Vietnam Briefing: Bao Sach Appeal; Vietnamese Vendor Summoned Over Salt Bae Parody; Vietnam Mourns Victims Of COVID-19

The Vietnamese Magazine
The Vietnamese Magazine

Bao Sach (Clean Newspaper) members filed an appeal to lower their court sentences

  • On November 17, Vietnam’s state media reported that the Can Tho Court had received an appeal from Bao Sach members against the court’s decisions on October 28. In their formal request, the Bao Sach members appealed to the court to lower their sentences.
  • The five journalists of Bao Sach, including Truong Chau Huu Danh, Doan Kien Giang, Nguyen Phuoc Trung Bao, Nguyen Thanh Nha, and Le The Thang were convicted under Article 331 of Vietnam’s Penal Code for “abusing the rights to freedom and democracy to infringe upon State and individuals’ interests” and were later sentenced to a total of 14 years and six months in prison. They will also be banned from journalism for three years after finishing their prison terms.
  • Multiple press freedom advocates and the U.S. Department of State have expressed concerns and opposition to the sentences. The Department of State urged the Vietnamese government “to ensure its actions are consistent with the human rights provisions of Vietnam’s constitution and its international obligations and commitments.”

Wife of former National Assembly candidate receives pending visitation approval of her husband

  • Do Le Na, wife of the former independent political candidate Le Trong Hung, wrote on her Facebook page on November 18 that she had received pending approval to visit her husband in prison after submitting a request to the Hanoi Police. Na said her request was submitted exactly one month after the investigation agency concluded its investigation into her husband.
  • According to Na, her written request to visit Hung, who was previously arrested and charged under Article 117 for “creating and distributing materials against the State,” was reportedly sent to the Hanoi People’s Procuracy for revision. Na wrote that she had submitted the visitation requests to the authorities multiple times before but received no response.

Jailed Vietnamese activist reportedly began a hunger strike after warning his family of possible danger in custody

  • Detained Vietnamese activist and blogger Phan Kim Khanh, who previously called and warned his family that he was facing possible danger while in custody, reportedly made a follow-up call in which he informed his family that he had gone on a hunger strike for 10 days in prison.
  • According to a Facebook post of Phan Trang, Khanh’s sister, her brother did not disclose further information about what happened to him since his last call home. He only informed his mother that he had ended his hunger strike and the previous call was abruptly cut off because the police did not want information from inside the prison to be disclosed.
  • Khanh added that he could not give the family further information as he feared that the call would be disrupted again, wrote Trang.

Vietnam sentences a Facebook user to 7 years in jail over “anti-state” posts
Reuters reports:

  • The Court of Khanh Hoa Province on November 15 sentenced a local aquaculture farmer to seven years in prison after finding him guilty of posting “anti-state propaganda” on his Facebook account.
  • Nguyen Tri Gioan, 42, a local resident of Khanh Hoa Province in central Vietnam, was convicted of “making, storing, spreading information, materials, items opposing the state.” He was accused of posting poems and images on his Facebook accounts to “distort, slander and defame the leadership of the [Vietnam Communist] party, the state and leader Ho Chi Minh,” Reuters cited the indictment as saying.
  • Gioan pleaded guilty at a one-day trial. He will be placed under house arrest for three years once the jail term is over, wrote the indictment.
  • According to his family, attorney Nguyen Van Mieng said that Gioan was arrested on January 7, 2021, while he was driving in his neighborhood. Not long after the arrest, he was admitted to a hospital for an unspecified treatment; the police investigation agency forced his family to keep his health conditions secret for the purpose of the investigation process, the attorney wrote. His lawyer’s earlier request to defend Gioan was also turned down by the investigation agency for the same reason.

A noodle seller was summoned by Vietnamese police for allegedly imitating the ‘Salt Bae’ video

Reuters reports:

  • Police in Vietnam have issued a summons for a beef noodle seller who filmed and posted a video on social media imitating celebrity chef Nusret Gokce, or “Salt Bae.” The incident happened only days after the Vietnamese Minister of Public Security To Lam was caught on camera eating gold-flecked steak at the chef's London restaurant.
  • Bui Tuan Lam, 38, from the central city of Danang, said his intention in making the video was not to mock any particular individual. The video showed Lam, who described himself as “Green Onion Bae,” ceremoniously slicing boiled beef and flamboyantly sprinkling green onions into a bowl of noodle soup, mimicking Salt Bae’s signature performance.
  • “The video I made was for fun and for advertising my beef noodle shop. More customers have been coming since I posted it,” said Lam, adding that it was not clear if the police summons was because of his video. Police in Vietnam routinely summon activists and people publicly critical of the ruling Communist Party for questioning.
  • In an interview with the BBC, the noodle seller said that he did not intend to remove the video because he thought “there was nothing wrong with it.”

Vietnamese workers reportedly exploited in a Chinese-owned tire manufacturer in Serbia

  • On November 16, Balkan Insight, an English-language newspaper providing analytical insight and investigations in southern and eastern Europe, reported that a group of Serbian NGOs had claimed that Vietnamese migrant workers were allegedly mistreated while working on the construction of a factory for the Chinese tire manufacturer Shandong Linglong Tire.
  • According to the report, A11 and ASTRA, the two Serbian NGOs working against human trafficking, claimed that around 500 workers from Vietnam who were hired to work at the construction site “are living and working in conditions that could endanger their health and lives.” The NGOs have alleged that the labor rights of Vietnamese workers are being “seriously violated” and that they could be the victims of trafficking “for the purpose of labor exploitation,” according to Balkan Insight.
  • Vietnamese spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Le Thi Thu Hang said on November 18 that the ministry has been “working to verify the information” after contacting the Vietnamese Embassy in Romania, which is also concurrently representing the country in Serbia. “Initial information from the embassy showed that no Vietnamese workers were assaulted or beaten,” according to the spokesperson.
  • Earlier, several United Nations Special Rapporteurs urged Vietnam to stop the trafficking of women and girls to work as domestic workers in Saudi Arabia after a 15-year-old Vietnamese girl died due to maltreatment by her employer. Spokesperson Hang claimed that Vietnam “always gives priority to promoting gender equality, narrowing the gender gap and creating equal opportunities for women and men.”
  • Meanwhile, Indonesian authorities on November 16 said that they had returned 166 Vietnamese fishermen to their home country this week after detaining them and confiscating their boats on suspicion of illegal fishing in Indonesian waters, reports RFA.

Vietnam continues constructions at three South China Sea sites

  • According to an RFA analysis of satellite imagery obtained from Planet Labs, Vietnam is carrying out construction on three islands in the South China Sea, Pearson Reef, Namyit Island, and Sand Cay, which are all located in the disputed Spratly Islands.
  • Meanwhile, on November 18, an opinion article published in the South China Morning Post by Yan Yan, the director of the Research Center of Oceans Law and Policy in the China-based National Institute for South China Sea Studies (NISCSS), says that Vietnam “uses double standards in the disputed South China Sea” by continuing development in the disputed waters while “urging others to halt reclamation.” The author also warned that Vietnam must stop “playing the victim with regard to China” in terms of clandestine island-building.
  • Vietnam also hosted the 13th South China Sea International Conference at the Vietnam Diplomatic Academy in Hanoi on November 18 and 19. In the conference, Bill Hayton, one of the invited foreign speakers, discussed in his talk new evidence showing China’s denial of territorial claims in the South China Sea before the twentieth century. Hayton also mentioned journalist Pham Doan Trang as a critical independent voice on territorial issues in his presentation.

Vietnam mourns COVID-19 victims as death toll surpasses 23,000
RFA reports:

“Government officials and relatives of the victims lit candles, burned incense and put lanterns on the water to mourn the dead in a televised event that was organized by the Central Committee of the Vietnamese Fatherland Front, an umbrella group of organizations aligned with the Communist Party, and the cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. Pagodas and churches in both cities tolled their bells in unison at the conclusion of the ceremony.
Critics said that while it was good the government was acknowledging the victims, Vietnamese government failures likely led to a greater number of deaths than would have otherwise occurred.”


Vietnam villagers protesting crematorium project over pollution fears
RFA reports:
“Villagers in a commune in north-central Vietnam are pushing back hard against a developer’s plans to build a cemetery and crematorium near their homes, saying they fear pollution and have not been consulted on the project, RFA has learned.
Residents of the Hung Tay commune in Nghe An province’s Hung Nguyen district posted a Facebook video on Monday showing police officers violently dispersing villagers who had gathered to protest at the entrance to the site.”


Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

India and Vietnam will define the future of Asia: Kurt Campbell

Nikkei Asia/ Ken Moriyasu/ November 20

“[Kurt Campbell] described Vietnam as a “swing state” in the Indo-Pacific. Pointing to the many high-tech and manufacturing companies increasingly looking in that country “to diversify their holdings, investment, patterns of trade in Asia,” Campbell noted Vietnam’s “remarkable growth in its technology sectors and the like.”

“They are raising their diplomatic game,” he said, soon after noting Vietnam’s more active role in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Campbell said American and Vietnamese leaders need to become more familiar with one another, with their meetings less scripted and more about “sharing true strategic purpose.”

Vietnam Needs to Bolster Its ‘Soft Balancing’ Against China

The Diplomat/ Pham Ngoc Minh Trang/ November 19

“With respect to the development in the South China Sea, such a defensive strategy may not work, especially when Vietnam is a party directly involved in the dispute. First, the statements of Vietnam at public forums are arguably broad and vague. They were not prominent enough to help Hanoi get significant attention and support at the international level (not to mention that the process of mobilizing support from other countries at international forums is sometimes too slow to achieve a tangible goal). Second, they are unlikely to affect China. Not only does Beijing refuse to amend its unlawful claims, but China has been expeditiously advancing its actions to gain greater leverage at sea.”

Vietnam lenders adopt loan shark tactics

Southeast Asia Globe/ Govi Snell/ November 18

“Although a burgeoning consumer finance industry has taken root in Vietnam, weak regulation has allowed many financial institutions to harass borrowers, pushing the bounds of legality. Some legal lenders mirror loan sharks: disturbing borrowers’ relatives, posting smear photos online, and going to borrowers’ houses to pressure them to pay off their loans.

The economic impact of Covid-19 has left many financially drained in Vietnam and issues surrounding bad debt have been exacerbated. During the first quarter of 2020, local banks reported a 45% increase in past-due loans. Since then, the country has experienced its worst period of pandemic. In late April, the Delta variant arrived in the country, crippling the economy and increasing the death toll from 35 to more than 23,000 in mid-November.”

At COP26, Vietnam must stress the peril of rising sea levels

Asia Times/ James Borton/ October 25

“Although the city has survived recurrent floods, it is anticipated that the costs due to regular flooding will continue to rise – and faster than economic activity.

Rapid expansion has left the city vulnerable to climate change, with an increase in flood levels over the past decade. Overdevelopment and the sheer weight of infrastructure in some districts have caused the soft soil of the city to subside. Hydrologists claim that HCMC is now sinking at a rate of 1-2cm every year, while sea levels rise at the same time.”

Vietnam BriefingCOVID-19Bao SachSouth China SeaPrisoners of ConsciencePham Doan Trang

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