Vietnam Briefing: Appeal Hearing Of Two Land Rights Activists, Court Upholds Previous Convictions

Vietnam Briefing: Appeal Hearing Of Two Land Rights Activists, Court Upholds Previous Convictions
Trinh Ba Tu (left, in blue shirt) and Can Thi Theu at their first trial in May 2021. Photo: Bao Hoa Binh.

The Vietnam Briefing, which is released every Monday morning Vietnam time, looks at Vietnam’s social and political developments of the past week.

Vietnam court holds appeal trial of two land rights activists

  • Vietnam’s Hoa Binh Province Appellate Court held an appeal hearing on December 24 for the two Duong Noi land rights activists, Trinh Ba Tu and Can Thi Theu, upholding the previous conviction of eight years in prison and three years of probation on the charge of  “distributing anti-state propaganda.” The trial information was published by attorney Dang Dinh Manh, one of the defense lawyers.
  • Trinh Ba Tu and Can Thi Theu are farmers and land rights activists from Duong Noi Commune, Hanoi City. They were arrested in June 2020 and each sentenced to eight-year imprisonment and a three-year probation. Two other Duong Noi farmers, Trinh Ba Phuong and Nguyen Thi Tam had their trial on December 15 and received a total of 16 years in prison.
  • Family members of Tu and Theu were not allowed to attend the hearing. A video published on the trial date by Trinh Thi Thao, Theu’s daughter, showed that security forces had set up barriers in the court’s proximity to block family members from attending the hearing. They were later arbitrarily taken to a local clinic for COVID-19 testing, according to Thao.
  • Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director, Human Rights Watch, wrote in a tweet that the prison sentences given out by Vietnam’s kangaroo court for Trinh Ba Tu and Can Thi Theu are “outrageous and unacceptable.” “[The Vietnamese government is] not going to accept demands for better governance or an end to corruption or to end the human rights abuses,” Robertson also said in an interview with NPR regarding the lengthy jail terms for the four political dissidents.

Another Vietnamese soldier dies due to suspected bullying in the camp

RFA reports:

  • Hoang Ba Manh, a 20-year-old Vietnamese soldier, was allegedly beaten to death on December 20 at the hands of his fellow soldiers in an incident a military officer described as a “fight among soldiers.” Hoang Ba Manh is the third soldier to have died this year while doing military service in Vietnam.
  • News of the incident was widely covered by social media on December 22, the 77th anniversary of the founding of the Vietnam People’s Army.
  • Nguyen Van Thien, a resident of Village No. 2 in central Vietnam’s Gia Lai Province, died in November of what his unit said was a stroke. Family members citing an autopsy said however that multiple injuries had been found both on and inside his body.
  • And in June, Tran Duc Do from northern Vietnam’s Bac Ninh Province also died at a military camp. Representatives from Vietnam’s Ministry of Defence said that Do had taken his own life, but his family disagreed, saying that many injuries had been found on his body.

Vietnamese fishermen protest a construction project blocking access to the sea

RFA reports:

  • Hundreds of residents of the fishing community in central Vietnam’s Quang Ngai Province are uniting to oppose a container port after police and workers for the development injured several fishermen who were rallying against a seaport construction project.
  • Hoa Phat Group, a project developer, was awarded approval in June 2019 to build the port in a US$169 million project that has offered local fishing families compensation described by many as unequally distributed, leading to area protests.
  • “For most of us, our livelihood depends on fishing, and when the Hoa Phat Group began to encroach more and more on the sea, local people began to ask for compensation,” said one local resident surnamed Trung.
  • While all land in Vietnam is ultimately held by the state, land confiscations have become a flashpoint as residents accuse the government of pushing them aside in favor of lucrative real estate projects, and of paying too little in compensation.

China tightens border with Vietnam, casting a shadow over Hanoi’s economic recovery

Nikkei Asia reports:

“China has tightened its land border with Vietnam amid worries over the omicron variant of COVID-19, dealing a blow to trade from the Southeast Asian country as it battles to get its economy back on track in the face of the pandemic.

Beijing informed Vietnam on Thursday that foreign drivers would be barred from crossing the border between the two countries from Friday due to a request from Chinese health authorities, with similar measures also affecting China's borders with Myanmar and Laos. China is Vietnam's second-largest export market and its biggest source of imports.

The move comes after Hu Suojin, an economic and commercial counselor at China's embassy in Vietnam, said on Monday that Beijing needs to restrict trade flows through regional borders to prevent the coronavirus from spreading ahead of "big events" in the next few months. The Lunar New Year holiday is coming up in February and Beijing is preparing to host the Winter Olympics in the same month.”

Vietnam Takes Philippines’ Spot as Worst Place to Be in Covid

From Bloomberg:

“Vietnam was once regarded as a success story in containing Covid-19, reporting only a handful of daily cases for the entire first year of the pandemic. Now it’s fallen to the bottom of Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking in December, replacing the Philippines, after a protracted delta outbreak caused deaths to spike and clouded its economic outlook.

The country’s infection rate is hitting records, with more than 10,000 cases a day for the past month, running counter to the rest of Southeast Asia where the virus has started to ebb. More than 200 deaths from Covid-19 are reported every day.”

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Revealed: the secret 'forced labour' migration route from Vietnam to the UK

The Guardian/ Milivoje Pantović for N1 Television in Belgrade, Ifang Bremer, Lam Le and Peter Bengtsen/ December 25

“An Observer investigation has found that Serbia and Romania are being used as new gateways to Europe for smuggling and trafficking gangs who are using guest worker visa programmes to transport large numbers of Vietnamese workers into eastern Europe. There they are often exploited in factories and construction sites before some are transported across land borders into the EU and, eventually, to the UK.

At all stages along the way, Vietnamese workers are highly likely to fall into forced labour or debt bondage, often charged up to £30,000 for passage to the UK.”

In Vietnam, 'feeding the police' just a cost of doing business

Al Jazeera/ December 23

“For many shop owners and street vendors in Hanoi, greasing the palms of local law enforcement on a regular basis, known colloquially as “nuôi công an” or “feeding the police”, is just another cost of doing business.

Vietnam was ranked 104 out of 180 countries in last year’s Corruption Perceptions Index compiled by Transparency International, a Berlin-based nonprofit that combats global corruption, with a score of 36 out of 100, where 100 is considered most clean. The police are widely perceived as among the most corrupt sectors in the country.”

Rising worry about risks Vietnam's 'container people' take for a new life in Europe

RFA/ Giang Nguyen, Hoa Ai Tran/ December 18

“Though experts say that the majority of illegal Vietnamese migrants are men, they acknowledge the risk of exploitation, and sexual exploitation, affects women in particular, and not just once they have reached Germany but during the long journey across Europe. Yet many illegal migrants do not see themselves as victims, but rather focus on their dreams for a better life, said Viet.

“There are many dangers along the way. Especially for women. On the way here, many people have gone missing. It could be that their organs are stolen. Many of the women are separated from their group so that the roadmen at the various stages along the way can assault them, can do all kinds of things with them. But migrants still accept that risk so they keep coming.”

Language Policy and Education in Southeast Asia

The Diplomat/ Rawl Maliwat/ December 23

“Given that language is a major marker of cultural identity, most of the fledgling Southeast Asian states found the continued use of a colonial language to be anathemic to the project of building a national identity. But replacing them with Southeast Asian languages was a complex process. In those with clear ethnic majorities such as Cambodia and Vietnam, the process could be more straightforward, but for other countries the problem of choosing which language became a point of tension. Toward the turn of the millennium, all of these countries would also begin to contend with the increasing prominence of English in world affairs.”

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