The Vietnam Briefing, which is released every Monday morning Vietnam time, looks at Vietnam’s social and political developments of the past week.
Vietnam sentences former citizen journalist to 5 years in prison
- Le Van Dung, an independent journalist also known by his pen name Le Dung Vova, was sentenced to five years in prison and five years probation for “distributing anti-state materials” under Article 88 of Vietnam’s former 1999 Penal Code during a two-hour trial at the Hanoi’s People Court on March 23.
- Le Dung Vova runs an independent Youtube channel called “Chan Hung Nuoc Viet TV” (Reinvigorating Vietnam Television). In 2017, he posted videos and hosted talk shows on the channel discussing various social and political issues. He also nominated himself as an independent candidate in Vietnam’s 2021 National Assembly elections but was eventually disqualified by the Vietnamese authorities.
- One day before the trial, Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned Hanoi’s move to prosecute Le Van Dung and urged Vietnamese authorities to drop all charges and release him. “International donors and trade partners of Vietnam should press Hanoi to listen to its critics instead of persecuting them,” said Phil Robertson, HRW’s deputy Asia director.
- Meanwhile, the press freedom advocate Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on March 23 pushed Vietnam to “release journalist Le Van Dung immediately and stop imprisoning members of the press.” “If Vietnam wants to be taken seriously as a responsible global actor, it must stop treating journalists as criminals,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative.
Vietnam upholds activist’s conviction for “distributing anti-state materials”
- On March 24, the Nam Dinh Provincial People’s Court upheld activist Do Nam Trung’s conviction for “creating, storing, and disseminating information, documents, items, and publications opposing the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of Vietnam’s 2015 Penal Code.
- Last December, Trung was sentenced to 10 years in prison and four years of probation for his advocacy of the protection of human rights, the environment and Vietnam’s maritime sovereignty.
- Meanwhile, Trinh Thi Nhung, wife of local dissident blogger Bui Van Thuan, said that an investigator of the Thanh Hoa Police’s investigation unit threatened to arrest her if she did not limit her posts regarding the activism of Thuan on social media.
- Previously, Nhung received a police summons on March 16 and was requested to present herself at the provincial police station.
- The investigator also demanded Nhung provide the verification of the ownership of Thuan’s and her Facebook accounts for their investigation. Nhung said the police later threatened that they had all the evidence to prosecute her after she refused to comply with their demands.
- Dissident blogger Bui Van Thuan was arrested in 2021 and also prosecuted under Vietnam’s Article 117 for “distributing anti-state propaganda.” Thuan is now being held in pretrial detention in Thanh Hoa Province.
Family of land rights activist Can Thi Theu allowed to visit her in prison
- On March 24, the family of the Duong Noi land activist Can Thi Theu was allowed to visit her after she was transferred from Hoa Binh provincial police’s detention center to Thanh Hoa’s Camp 5 prison last month, according to her daughter Trinh Thi Thao. Theu had not been allowed to write, call or visit her family for a total of 21 months, Thao added.
- Thao wrote that Theu’s overall health remained stable, but she looked skinnier since the first instance trial. She also added that her mother was subject to different types of mental and physical torture while in custody at the Hoa Binh provincial police detention center.
- According to Thao, the torture methods deployed by Vietnamese authorities included the isolation of her mother with HIV-infected prisoners, sending her to solitary confinement with unbearable conditions, and depriving her of basic necessities while in detention.
- Thao added that Trinh Ba Tu had been beaten in custody and was on hunger strike for 20 days.
- Meanwhile, Do Thi Thu, wife of Trinh Ba Phuong, was allowed to visit her husband earlier on March 8. According to Thu, Phuong’s health remains in good condition and he received the single dose Russian-made COVID-19 Sputnik Light vaccine last December.
Vietnam abstains from United Nations’ resolution calling to send humanitarian aid to Ukraine
- On March 24, 140 members of the UN General Assembly voted in favor of a resolution drafted by Ukraine and its allies to provide aid access and civilian protection in the country after Moscow invaded its neighbor one month ago.
- One the one hand, Vietnam’s foreign ministry previously said in a press statement that the country “will support and contribute to UN humanitarian relief activities for Ukraine” in accordance with its permitted capabilities.
- At the UN’s special session on March 23, Vietnamese Permanent Representative Dang Hoang Giang also reaffirmed Hanoi’s promise to join the effort of the international community in its humanitarian support for Ukraine.
- Yet, Vietnam remained one of 38 countries that abstained from voting for the UN resolution on March 24 calling to facilitate such humanitarian assistance and operations.
- It was also one of 35 countries on March 2 that did not vote in favor of the resolution to condemn Moscow’s aggression and demanded it to withdraw its troops.
- According to The Vietnamese Magazine’s observations, state-owned media in Vietnam has largely avoided mentioning the country’s abstention of the UN General Assembly’s call to address the current humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.
Ukrainian fundraising event in Hanoi canceled by police
- Vietnamese police on March 18 prevented Ukrainians in Hanoi from holding a fundraiser to help those affected by Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, the event organizers said.
- The organizers planned to sell food and souvenirs and hold an art auction to raise money to send to Ukrainians affected by the war. They also arranged a musical performance to entertain visitors.
- But authorities informed them on Friday that the event to be held at the Chula Fashion House in Hanoi’s Tay Ho District had to be canceled because of “police intervention.” They provided no further details. The district is known for hosting small fashion shows, musical performances and art exhibitions.
- “We are very sad now as we have spent time and effort to prepare for the event,” a Ukrainian organizer who only gave her name as Julia told RFA. “We did all these things in order to raise funds for people in need in our home country.”
Vietnam arrests businesswoman turned YouTube sensation for her live streaming
- The Ho Chi Minh City’s Public Security Department arrested businesswoman and social media influencer Nguyen Phuong Hang for live streaming videos critical of celebrities and other figures, police announced Thursday.
- Hang, the director of a local amusement theme park Dai Nam, was detained last Friday on charges of “abusing freedom and democratic rights” under Article 331 of Vietnam’s 2015 Penal Code. Police said they arrested Hang for “insulting and using foul language to offend the honor and dignity of others” on her popular YouTube channel.
- Hang’s videos criticizing celebrities and politicians have made her an internet sensation in Vietnam, with each post garnering hundreds of thousands of views.
- The law used to prosecute Hang has also been widely deployed to silence dissenting voices and restrict freedom of speech in the country.
China has fully militarized at least three artificial islands in the South China Sea, says U.S. Admiral
- China has fully militarized at least three of several islands it built in the disputed South China Sea, U.S. Indo-Pacific commander Adm. John C. Aquilino told The Associated Press.
- The Admiral added that Beijing had also been arming them with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems, lasers, jamming equipment, and fighter jets.
- “I think over the past 20 years we’ve witnessed the largest military buildup since World War II by the PRC,” Aquilino said. “They have advanced all their capabilities and that buildup of weaponization is destabilizing to the region.”
Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam
Webinar: Vietnamese Civil Society: Recent Challenges and Prospects
Date: April 07, 2022
Time: GMT+8 10:00 am - 11:00 am
About: This webinar will present examples of civil society actions over the past decade and examine prospects for Vietnamese civil society’s survival and effectiveness. To what extent is civil society facing temporary setbacks, or a permanent reversal? And absent high-level policy changes, what can Vietnamese civic actors and their supporters do to remain viable in an era of Party dominance?
Ukraine conflict echoes loudest in Vietnam, not Taiwan
Nikkei Asia/ Derek Grossman/ March 21
“A fellow socialist state ruled by an authoritarian Communist Party, Hanoi is under growing pressure from China, particularly around overlapping sovereignty claims in the South China Sea. While China has not threatened an invasion of Vietnam like Russia’s of Ukraine, sometimes deadly maritime skirmishes between the two Asian countries have taken place. It is not unthinkable that an incident at sea could spill over onto land, disrupting the decadeslong peace at their shared border. To the contrary, such a scenario is more likely than an invasion of Taiwan any time soon.”
Explaining the Vietnamese Public’s Mixed Responses to the Russia-Ukraine Crisis
The Diplomat/ To Minh Son/ March 18
“One thing unites these public opinions and the state: The idea of “independence,” an animating yet open-ended concept in the Vietnamese psyche. Critics of the war attach the concept to ASEAN’s non-interference principle, respect of sovereignty, and the precedent it sets for Chinese aggression, while supporters refer to Vietnam’s “four no’s” principle, “national interest,” “bamboo diplomacy,” and American hypocrisy. These talking points proliferate as the conflict rages on, with each new statement by the Vietnamese state voraciously shared and reinterpreted by supporters and detractors alike.”
The Greening of Vietnam and Environmentalism 2.0
Geopolitical Monitor/ James Borton/ February 28
“Vietnam’s fast-track economic growth over the past several decades arrived at the expense of the environment, leading to polluted waterways, extensive loss of wildlife, marine biodiversity, and a near collapse of the fisheries. A global environmental performance ranking places Vietnam in 141st place out of 180 economies.”