Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 28/2017 – Week of September 4-10

Above: Bloggers Nguyen Huu Vinh (Anh Ba Sam) and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy at trial. Source: VietnamNet. Nguyen Huu Vinh refuses to be exiled to be released from prison. 

Greetings from Huong, Ella, and Kaylee from The 88 Project! We are bringing you news, analysis, and actions regarding human rights and civil society in Vietnam during the week of September 4-10. Nguyen Van Oai will go to trial on September 18 after an almost month-long postponement. Phan Kim Khanh met with a lawyer for the first time since his arrest. Tran Thi Nga is being denied a visit from her family in prison. Nguyen Van Dai and Nguyen Huu Vinh refuse to be exiled. A teacher and a Catholic priest were targeted for their activism. Vietnam is piloting school human rights education with unclear implementation and intentions. In the news and analysis, activism persists despite an ever-present threat of arrest in Vietnam, Vietnam faces a number of challenges for 2017, and Southeast Asia struggles in its pursuit of democracy and human rights. Please take action for Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, Pham Van Troi, Truong Minh Duc, and Nguyen Trung Ton, who are suffering from health issues in prison.

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Prisoners of Conscience
Nguyen Van Oai
Nguyen Van Oai, who was arrested on January 23 of this year and is currently being held in pre-trial detention, now faces trial on September 18 at the People’s Court of Hoang Mai commune in Nghe An province. He was supposed to face trial on Monday, August 21, but news came just one day prior to the scheduled trial that his trial had been postponed. According to a notice from the People’s court of Hoang Mai commune, the court received a motion to postpone the trial from several individuals with related legitimate interests. The court does not provide more details as to the reasons for the motion, what constitutes “related legitimate interests,” or the substantive grounds for granting the motion.
Phan Kim Khanh

Phan Kim Khanh has met with a lawyer for the first time since his arrest on March 21. According to his lawyer, Khanh appears to be in good spirit. His trial is likely to occur soon, although his family has not received any announcement yet. Read our previous updates on Khanh’s situation, here.

Tran Thi Nga

Tran Thi Nga has not seen her family since her trial over six weeks ago. Her husband was told that the Supreme Court would have to authorize a visit. Nga, a land and labor rights activist, who was sentenced on July 25, 2017 to nine years in prison, is a former migrant laborer and the mother of four, including two young children of four and seven-years-old.

Nguyễn Hữu Vinh - left
Bloggers Nguyen Huu Vinh (Anh Ba Sam) and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy at trial. Source: VietnamNet
Dissident journalist Pham Doan Trang shared on her page that two prominent political prisoners, Nguyen Van Dai and Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Anh Ba Sam), have refused to be exiled in order to be freed from Vietnamese prison. Nguyen Van Dai has been in pre-trial detention since December 2015. And Nguyen Huu Vinh, currently serving a five-year imprisonment sentence, is due to be released in May 2019. Another prominent political prisoner, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, has also refused to be exiled in exchange for freedom.
Activists at Risk
A teacher named Pham Ngoc Lan was called in and questioned by police on the first day of her school year, where they showed up to take her away from her classroom. She was questioned for alleged ties to the Brotherhood for Democracy, a pro-democracy group that has been targeted in recent months by police; several of its members have been arrested.
On September 4, assailants backing the government went to attack Catholic priest Nguyen Duy Tan and members of his community at their church, in the latest string of attacks on Catholic groups. The attackers arrived by bus with weapons, including guns, and blamed Father Tan for speaking out against the government. Religious groups and persons have been targeted for their activism regarding social, economic, and environmental issues in Vietnam, including the handling of the Formosa environmental disaster.
Human Rights Education
Vietnam has announced it will start phasing in human rights education in select public schools, with a goal of full integration of the curriculum by 2025. Many wonder why the government is introducing this plan now, at a time when the crackdown on dissent is swelling, and some question whether it is a play by the government to exert more control over human rights information within the country.


Apparent crackdown in Vietnam on social media, but many users undeterred: “This sentiment — you can probably say what you want, as long as you aren’t famous – can be heard often in Vietnam. But Beanland said that even if most of the arrests that get attention are of high-profile dissidents, there may be much more going on that does not make headlines.”

Background Briefing by Carl Thayer: Vietnam- Eleven Foreign Policy Challenges and Opportunities: “There are at least eleven foreign policy challenges and opportunities that Vietnam will face in 2017 [including] 5. Successfully concluding a bilateral trade agreement with the United States (and avoid penalties by Trump for a huge trade surplus). 6. Resolving the Trinh Xuan Thanh case with Germany to avoid punitive action and damage to Vietnam-EU relations. 7. Successful lobbying for non-permanent membership on the UN Security Council, 2020-21.”

It’s not just Burma: Human rights are under attack across Southeast Asia, advocates say: “Although Southeast Asia has seen economic growth, inequality has also increased, leading to insecurity and weakening support for democratic institutions, said Michael Vatikiotis, the Asia regional director at the Geneva-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. In some newly democratic countries, he added, elites have taken advantage of identity politics — often long-standing ethnic or religious divisions — to generate conflict and shore up their power.”


Nguyen Van Tuc, a former prisoner of conscience and a member of the Brotherhood for Democracy, was arrested under Article 79 on September 1State-owned media has confirmed the arrest. He had previously served four years in prison under Article 88 for “propaganda against the state,” from 2008 to 2012. He is at least the sixth member of the Brotherhood for Democracy, a group co-founded by lawyer and political prisoner Nguyen Van Dai, to be arrested in recent weeks.


NGO VOICE (Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment) will be doing a midterm Universal Periodic Review (UPR) campaign in Brussels, Geneva, Berlin, Oslo, Prague, and Stockholm from September 15 – October 10. Contact VOICE if you would like to help and join in.


Please take Amnesty International’s Urgent Action for Pham Van Troi, Truong Minh Duc, and Nguyen Trung Ton. The three were arrested on July 30 under Article 79 for ties to the Brotherhood for Democracy. They are being held in incommunicado detention and need access to healthcare treatment.

Please also take Amnesty International’s Urgent Action for Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh to call on the Vietnamese authorities to ensure that she has access to adequate medical care.

© 2017 The 88 Project