Vietnam Briefing: UN Experts Urge Vietnam To Release Pham Doan Trang; Vietnam’s Top Official Is Under Fire For His Luxurious Meal

Vietnam Briefing: UN Experts Urge Vietnam To Release Pham Doan Trang; Vietnam’s Top Official Is Under Fire For His Luxurious Meal
Photo credit (left to right): Jin Jin/ social media. Graphic by The Vietnamese Magazine.

United Nations’ human rights experts urge Vietnam to release journalist Pham Doan Trang

The Vietnamese Magazine reports:

  • On October 29, 2021, eight U.N. human rights experts called on the Vietnamese government to immediately and unconditionally release detained writer and human rights defender Pham Doan Trang, who is currently facing “anti-State propaganda” charges and up to 12 years of imprisonment.
  • The U.N experts, who are a part of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, stated that Doan Trang was the latest victim of the Vietnamese authorities’ use of vaguely defined laws to criminalize journalists and human rights defenders for their “exercise of their right to freedom of opinion and expression to share information.”
  • The team also expressed concerns that Vietnam will use Pham Doan Trang’s reports on environmental disaster, religious freedom, and human rights issues, together with her interviews with foreign media outlets, as evidence in her trial. “This could have far-reaching consequences and consolidate an environment of fear in Viet Nam, leading to self-censorship and inhibiting others from cooperating with the UN,” said the experts.
  • Finally, regarding Doan Trang’s health, the U.N. experts urged the Vietnamese government “to immediately and unconditionally release Ms Pham Doan Trang and allow her to receive all necessary medical care.”
  • Also last week in a jointly released report from The 88 Project and the Global Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School (GHRC), Vietnam was accused of continuing its suppression and criminalization of freedom of expression through controversial and vaguely defined laws. This report, which is the culmination of interviews with activists and their families and data collected by The 88 Project, was presented to the UNHRC as part of its Universal Periodic Review of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Campaign to send letters to imprisoned journalist Pham Doan Trang

The Vietnamese Magazine, Luat Khoa Magazine, and The 88 Project have jointly called on the public to join a campaign of sending letters to journalist Pham Doan Trang, who is being detained in Hanoi. The participants are invited to write and send letters to Doan Trang as a way to keep her spirit up while she is being held in detention.

How can I send my letter to Doan Trang?

You can directly mail your letter to her at:

  • Pham Thi Doan Trang, Hanoi Detention Center No. 1, Lane 702, Phuc Dien, Nam Tu Liem District, Hanoi, Vietnam.  Prisoner number: 4661 V1-M2 (M5).
  • In Vietnamese: Phạm Thị Đoan Trang, Trại Giam Số 1 Hà Nội, Ngõ 702, Phúc Diễn, Quận Nam Từ Liêm, TP. Hà Nội, Việt Nam. Số Giam: 4661 V1-M2 (M5).

You can also send her a message here: or you can follow these steps to create your own postcards and learn more about Pham Doan Trang here.

Vietnamese public outraged over the pricey meal of the country’s top public security official

  • On November 4, a video emerged showing celebrity chef Nusret Gokce, commonly known as “Salt Bae,” hand feeding Minister of Public Security To Lam a golden-leaf steak. After the video began to circulate on Vietnam’s social media it caused an outrage among the public.
  • The video first appeared in Salt Bae’s personal TikTok account but was deleted shortly afterwards as it attracted a lot of media attention. It is believed that the footage of To Lam and his public security officials’ dining at the London branch of a luxury steakhouse chain called Nusr-Et was filmed after the Vietnamese officials attended the United Nations climate change conference (COP26), according to RFA.
  • Multiple international news outlets have reported on the issue, including BBC News, Australian broadcaster ABC, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post and Singaporean news channel CNA. One of the main reasons for the Vietnamese public discontent is the overtly luxurious lifestyle of the Communist Party’s top officials compared to the poverty-stricken lives of many ordinary Vietnamese citizens. The incident has widely attracted public attention, especially at the time when the country’s economy has been hit hard by months-long COVID-19 lockdowns.
  • According to the BBC, the gold-coated steak at the restaurant usually ranges from £850 to £1,500 ($1,140 to $2,015), and that is “without drinks, side dishes or the 15% service charge.” Meanwhile, the minister’s monthly salary is between US$600 to US$800 per month, before any allowances, writes the British news channel. The average monthly income of a Vietnamese is around $230 in 2021, according to the General Statistics Office.
  • State-owned media and the mouthpieces of the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security have not made any public mention of the issue.

Vietnamese police threaten to arrest detained farmer Trinh Ba Phuong’s wife to extract his confession

RFA reports:

  • On November 2, detained farmer and land activist Trinh Ba Phuong shared that he had been threatened by Hanoi police with the arrest of his wife, Do Thi Thu, if he refuses to plead guilty to charges against him, according to Phuong’s defending attorney Dang Dinh Manh following a meeting with his client.
  • The investigators had “previously brought in a smartphone and shown Phuong a Facebook posting by his wife Do Thi Thu in which she described the police as ‘thugs’ and called them inhumane,” according to Phuong’s lawyer. He added that if he did not confess to his crimes, the authorities said they would use this as evidence to arrest his wife.
  • Trinh Ba Phuong, who was arrested in June 2020 on a charge of “spreading propaganda against the state,” is being held at the Hanoi Police Detention Center No. 1. The trial of Phuong and land activist Nguyen Thi Tam was previously scheduled for November 3 but subsequently delayed as some prosecutors came into contact with COVID-19 patients. According to his lawyer, Trinh Ba Phuong has exercised his right to keep silent and refused to speak to investigators.

Another Vietnamese activist to be tried for “propagandizing against the State”

RFA reports:

  • On October 28, the defending attorney of the currently detained Vietnamese activist Do Nam Trung received a notice from the People’s Procuracy of Nam Dinh Province, which indicates that the procuracy had completed the indictment against his client and submitted his case to the provincial court. However, Trung’s lawyer, attorney Ha Huy Son, told RFA that he had still not been authorized by the Nam Dinh Court to defend his client.
  • Do Nam Trung, a local activist famous for his activism exposing the alleged mismanagement of BOT toll booth operators was arrested on July 6 over allegations of “making, storing and distributing information, materials or documents against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of Vietnam’s 2015 Penal Code. He faces up to 20 years imprisonment.

A jailed Vietnamese blogger reportedly warned his family of possible danger in custody

RFA reports:

  • Phan Kim Khanh, a Vietnamese blogger who previously attended U.S.-sponsored youth leadership training program YSEALI (The Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative), warned his family in a weekend phone call that “something bad will have happened [to him]” if they did not hear from him again within 15 days. The detention authorities then abruptly cut the call off.
  • Khanh was sentenced to six years in prison under Article 88 of Vietnam’s 1999 Penal Code for “spreading propaganda against the State.” Before his arrest, he had established and managed several independent online blogs and Facebook fan pages, including two blogs called Bao Tham Nhung (Corruption Newspaper) and Tuan Viet Nam (Vietnam Weekly), which primarily focused on politically sensitive issues in Vietnam such as anti-corruption and democracy advocacy.
  • In February 2020, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) called Khanh’s imprisonment a violation of international law, asserting that he had been arrested only for exercising his right to peacefully express his opinions.

Vietnam’s first urban railway in Hanoi begins service following long delays

Nikkei Asia reports:

“Vietnam’s first urban railway, a roughly US$900 million project backed by China, began service in Hanoi on Saturday, following long delays for safety checks and to secure the land needed.

The Hanoi Metro Line 2A, construction on which started in 2011, is a 13 km, 12-station rail line between Cat Linh and Yen Nghia in central Hanoi. Vietnam paid for much of the project with official development assistance from China. China Railway Sixth Group, a subsidiary of China Railway Group, handled the line’s engineering, procurement and construction.”

Vietnam deputy health minister prosecuted over alleged involvement in counterfeit medicines trading

Reuters reports:

“Police in Vietnam have prosecuted a deputy health minister over his alleged involvement in a fake medicine trading ring, the country’s security agency said on Thursday.

Truong Quoc Cuong, 59, a deputy minister since 2016, is currently head of Vietnam’s drugs and cosmetics management.

He was prosecuted for “lack of responsibility, causing serious consequences,” the police-led Ministry of Public Security said in a statement.”

Vietnam targeting carbon emission neutrality by 2050, its minister said at the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP 26)

Reuters reports:

“World leaders are gathering in Glasgow to take steps to cap global warming at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels – a level scientists say would avoid its most destructive consequences.

Vietnam Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, also speaking at the round table, called for “fairness and equality” from developed countries in tackling climate change.

Vietnam has said it needs funds, technologies, and expertise from global investors to achieve the ambitious clean energy targets.”

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Alarm bells ring for mangroves in Unesco-recognised reserve in Vietnam

The Straits Times/ Le Quynh/ November 7

“Can Gio District is the largest and one of the least populated of 24 districts in Vietnam’s capital, Ho Chi Minh city. The district is home to a vast mangrove forest, a biological reserve recognized by Unesco. But scientists are sounding the alarm of declining health of the forest.”

The Facebook Papers: What do they mean from a human rights perspective?

Amnesty International/ November 4

“A report in the Washington Post alleged that CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally intervened in decisions which had disastrous real-world consequences – such as when Facebook complied with the Vietnamese government’s demands to censor anti-government dissidents.  Just months before intervening in Vietnam, Zuckerberg gave a speech at Georgetown University where he said he believed Facebook ‘must continue to stand for free expression.’

In 2018, Amnesty estimated that Facebook earns more than $1 billion in revenue in Vietnam – protecting Vietnamese users’ right to free speech would have come at a significant cost to the company. A Facebook transparency report showed that after Zuckerberg agreed to the censorship of anti-government posts, more than 2,200 posts by Vietnamese users were blocked between July and December 2020 compared with 834 in the previous 6 months.”

Why an Oxford college is renaming itself for Vietnam’s richest woman

Nikkei Asia/ Lien Hoang, Rhyannon Bartlett-Imadegawa/ November 3

“The nine-figure gift to Linacre met with a decidedly mixed reaction. On and off social media, some Vietnamese praised the move as ambitious and charitable. Others asked why Thao should make millions in Vietnam and then give it to a country with 14 times the average income.”

As China-Vietnam Relations Grow Tense, Hanoi Considers Its Options

World Politics Review/ David Brown/ November 1

“The rest of Vietnam’s neighborhood comprises Cambodia and Laos on its borders, and the other seven members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, which has proven to be a huge disappointment to the Vietnamese. The bloc claims the right to make the rules in Southeast Asia through the principle of “centrality.” But another of its principles, that all decisions must be taken by consensus, renders ASEAN impotent when Chinese interests are at stake. Five ASEAN states have maritime claims in the South China Sea, but only Vietnam is inclined to stand up to Beijing. Cambodia, China’s de facto stooge in ASEAN conclaves, regularly vetoes even anodyne statements of concern over the maritime territorial disputes.”

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