We release the Vietnam Briefing every Monday morning.
The rumors were right. Meet the new state leadership
We reported correctly in our first briefing on February 8 that there were rumors that current Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Pham Minh Chinh, the head of the Party Central Committee’s Organization Commission and Vuong Dinh Hue, the secretary of the Hanoi Party Committee, would be named president, prime minister, and chairperson of the National Assembly, respectively.
What is happening in the last session of the National Assembly is proving the rumors are right.
Vuong Dinh Hue took over the chairperson position of the National Assembly on March 31 after his predecessor, Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, was released from duty the previous day by the legislative chamber’s resolution. The Communist Party quickly appointed the then-minister of finance, Dinh Tien Dung, to replace Hue as the party chief of Hanoi on April 3.
The National Assembly also relieved Nguyen Xuan Phuc from the prime minister post and Nguyen Phu Trong from the president post on April 3, paving the way for elections of Nguyen Xuan Phuc to be president and Pham Minh Chinh to be prime minister this week. Phuc was already nominated to the post on April 2.
When this entire process ends tentatively by the end of April 5, the political tradition of having a “gang of four” sharing four top seats of the party and the state will be restored.
Another journalist is arrested
Nguyen Hoai Nam, a former investigative journalist working for the mainstream media, was arrested on April 2 in Ho Chi Minh City. He is currently under pre-trial detention and is charged with “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, lawful rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens.”
Who is Nam? VnExpress says he was a former reporter at Thanh Nien (Youth), Phap Luat TPHCM (HCMC Law), Vietnam Television and Phap Luat Viet Nam (Vietnam Law). The news agency added that Nam had posted on his Facebook account several articles challenging police investigations into violations at Vietnam Inland Waterways Administration, which it said had resulted in the arrest of its former deputy head Tran Duc Hai in 2019.
According to VnExpress: “The reporter implicated 15 people who had allegedly committed violations regarding the case, 12 more than determined by police. He went on to accuse the investigators of ‘letting the criminals off the hook.’”
The nature of the charge:
- The charge is based on Article 331 of the 2015 Penal Code, previously known as Article 258 of the 1999 Penal Code.
- The criminal provision is widely condemned by both domestic and international human rights groups as vague and as used by the government to silence critics.
- Activists ran a campaign called the “258 Campaign” to advocate for the abolition of the provision.
Four citizens convicted of spreading anti-state propaganda
Publicly saying bad things about the Communist Party might well result in being imprisoned for years in Vietnam. That’s what happened to four citizens in Khanh Hoa Province on March 30.
Nguyen Thi Cam Thuy, 45, was sentenced to nine years in prison, Ngo Thi Ha Phuong, 25, to seven years and Le Viet Hoa, 59, to five years, VnExpress reported.
Another person, Vu Tien Chi, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Lam Dong Province.
Just like Article 331 and Article 258, this criminal provision has received a high degree of criticism from human rights groups inside and outside of Vietnam.
Read more about Vietnam:
“The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is an authoritarian state ruled by a single party, the Communist Party of Vietnam, and led by General Secretary and President Nguyen Phu Trong, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and Chairwoman of the National Assembly Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan. The most recent National Assembly elections, held in 2016, were neither free nor fair; there was limited competition among Communist Party-vetted candidates.”
Mongabay | April 2, 2021
“The U.S.’s thirst for coffee drives forest loss in central Vietnam, while Germany’s craving for cocoa is doing the same in West Africa, a landmark study that tracks the drivers of deforestation across borders found.”
The Diplomat | March 30, 2021
“After its COVID-19 successes, Vietnam is well positioned to play a more energetic role on the global stage.”
Wall Street Journal | March 30, 2021
“Vietnam’s economy is growing again, on the back of a strong rise in exports. The Southeast Asian nation looks to be one of the most clear-cut international beneficiaries of the U.S. stimulus package.”
ISEAS | March 3, 2021
- The operations of Vietnam’s public opinion shapers and cyber-troops reveal that the online discourse is manipulated to enforce the Communist Party’s line.
- Vietnamese authorities constantly grapple with the vexing question: How to strike a delicate balance between placating critical public sentiment online while ensuring that it does not spill over into protests against the regime.
- When it comes to methods, targets and motives, there appears to be significant crossover between public opinion shapers and the government’s cyber troops.
- The Vietnamese state cyber-troops have been encouraged to use real accounts to massreport content. This helps explain why it is the only Southeast Asian state to publicly acknowledge having a military cyber unit.
- The lack of political and technological wherewithal presents an uphill battle for these cyber-troops in influencing Vietnam’s online information environment.