâm: Anh ấy hô "Tự do cho Việt Nam", bị nhét giẻ vô miệng và tống đi, RFA, September 8, 2022
Salt Bae parody: Vietnam noodle vendor jailed for five years, BBC News, May 25, 2023
Le Thi Lam Facebook post about the events surrounding the trial
Profile last updated: 2023-09-20 19:05:17