The Vietnam Briefing, which is released every Monday morning Vietnam time, looks at Vietnam’s social and political developments of the past week.
Vietnamese courts approve appeal requests for local activists
- On February 14, the Hanoi Supreme People’s Court sent a notice to attorney Dang Dinh Manh that on January 27 it had approved his application as a defense lawyer for the appeal trial of journalist Pham Doan Trang.
- The court’s decision was followed by Doan Trang’s request for an appeal after her conviction of “distributing anti-state propaganda” and received nine years of imprisonment. The appeal hearing is expected to take place within 90 days of the approval day.
- Also, the family of activist Do Nam Trung announced last week that the Hanoi Court on the same day had approved attorney Dang Dinh Manh as a defense lawyer for his appeal hearing. Trung was given a 10-year prison sentence for “distributing anti-state propaganda” last year, which was considered relatively harsh given his less well-known activism.
- Meanwhile, attorney Manh also told RFA Vietnamese in an interview that he would defend Le Huu Minh Tuan, a member of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN), in his appeal hearing scheduled on February 28. Tuan was sentenced to an 11-year prison sentence in January 2021, along with two other members of IJAVN, on allegations of “distributing anti-state propaganda.
- At the same time, Tran Quoc Khanh, who self-nominated himself as a candidate for Vietnam’s National Assembly elections last year, had his previous conviction upheld at an appeal trial on February 17. Khanh was sentenced to six and a half years of imprisonment last October under allegations of “distributing anti-state propaganda.”
Vietnamese court to try another independent journalist on “anti-state” charges
- The Hanoi People’s Court is scheduled to hold a trial on March 11 for the independent journalist Le Van Dung, commonly known by his pen name Le Dung Vova, on accusations of “distributing anti-state propaganda,” according to his defense lawyer Ha Huy Son.
- Dung, 52, was detained in late June last year after the police issued a national warrant for his arrest. He was on the run when the investigation authorities announced their decision to prosecute and arrest him in May 2021.
- Le Van Dung owned a Vietnamese language personal media channel, Chan Hung Nuoc Viet TV, where he reported and live-streamed his comments on different social and environmental issues. According to Dung’s family, the evidence used to prosecute him mostly consists of his online live streamings.
- Attorney Son also told RFA Vietnamese during an interview that his client’s health and mentality remained stable.
Local citizens assaulted over land rights disputes
- Last week, a video showing a group of people wearing uniforms beating up several female protesters was widely circulated on Vietnamese social media. The conflict was later confirmed to have occurred at a construction site on February 18 in Hoang Hoa District, Thanh Hoa Province.
- According to RFA’s investigation, the citizens who were assaulted during the conflict are members of a local family who had disputes over land ownership with an investment company called Flamingo. The company is carrying out a luxury resort project at the locality. Meanwhile, the attackers were said to be Flamingo’s security guards.
- Tran Huy Hiep, who recorded the video, and who also has a land ownership dispute with Flamingo, said that his land was forcefully confiscated by the investment company without any compensation. When asked about whether or not his family had informed the provincial authorities of the conflict, Hiep said his family had contacted the district authorities, but that they claimed that “the land was owned by the local district government” and therefore it has the right to “sell that [land] to the company.”
The Archdiocese of Hanoi calls for respect for religious freedom in a letter to authorities
- On February 24, the Catholic Church in Hanoi sent a letter of urgent complaint to various Vietnamese provincial and national authorities and called on the People’s Committee of Hoa Binh Province to respect the religious freedom and pastoral activities of the Catholic faithful in the province.
- The letter was published four days after two people entered the Vu Ban Church in Hoa Binh Province, taking the microphone from the pulpit and ordering those attending mass to disperse for “pandemic control” reasons. The people are the secretary of the Communist Party of the city of Vu Ban City, Pham Hong Duc, and vice-president of its People’s Committee, Pham Van Chien.
- In the published letter, the Archdiocese of Hanoi said: "This is a disrespectful act, an abuse of power that seriously violates the right to religious freedom, the right to the religious practice of bishops, priests and laypeople.”
- The statement also said that this gesture “is unacceptable in a country where the rule of law prevails” and it “has aroused indignation and the pain of those who attended the mass as well as all those who saw the images on the web and social media.”
The Vietnamese government, “concerned” about the situation in Ukraine, plans to evacuate citizens
- In a statement on February 25, the spokeswoman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Le Thi Thu Hang said Vietnam “is concerned about the armed conflict in Ukraine” and that it called on involved sides “to exercise restraint, abide by the United Nations Charter and basic principles of international law,” among other things.
- The country, however, did not condemn Russia’s military operations against Ukraine while only describing the invasion as “armed conflict” on state media.
- At the same time, Vietnam Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh has ordered the Ministry of Transport to prepare plans to evacuate Vietnamese citizens and their families in Ukraine, VnExpress reports. According to government numbers, there are about 7,000 Vietnamese people living in Ukraine, mainly in Kharkiv, Odessa, and Kyiv.
U.S. envoy for climate vows to help Vietnam meet key COP26 commitment
- The U.S. special presidential envoy for climate, John Kerry, has expressed his appreciation for Vietnam’s COP26 commitments and reaffirmed the U.S. pledge to assist the country with this effort.
- Kerry, who paid a four-day visit to Vietnam starting February 22, said the U.S. stood ready to assist Vietnam in reviewing, adjusting its strategy, and planning towards the goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, a key commitment announced by Vietnam’s leaders at COP26 in the United Kingdom last November.
- He also added the United States would continue to work closely with Vietnam on specific and timely measures, especially in developing renewable energy and reducing emissions, formulating policies to phase out coal power, and developing sustainable infrastructure.
Forbes Vietnam removes a man from its Under 30 list following harassment allegations
- Ngo Hoang Anh, 22, has been removed from the Forbes Vietnam Under 30 list, the magazine announced Thursday. The Forbes list published on February 14 honors Anh in the field of science and education, but it drew a backlash after several high school classmates said they had been verbally harassed by him.
- “Regarding the case of Ngo Hoang Anh, after carefully considering all aspects of the issue, including the inspirational spirit of the list and Ngo Hoang Anh’s wishes in an email sent to the magazine, Forbes Vietnam decided to withdraw him from Year 2022 Under 30 list.”
- The Forbes Vietnam 30 Under 30 listing has been honoring Vietnamese youth in several areas including businesses and startups, science and education, social activities, art, entertainment, and sports.
Vietnam Hit by Fuel Shortages as Hundreds of Retailers Run Dry
“Vietnam is suffering from fuel shortages with hundreds of retailers forced to halt sales, prompting Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh to order an investigation of the market, including imports and exports of gasoline.
Nearly 300 petrol and oil retailers across the country have stopped product sales, according to the trade ministry, which carried out a round of inspections. Reasons ranged from insufficient supplies from wholesalers and distributors to workers contracting Covid-19, it said. Local media have published photos of shuttered petrol stations displaying signs that they had run out of gasoline.”
Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam
RFA/ RFA Staff/ February 24
“When the so-called Euromaidan protest movement rocked Ukraine in 2014, followed by the Russia-Ukraine conflict that led to the annexation of Crimea by Russia, Vietnamese state-run media generally blamed the crisis on “the West.” Fault was seen to lie with the U.S. and on NATO expansion aimed at bringing Ukraine out of Russia’s sphere of influence.
Today, the picture is different.”
East Asia Forum/ Hai Hong Nguyen/ February 23
“With public attention increasing, the Viet A case will serve as a ‘test kit’ for Trong and the CPV’s anti-corruption efforts. Vietnamese netizens are embroiled in the question of the true perpetrators behind this multi-million-dollar case. Some suspect the case is wholesale ‘state manipulation’ beyond just a few bad actors. Regardless, Phan Dinh Trac, an assistant to Trong in the CSCC and Head of the Central Commission for Internal Affairs (CCIA), recently affirmed that the CCIA would pursue the Viet A and other grand corruption cases to the end despite mounting pressure.”
Eurasia Review/ Veeramalla Anjaiah/ February 25
“With a population of about 100 million people and a dynamic market profile (low-cost labor, rapid-growing economy, and strategic location among other strengths), Vietnam is an appealing target for Singapore partners to establish businesses.
Vietnam needs a strong supporter like Singapore in its conflict with China. The aggressive behavior of China in the SCS and growing tensions between China and the US are threatening the peace and security in the region.”