Featured Image: Nguyen Van Dai and Nguyen Bac Truyen (R) at trial on April 5, 2018, Source: AFP via Radio Free Asia
Greetings from The 88 Project! We are bringing you news, analysis, and actions regarding human rights and civil society in Vietnam during the week of March 30-April 5. Political prisoner Luu Van Vinh has been sick in prison and isolated from other prisoners. Female activist Truong Thi Ha is being quarantined upon her return to Vietnam, her important papers confiscated. Vietnamese authorities continue to target Falun Gong practitioners with arrest and questioning. In international advocacy, several groups, including the Committee to Protect Journalists and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, have called for the release of political prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has asked for the release of Hoa Hao Buddhist Nguyen Bac Truyen on the anniversary of his 2018 trial. In the news, read about the EU-Vietnam free trade agreement, COVID-19 effects on garment industry workers, and maritime conflict in the South China Sea. Take action this week for imprisoned journalists with the Committee to Protect Journalists and their #FreeThePress campaign.
HUMAN RIGHTS & CIVIL SOCIETY
- Pham Van Troi, author and pro-democracy activist, tried April 5, 2018, and sentenced to seven years in prison
- Truong Minh Duc, journalist and pro-democracy activist, tried April 5, 2018, and sentenced to 12 years in prison
- Nguyen Bac Truyen, land rights activist and leader of the Vietnamese Political & Religious Prisoners Friendship Association, tried April 5, 2018, and sentenced to 11 years in prison
- Nguyen Trung Ton, pastor and pro-democracy activist, tried April 5, 2018, and sentenced to 12 years in prison
Activist Truong Thi Ha returned to Vietnam a week ago via the Laos border and was immediately put in quarantine. Earlier, she posted that upon her return to Vietnam, her important papers and money were confiscated. She is being held in in Dong Hoi’s quarantine area for 14 days, and is uncertain about will happen to her after the 14 days are up. It is unclear why Ha returned to Vietnam. Ha’s posts about this on her Facebook account are currently inaccessible. Here is a repost of one of Ha’s posts on Nguyen Van Hai’s Facebook. Ha is known for her active participation in the 2018 series of demonstrations against two draft bills: the Law on Cybersecurity and Law on Special Economics Zones. Ha is also an outspoken supporter of the democratization movement in Vietnam.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has also requested that world governments protect those in prisons and close-contact quarters during this outbreak. “People are often held in unhygienic conditions and health services are inadequate or even non-existent,” she said. “Physical distancing and self-isolation in such conditions are practically impossible.” She specifically called for the release of political prisoners, non-violent offenders, and older persons with critical health issues.
Nguyen Van Dai and Nguyen Bac Truyen (R) at trial on April 5, 2018, Source: AFP via Radio Free Asia
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has called for the release of political prisoner Nguyen Bac Truyen on the second anniversary of his trial. Truyen is a Hoa Hao Buddhist and religious activist who was sentenced to 11 years in prison on April 5, 2018, along with several other well-known activists. USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava said of Truyen that: “He should be home with his family, especially now that the coronavirus pandemic has increased the public health risk to prisoners and his health problems have escalated since his imprisonment.”
Dinh Thi Phuong Thao
As we reported last week in the newsletter, several UN Special Rapporteurs and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention released a report calling for information in the cases of jailed journalist Pham Chi Dung and activist Dinh Thi Phuong Thao. Thao was detained for questioning and her passport confiscated when she returned to Vietnam in November 2019. She has responded to the release of the report and the Vietnamese government’s response. You can read her remarks, here.
NEWS & ANALYSIS
EU-Vietnam: Council gives final green light to free trade agreement, Council of the EU, March 30, 2020: “The Council today adopted a decision on the conclusion of a free trade agreement (FTA) between the EU and Vietnam. This decision clears the path, on the EU side, for the entry into force of the agreement. Once the Vietnamese National Assembly also ratifies the FTA, the agreement can enter into force, most likely in early summer 2020.”
Coronavirus pandemic tears holes in Asia’s garment industry, Shaun Turton and Phorn Bopha, Nikkei Asian Review, April 3, 2020: “Human Rights Watch urged brands not to ‘forsake the factory workers’. Clean Clothes Campaign outreach coordinator Christie Miedema said brands had a responsibility to those working in the sector. ‘They’ve profited from this cheap labor for decades without paying for any social security,’ she told Nikkei. ‘That profit needs to be paid back now, because there is no social security in place for many of these countries and there’s nothing that workers can fall back on.'”