The Vietnam Briefing, which is released every Monday morning Vietnam time, looks at Vietnam’s social and political developments of the past week.
Day to remember: On February 17, 1979, hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops crossed Vietnam’s northern border and launched a bloody invasion of its ideological bedfellow. While Chinese soldiers reportedly withdrew from Vietnam on March 18, sporadic clashes and provocations by Chinese forces were documented in several of Vietnam’s border provinces over the coming decades. It is estimated that tens of thousands of casualties were recorded on both sides.
The Vietnamese government systematically restricts the freedom of movement of political dissidents, says Human Rights Watch
- On February 17, rights advocate Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report documenting the Vietnamese government’s violation of the right to freedom of movement of local activists, dissidents, human rights defenders, and others.
- The 65-page report, titled “Locked Inside Our Home: Movement Restrictions on Rights Activists in Vietnam,” reviews the government’s systematic obstruction of movement of more than 170 Vietnamese activists, bloggers, human rights defenders, as well as their family members. The Vietnamese authorities are reportedly “engaged in collective punishment” against dissidents, including the practice of imposing arbitrary house arrests, confiscating their passports, banning them from international travel, and other forms of control.
- According to HRW, these methods are used to prevent local dissenting communities from “attending protests, criminal trials, meetings with foreign diplomats and a US president, and other events.”
- “Vietnamese rights campaigners face severe government repression just because they dare to organize or attend events, or seek to travel for their work,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of HRW. “Vietnam’s donors and trade partners should recognize this daily repression of free movement and press the government to end these paralyzing practices.”
Vietnamese workers strike to demand better working benefits
- More than 2,000 workers at a Korean electronics factory in Vietnam’s northern industrial province of Bac Ninh went on strike on Monday, following a successful worker action at another foreign-owned plant in the country, local media reported.
- Employees at the Cresyn Hanoi Co factory demanded wage increases, meal allowances, and bonuses for working on Vietnam’s Reunification Day on April 30 and Labor Day on May 1, according to a Vietnamese daily newspaper, Tien Phong.
- The strike comes after a successful strike by workers at the Taiwanese-owned footwear manufacturer Viet Glory Co., a factory located in central Vietnam’s Nghe An Province. The company ceded to demands by its 5,000-strong workforce to increase salaries and provide extra pay for long-term workers, along with other benefits, according to state media.
Dissident blogger Huynh Thuc Vy relocated to a new detention center
- On February 18, the family of activist and dissident blogger Huynh Thuc Vy told RFA Vietnamese that she had been transferred to a new detention center, which is located about 200 kilometers from her home.
- Vy, 36, was sentenced to nearly three years in prison for “insulting Vietnam’s national flag” in 2018 after she was found spraying paint on the Communist country’s flag on its Independence Day. She was granted a stay of execution but was subsequently arrested on December 1 last year after the court reversed its previous decision.
- Since then, Vy had been detained at the Dak Lak Police Detention Center. But according to Huynh Ngoc Tuan, her father, she was recently transferred to Gia Trung Detention Center on January 28, a facility located in Gia Lai Province. Tuan added that he only learned about the relocation of Vy on February 10, after he went to the Dak Lak Police to give basic necessities to his daughter.
- According to the latest update on social media from Vy’s father, she called home on February 20. “[Vy’s] health and mentality are in good condition,” Tuan wrote.
New U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam in a speech vows to promote bilateral relations
- Ambassador to Vietnam Marc Knapper on February 17 emphasized the relationship between Vietnam and the United States where their cooperation needs to be in five main areas under its new Indo-Pacific Strategy, VnExpress reports.
- The five points of the new strategy include the pursuit of a free and open Indo-Pacific, expanding cooperation, promoting prosperity, enhancing security, and strengthening the resilience of the region, Knapper said on the sidelines of a conference helping Vietnam resolve the postwar landmines legacy.
- “The U.S. and Vietnam have a great relationship, developing in all aspects including security, trade, investment, climate change, health, people-to-people diplomacy, energy, science, and technology,” he added.
- Previously, in a video released by the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi at the start of his new position, Knapper said he is “honored to return to Vietnam” and vowed to “continue the important work our two nations are doing together and to build upon it.”
- Nonetheless, many human rights advocates expressed their disappointment that the new ambassador had made no mention concerning the human rights problem in Vietnam.
- Meanwhile, in a co-written letter sent to Ambassador Knapper on January 28, Congresswomen Zoe Lofgren and Anna G. Eshoo, along with five House colleagues, congratulated him on his new position and urged him to prioritize the ongoing human rights issues in Vietnam. “We understand Vietnam and the United States are seeking to build a closer strategic relationship.... Such a relationship, however, cannot come at the expense of human rights and values that the international community upholds,” the letter said.
The 88 Project highlights concerns over tightening freedom of expression
“This periodic legal update is The 88 Project’s effort to monitor and document the legal developments related to freedom of expression in Vietnam. Bringing them to light and under the scrutiny of human rights observers will help hold the Vietnamese government accountable in the implementation of the human rights commitment that the authorities have made to their own citizens and to the international community:
- Directive 12/CT-TTg (May 2021): The Origin of the COVID national crackdown
- Circular 30/2021/TT-BGDĐT (November 2021): Prior Censorship Down to the Kindergarten Level
- Decree 86/2021/NĐ-CP (September 2021): A Reminder for Academics Abroad
- Decision 2576/QĐ-BVHTTDL (October 2021): “Combatting” Freedom of Religion”
Vietnam to fully reopen borders in mid-March
“Vietnam on Wednesday finalized a plan to fully reopen its borders to foreign tourists from next month, as it looks to accelerate its economic recovery and revive a battered tourism sector.
“The approval is in accordance with the government's new responses to the pandemic, which are adapting safely and flexibly and controlling the virus effectively,” the government said in a statement.”
Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam
Rising Risks from Cross-ownership between Real Estate Developers and Banks in Vietnam
ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute/ Tuan Ho, Tuan Huu Nguyen, Trang Thi Ngoc Nguyen, and Tho Ngoc Tran/ February 17
“Some industry experts have warned about the risks associated with this new form of cross-holdings in the banking system, particularly amid disruptions to the real estate market caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. For example, Le Xuan Nghia, former vice-chairman of the National Financial Supervisory Committee, emphasized that real estate companies serving as “backyards” of commercial banks need special attention from regulators. He pointed out that several real estate developers have weak balance sheets, high debt-to-total asset ratio, and low liquidity ratio, and that their financial position “may be even worse than Evergrande’s”. He also argued that the true picture is blurred by a thick “financial fog” and the common practice of developers using nominees, such as their drivers, housekeepers and security guards, to set up affiliates to get bank loans on their behalf. He warned that if regulators failed to supervise carefully, cases like Evergrande would soon emerge in Vietnam.”
Girl’s fatal beating spotlights child abuse in Vietnam
Southeast Asia Globe/ Govi Snell/ February 17
“The girl’s death brought renewed attention to the prevalence of child abuse in the country. Although progress has been made in protecting Vietnamese children, maltreatment rates remain high. A UNICEF survey found 68.4% of Vietnamese children between 1 and 14-years-old have been victims of domestic violence by their parents or caretakers.”
Southeast Asian Elite Survey Paints Complex Picture of China Ties
The Diplomat/ Sebastian Strangio/ February 17
“Ultimately, the 2022 State of Southeast Asia survey report articulates with a considerable degree of nuance the region’s fraught and ambivalent views of China, which can perhaps best be summed up as “can’t live with it, can’t live without it.” While Southeast Asians are overwhelmingly fearful of Beijing’s growing power and ambition, they are also aware that it is an important economic interlocutor and an unavoidable partner on many of the region’s most pressing issues. Similarly, while the U.S. and other major powers command higher levels of trust and support among the region’s elites, the latter do not share Washington’s often binary framing of U.S.-China competition, and are unlikely to join any coalition organized solely around the goal of containing Chinese power.”
China and the Fall of South Vietnam: The Last Great Secret of the Vietnam War
Wilson Center/ George J. Veith/ February 9
“Why would China militarily intercede to thwart a North Vietnamese victory, especially after years of supporting Hanoi?
China wanted a neutral South Vietnam to prevent being surrounded by a potential Moscow-Hanoi pact. Nayan Chanda, the highly respected correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review, extensively detailed the Chinese dread of a unified Vietnam. He wrote that Beijing has “consistently followed the policy of maintaining by all the means at its disposal a fragmented Indochina free of the major powers. These means included quiet diplomacy, economic persuasion, and, of course, use of its military might.”[ii]”