The Case of Tran Huynh Duy Thuc: Inspiring Activism in Vietnam Nine Years After His Arrest

Tran Huynh Duy Thuc

Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, engineer, internet entrepreneur, blogger. He was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment in January 2010. Used in the Amnesty International Report: ASA 41/007/2013 – Silenced Voices. Prisoners of Conscience in Viet Nam

Today, May 24, marks nine years since Tran Huynh Duy Thuc was arrested. After founding a successful Internet service provider company, Thuc founded the Chan research group to study the economy, politics, and society of Vietnam and other countries. He blogged about social, political, and economic issues in Vietnam under the pen name Tran Dong Chan. On May 24, 2009, he was arrested under Article 79 of the 1999 Criminal Code for “subversion.” On January 20, 2010, he was sentenced to sixteen years in prison and five years of probation.

In the nine years since his arrest, he has endured harsh treatment in prison and potentially even torture; he has gone on hunger strikes to protest his treatment. He has also often been targeted for standing up for the rights of other prisoners. In May of 2016, he was transferred to a prison farther away from his family as a way to punish him to inspire other prisoners to assert their rights.

Thuc is married and has two children. His family is very active in advocating for his release. His father participated in a mini-interview series with The 88 Project in the summer of 2013. They also run a website about his case. Thuc’s family has maintained his innocence throughout his arrest, trial, and sentence.

At the time of Thuc’s sentencing, he was one of only a few political prisoners to have received such a long prison sentence. Eight years later, however, Thuc is not alone. He is now one of 13 political prisoners serving a 15+ year sentence for peaceful activism in Vietnam, and one of 54 serving more than ten years.

During those nine years since his arrest, the crackdown on activists in Vietnam has surged to new heights. In 2017, 43 activists were arrested in Vietnam, up from 15 in 2016 and eight in 2015. In 2018, only four activists have been arrested so far but another 27 have been sentenced to a combined 194.5 years in prison (plus a two-year suspended sentence). Vietnam consistently receives very low marks in international human rights and press freedom reports, and it continues to harass and arrest citizens advocating for land, labor, environmental, and political rights at an alarming rate.

After a visit in February 2018, Thuc’s brother reported that Thuc is confident and has a positive attitude; in addition, his treatment in prison has slightly improved. Thuc also plans to continue pressing for an appeal of his conviction. Attorney Ngo Ngoc Trai from the law firm Cong Chinh has recently taken on the request from Thuc’s family to take his case to appeal in light of the new Criminal Code of 2015. The new code, which took effect on January 1, 2018, added a new clause on the act of “preparation to commit a crime” to Article 109 (former Article 79) for which a more lenient punishment applies (one to five years of imprisonment). Thuc’s case meets the conditions of the new clause, and the authorities should grant him amnesty and set him free, argues attorney Ngo Ngoc Trai. It has been two weeks since the petition was sent to the authorities, but the lawyer and Thuc’s family have not yet received a response.

In a recent interview with DiaCRITICS, our Editor, Huong Nguyen, spoke of the light that Thuc has shined on the pro-democracy and human rights movement in Vietnam: “He must have sent hundreds of letters home to his family and friends, which are full of insights on current domestic and international affairs and philosophical matters, as well as poems and songs he composed.”

Over the years, Thuc has inspired many in Vietnam to engage in peaceful activism for social and political change. Years after his arrest, his family, supporters, and international community continue to rally around him. Thuc’s supporters found each other in Thuc-Followers, an online community of more than thousands of Vietnamese who agree with and follow Thuc’s vision for a peaceful political change in Vietnam. Unfortunately, that fast-growing fan-page recently was “unpublished” by Facebook for “using Facebook to organize criminal activity,” even though the Thuc-Followers have only engaged in non-violent activities. For instance, they started petitions on to “urge VietNam Communist Party as well as the Parliament to hold a referendum for free election and on transformation to a multi-party political regime with the attendance and monitoring of the civil society groups across the nation.”

Even from behind the walls of his prison cell, Thuc is not deterred. And neither are we. In honor of the anniversary of his arrest, we ask you to share the information on his case with your networks, continue to advocate for his release by writing your representatives and the Vietnamese government, write to his family at the address below to support them in their long journey to demand justice for Thuc, as well as donate to the Conscience Foundation with a specific request to support his family.

Tran Huynh Duy Thuc’s family’s contact information:
Tran Van Huynh
439 F8 duong Phan Van Tri
Quan Go Vap
Tel: +84903350117

© 2016 The 88 Project