The Vietnam Briefing, which is released every Monday morning Vietnam time, looks at Vietnam’s social and political developments of the past week.
Ambassadors in Vietnam call on Hanoi to support Ukraine in the midst of Russia’s invasion
- Nearly two dozen ambassadors from the European Union, Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom serving in Vietnam have called on Hanoi to support Ukraine in an op-ed published on March 8. The call was publicized following Vietnam’s abstention in the United Nations’ resolution condemning Russian aggression against a sovereign country.
- The diplomats also acknowledged Vietnam’s special relationship to Russia due to its shared history with the Soviet Union. “The Soviet Union helped Vietnam in times of need when others did not,” wrote the op-ed signed by 22 ambassadors in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi. “But the Soviet Union is long gone and we are in a new era,” they added.
- “But in this time of crisis we must all focus on the fundamental question of whether it is justified for Russia, a big country, to bully and invade its neighbor Ukraine, in order to try and redraw boundaries on the map against international rules,” the letter noted.
- In conclusion, the diplomats implored Vietnam to share their view that de-escalation and withdrawal are the right actions for legal and humanitarian reasons as well as the correct political choice for Russia and the international community for the sake of peace and stability.
Vietnamese police continue investigation into local monastery over “abuse of democratic freedom” charges
- State media on March 8 quoted a police officer in Long An Province Police as saying that they had continued their search and further investigations into Tinh That Bong Lai, a local monastery and orphanage, over accusations of “abusing democratic freedom,” “committing fraud,” and “incest.”
- Previously, the police had conducted an investigation into the monastery and arrested four of its monks and nuns, including head monk Le Tung Van, for “abusing democratic freedom.” Van was later granted bail and put under house arrest due to his old age.
- Three other monks, Le Thanh Hoan Nguyen, Le Thanh Nhat Nguyen, and Le Thanh Trung Duong were recently transferred to a provincial detention center and had their detention duration extended for another month to comply with a further police investigation.
- Attorney Dang Dinh Manh, who registered as one of Tinh That Bong Lai’s defense attorneys, told RFA on January 21 that the nuns and monks living inside the monastery were “completely isolated from the outside world,” referring to the heavy police presence guarding the facility.
- Several independent observers claim that the Vietnamese authorities have deployed these charges to legitimize their suppression of religious freedom.
Vietnamese villagers protesting over land rights attacked by plainclothes individuals
- More than 100 Vietnamese villagers demanding title to their land were assaulted on March 7 by attackers wearing civilian clothes while police looked on and refused to intervene, according to local sources.
- The attack took place in Dien Ban Town, located in central Vietnam’s Quang Nam Province. It came after petitioners set up tents and raised banners in front of the town’s People’s Committee headquarters, asking for their right to land plots for which they paid five years ago, RFA quoted a local source as saying.
- A group of around 30 men wearing face masks, helmets, and civilian clothes later arrived and attacked the group, beating petitioners including children and elderly women, said Nguyen Thi Thanh Tam, a local petitioner. “They even sprayed us with fire extinguishers and took away our tents, illegally detaining protesters and taking them to a nearby police station,” she added.
- Individuals associated with the police have frequently been used by Vietnamese authorities in the past to break up land-rights protests or attack political dissidents or members of unsanctioned religious groups.
Pham Doan Trang featured as a recipient of the 2022 International Women of Courage Award
- On March 8, the U.S. Department of State announced a list of 12 women recipients of the 2022 International Women of Courage Award (IWOC). This year, Vietnamese journalist Pham Doan Trang has been featured as one of the award recipients for her works and advocacy of “human rights, rule of law, and the inclusion of all voices in political spaces in Vietnam.”
- In its 16th year, the IWOC Award has honored women around the world who “have demonstrated exceptional courage, strength, and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equity and equality, and the empowerment of women and girls, in all their diversity,” writes the media note. The awardees have been recognized especially for their sacrifice due to the risky nature of their work.
- According to the State Department, the awardees are nominated by U.S. diplomatic missions in their host countries and the finalists are chosen and approved by senior State Department officials. The First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden, will deliver her remarks at the IWOC ceremony recognizing this year’s IWOC awardees.
- Meanwhile, in an interview with RFA on International Women’s Day on March 8, activist and singer Mai Khoi said that up to 63 percent of Vietnamese women have experienced a certain type of violence, and the lack of government attention to this important issue.
- “The most important thing is every Vietnamese woman needs to understand her rights,” Mai Khoi said in the interview. “Once they have a good understanding, they will use their rights properly and not allow violence and abuse. They will also be able to become the person they would like to be.”
German Consul General meets with local activists in Vietnam’s Central Highlands
- On March 9, Josefine Wallat, consul general at the Consulate of Germany in Ho Chi Minh City, held a meeting with Vietnamese human rights and religious freedom activists in Buon Ma Thuot City, Dak Lak Province.
- On the next day, Wallat visited the families of Ngo Van Dung and Huynh Thuc Vy, two local prisoners of conscience in the region, and Pham Ngoc Thach of the Vietnamese Gospel Mennonite Church. During the visit, she asked about the conditions and overall health of the political prisoners. “I am truly glad that they [the German consulate] care about us, even though we live in a rural area,” said Huynh Thi Kim Nga, wife of Ngo Van Dung.
- Dung was a citizen journalist and also a member of the Hien Phap (Constitution) group, an organization established with an aim to educate Vietnamese citizens of their constitutional rights. He was arrested in 2018 under “disrupting security” charges and sentenced to five years in prison. Huynh Thuc Vy was a freelance blogger who was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison for spraying paint on Vietnam’s national flag.
- According to the activists and the prisoners’ families, the local authorities did not harass and prevent them from meeting with the German consul general. But the activists noticed that there seemed to be secret surveillance from the public security forces.
Vietnam Prime Minister pays tribute to martyrs of the Spratly reefs skirmish
- Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh paid tribute on March 12 to soldiers who died defending the Johnson South Reef, or Gac Ma in Vietnamese, against China 34 years ago.
- Chinh laid floral tributes and burned incense at the Gac Ma memorial site in the central province of Khanh Hoa, which commemorates the 64 Vietnamese soldiers who died defending the reefs in the Spratly Archipelago on March 14, 1988. Vietnam subsequently lost the battle and Gac Ma was later controlled by Chinese forces.
Two military officials arrested for being involved in Vietnam’s COVID-19 testing kit fraud
“Two officials at the Military Medical Academy in Hanoi were arrested Tuesday for their involvement in the test kit fraud of Viet A Technology Corporation.
Colonel Ho Anh Son, deputy director of the academy’s Military Medical Research Institute, is being investigated for “embezzlement” and “abuse of power and official position” in line with the Penal Code, while Senior Colonel Nguyen Van Hieu, head of the Equipment and Supplies Department, is under investigation for "violating regulations on bidding, causing serious consequences.””
Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam
WhoWhatWhy/ William Dowell/ March 10
“The irony is that, in contrast to Vietnam, Ukraine really has strategic importance. It is the keystone to security in Europe, effectively a buffer that separates today’s Russia from its former satellite colonies in Eastern Europe. Short-range nuclear missiles stationed in Ukraine could hold most of the capitals of Europe hostage to Putin’s ambitions. Likewise, if Ukraine were to fall in NATO’s camp, similar missiles could threaten Russia’s heartland.”
School Closures and Child Labour: The Pandemic’s Social Cost
Fulcrum/ Thai Long, Phi Minh Hong/ March 11
“Most countries do not officially report child labour statistics, but the available data paints a sobering picture. UNICEF’s database, published by Save the Children, shows that child labour – defined as the proportion of the population aged 5 to 17 years involved in work – is significant in the ASEAN region. However, the problem varies in severity across countries. Between 2012 and 2019, child labour incidence was recorded at 28.2 percent in Laos and 13.1 percent in Vietnam. Cambodia’s rate of 12.6 percent is identical to the global average. ASEAN countries have implemented excellent policies to reduce poverty and raise awareness about child development over the past years, but COVID-19 might have slowed down or even reversed the progress made.”
Russian Invasion of Ukraine Poses Geopolitical Quandaries for Vietnam
Fulcrum/ Phan Xuan Dung/ March 2
“Hanoi’s problem is that many of the parties involved in the conflict have healthy and cooperative relationships with Vietnam. Russia is a comprehensive strategic partner and Vietnam’s largest weapons supplier. The US enjoys growing security and defence cooperation with Vietnam. Ukraine has a comprehensive partnership with Vietnam and the two countries have been stepping up bilateral cooperation on various issues. Vietnam’s business and trade connections with Europe are also thriving. Hanoi would want to avoid rocking the boat in any of these relationships.”
Why the Russia-Ukraine War is Not the Same as the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979
The Diplomat/ Khang Vu/ March 1
“The difference in Vietnam having an official ally while Ukraine does not renders infeasible any attempts to use the Sino-Vietnamese war to predict Russian behavior. We cannot even guess if China’s invasion of Vietnam would have been limited in the absence of a Vietnam-Soviet alliance, or whether China would have invaded had Hanoi never tilted to the Soviet side in the first place. Counterfactual reasoning is rarely easy.”
Vietnam’s crackdown target: citizens who can inspire others
RFA/ Zachary Abuza/ March 7
“In fact, security forces are increasingly surgical in who they target: people who have the ability to mobilize their fellow citizens.
That speaks to the insecurities and vulnerabilities of the Vietnam Communist Party (VCP), which rose to power not just through their leadership in the anti-colonial struggle against the French and Americans, but through their ability to mobilize the population. That remains a key function of the party.”