The Prime Minister of Vietnam, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, announced today at a preparatory meeting for the DPRK-US summit in Hanoi that the country needs to “prove to the whole world that it is peaceful, friendly and orderly … as (the core of) its culture, a way of life of Vietnamese people.”
The price to pay for such an image could very well be the freedom of those who dare to exercise their constitutional rights like Le Thi Khanh’s husband, Tran Thanh Phuong.
For almost six months, Le Thi Khanh, a garment maker in Ho Chi Minh City, has not been able to see her husband who was taken away by the local authorities since September 1, 2018.
Her husband is Tran Thanh Phuong, a Facebooker who has been in police detention for attempting to participate in a protest during the celebration of Vietnam’s National Day.
As a pre-emptive strike, the police “invited” Phuong to come to the local station to talk to them, but they then detained him without a formal arrest warrant, according to his wife.
At first, Khanh could still bring her husband food and meet him once a day at the local police station of their ward.
But on September 7, 2018, when she went to see her husband, the police told her they had transferred him to a different location yet refused to tell her where.
Khanh then went to the District’s Police Department to look up her husband’s whereabouts.
There, the police asked her to provide them with her marriage certificate before allowing visitation. Once she did, they promised her that she would get to see him on October 10, 2018.
Came October 10, 2018, Khanh packed some food to bring to her husband with high hopes that she could see him, but again she was disappointed.
The District’s police told her they had transferred him to No. 4, Phan Dang Luu Street which is the detention center under the Ho Chi Minh City Police Department, The Security Investigative Unit.
She immediately went to No. 4 Detention Center and was able to confirm that her husband was, indeed, held there.
Since then, she was only able to send him food every two months, but the authorities have yet to allow visitation.
She also has no idea what crimes her husband has been charged with because no one would tell her anything.
But Khanh was aware that Phuong was using his Facebook to look up information relating to Vietnam’s Constitution, as well as the exercise of their constitutional rights.
“My husband often read different groups’ postings on Facebook about disseminating our Constitution. He said we should read to gain our own knowledge so that when the police arrest us, we could know what rights we have and demand them,” Khanh told us.
Not being to know how her husband has been doing was an ordeal which Khanh went through in the past six months while trying to make end’s meet to raise the couple’s two daughters, entirely on her own now.
Tran Thanh Phuong has effectively been held incommunicado by various police forces in Ho Chi Minh City since September 7, 2018.
Khanh also told us that on October 15, 2010, the police even tried to summon her 13-year-old daughter to come in for questioning on the 19th regarding their investigation of the case.
She, of course, refused to comply with the outrageous request.
Phuong was alleged to be a member of a dissident group calls “Constitution” (Hiến pháp).
The group’s members have been arrested and detained arbitrarily by the Vietnamese authorities from September 2018 to date.
While the members acknowledged that they participated in the June 10, 2018’s mass protest against the then draft bills of the cybersecurity and the Special Economic Zones law, all information surrounding their activities – including those coming from the authorities – could not openly show their criminal liability.
One of them has been arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to five-year-imprisonment.
In that case, the defendant – Huynh Truong Ca – was alleged by the government to have live-streamed 40 clips on Facebook criticizing the government, the Communist Party, and calling on people to exercise their constitutional right: participate in demonstrations.
Such conduct, however, not only could not constitute the legal merits of a crime but also was a person’s political opinion which international human rights law protects.
Notwithstanding international law standards, the government of Vietnam often violates even its constitution while suppressing people during protests and arresting them.
The 2013 Constitution guarantees all Vietnamese people the right to assemble and to demonstrate peacefully.
The absence of a valid constitutional protection mechanism, however, has allowed the government’s unlawful activities continued.
Crowd control’s measures in Vietnam were recently broadcasted internationally when the Hanoi’s security police detained and questioned the Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump impersonators duo ahead of the DRPK-US summit.
The police’s intention to avoid any remote possibility of people gathering during the event was apparent when they demanded the two’s itinerary while in Hanoi and had since surveilled their movements.
Spontaneous gatherings in public are frown upon by the VCP because its leaders could not and would not risk the chance – however slim – of having a protest breaks out, especially during a highly observed event like the Kim-Trump peace summit.
Since September 2018 to date, The Vietnamese has documented over a dozen incidents of arbitrary arrest and detention. More than half of them involved the members of the Constitution group where Tran Thanh Phuong is a member.