The Vietnam Briefing, which is released every Monday morning Vietnam time, looks at Vietnam’s social and political developments of the past week.
State Department released 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights, detailing Vietnam’s human rights abuses
- The U.S. Department of State released the 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights practice on April 12, which aimed at covering the international implementation of “individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements.”
- In the Vietnam section, the State Department report described the country as “an authoritarian state ruled by a single party” where there were no fair elections, limited competition among Communist Party-vetted candidates in the National Assembly, as well as notable abuses committed by members of the public security forces.
- Other issues, include the questionable independence of Vietnam’s judiciary, serious restrictions on freedom of expression and media, serious interference with citizens’ freedom of movement and peaceful assembly, government corruption, and hindrances to workers’ freedom of association, among other things, are all mentioned in the report.
- The State Department’s evaluation of Vietnam’s performance also highlighted allegedly unlawful killings by the government, harassment, intimidation, and torture of political activists and their families in police custody, in addition to arbitrary arrests and detention and the denial of a fair public trial, especially in cases regarded as endangering “national security.”
- Meanwhile, anyone who criticizes Vietnam’s human rights performance usually becomes a target of online harassment from supporters of the government and its funded cyber trolls, commonly known as the 47 Force.
- Enes Kanter Freedom, a professional basketball player who played for the Boston Celtics and who is famously known for his pro-democracy activism, has been targeted by pro-government trolls and internet users from Vietnam after he shared on social media photos of hand-painted shoes with messages advocating human rights in Vietnam.
- In his media post, Freedom underscored the country’s incarceration of human rights defenders and journalists, as well as its lack of freedom of expression, speech, and the press.
- The athlete also asked his fan base to “stand up for human rights” in Vietnam while condemning the Vietnamese Communist Party and Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party, for their suppression of the fundamental freedoms of Vietnamese citizens.
Vietnamese poet accuses her former colleague of sexual assault, igniting a potential #MeToo movement in Vietnam
- Vietnam’s social media has been stirred up the past few weeks after Phan Thi Thanh Thuy, a renowned Vietnamese poet, also known by her pen name Da Thao Phuong, accused her former colleague at Vietnam’s Literature and Arts Magazine, of sexually harassing her when she was working at the publishing house 22 years ago. Thuy made the accusation on April 6 in a Facebook posting.
- Phuong’s social media post has attracted massive public attention in Vietnam, gathering more than 64,000 interactions as of April 17.
- According to the poet’s accusation, her colleague, Luong Ngoc An, who is currently the magazine’s deputy editor, allegedly sexually assaulted her when she was working alone at the publisher’s bureau on April 14, 2000.
- Phuong added that the now deputy editor had previously attempted to “manipulate, control, abuse and rape” her during the period between July 1999 and April 2000.
- The female poet disclosed that she suffered serious mental breakdowns following the incident and she said the reason she chose to speak up now was to “change the current situation” and to assure that no one would have to go through what she has experienced. She also said that the victims of sexual harassment in Vietnam are still being stigmatized for the crimes they did not commit and that this shocked her.
- Speaking from a legal perspective, Vietnamese attorney Ngo Anh Tuan argued that it was “almost impossible” to sue the alleged perpetrator as the duration for filing a lawsuit for rape cases in Vietnam is 20 years.
- Da Thao Phuong’s allegations may have sparked a #MeToo movement in Vietnam, although it remains small. On April 13, 2022, Bui Mai Hanh, a Vietnamese writer living in Australia, also publicly accused Luong Ngoc An of attempting to rape her 25 years ago.
- In an interview with the local newspaper Vietnamnet, An said he had filed a report to the police for libel because he was “defamed” by Da Thao Phuong. An said that this was a “necessary” response to the ongoing scandal. He later reportedly resigned as deputy editor at Vietnam’s Literature and Arts Magazine to take up a new position starting May 1, according to a statement by the magazine.
Former police officer receives another charge of “abusing the rights to freedom and democracy”
- Le Chi Thanh, a former policeman, and correctional officer received another charge on April 12 for allegedly “abusing the rights to freedom and democracy to violate the state’s interests, legitimate rights, and interests of organizations and individuals,” which is a violation of Article 331 of Vietnam’s 2015 Penal Code.
- According to his indictment, Thanh used his Facebook account to “publish videos and posts that distort and infringe on the rights of the State and individuals” when he accused several correctional supervisors at the detention centers where he worked of corruption.
- Previously, Thanh was convicted of “resisting officers on official duty” on January 14 and sentenced to two years in jail for opposing the confiscation of his car by the Ho Chi Minh City Police on March 2, 2021. The police said that he was pulled over for driving in the wrong lane but Thanh argued that their actions were politically motivated.
- The Ho Chi Minh City High Court on April 13 upheld the two-year sentence after Thanh appealed the court’s verdict in January.
- Meanwhile, citizen journalist Le Van Dung, also known as Le Dung Vova, had filed an appeal against the court’s decision after he was sentenced to five years in prison and five years probation on March 23 for “distributing anti-state materials,” according to his family.
- Le Dung Vova’s family told RFA Vietnamese in an interview that they still had not been allowed to call or visit Dung in prison since his first instance trial. Bui Thi Hue, Dung’s wife, previously said that she was also not allowed to attend her husband’s trial last month.
Thai authorities release Vietnamese refugees after detaining them for “not having a passport”
- Thai authorities on April 8 detained Vietnamese political dissident Chu Manh Son, along with four other Vietnamese refugees, when he went to the headquarters of the Royal Thai Police in Bangkok to request a police report for an immigration application to relocate to Canada with his family members, RFA reports.
- Son was arrested in 2011 and later sentenced to 30 months in prison for “conducting propaganda against the state” after he campaigned and participated in several anti-China rallies in Vietnam.
- Son and his family members, who were later granted U.N. refugee status, were forced to flee to Thailand in 2017 after he was arrested again in 2016 for protesting the Hung Nghiep Formosa Ha Tinh, Ltd.’s environmental pollution scandal in central Vietnam. These Vietnamese refugees faced possible deportation after they were charged with illegally residing in Thailand a day after being arrested.
- On April 13, Chu Manh Son told RFA that he and another political refugee, Nguyen Van Them, were released on bail with the help of their lawyers and UN representatives. But Them’s wife, Nguyen Thi Luyen, and their two children were still being held in a Thai immigration detention facility because they had tested positive for COVID-19.
Vietnam arrests deputy foreign minister in bribery case
- Vietnamese police on April 14 arrested To Anh Dung, deputy minister of Foreign Affairs, on allegations of bribery, according to the Ministry of Public Security.
- Dung, 58, is accused of taking bribes; police have searched his house, the ministry said in a statement.
- Dung’s arrest is part of a wider investigation into foreign ministry officials who have been accused of taking bribes from Vietnamese citizens abroad who wanted to return to the country on “rescue flights” during the COVID-19 pandemic when commercial flights were not available, according to state media.
- The police on Thursday also arrested an official of the Health Ministry and an official of the Ministry of Public Security for involvement in the same case. Four foreign ministry officials were arrested earlier in January.
Vietnamese girl’s 1940 birth certificate could support Paracels sovereignty claim
- New evidence has emerged that may help support Vietnam’s claims over the Paracel islands in the South China Sea, currently occupied by China.
- A copy of a birth certificate issued in June 1940 claims that Mai Kim Quy, a girl, was born at 3 p.m. on Dec. 9, 1939, on Pattle Island to Mai Xuan Tap, a Vietnamese meteorologist, and his wife, Nguyen Thi Thang.
- The birth certificate was witnessed by Nguyen Tang Chuan, a medical doctor, and Do Duc Mui, head of the local radio communication station.
- This indicates that French Indochina, of which Vietnam was a part at the time, had administrative control of the island and that Vietnamese people worked there. That could be significant evidence of Vietnam’s claim to disputed features in the South China Sea and may show that Vietnam was the first to have an official presence there.
Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam
The Diplomat/ Phan Xuan Dung/ April 14
“Negative reactions to the U.S. Embassy’s Facebook post show that the U.S. insensitivity to the Agent Orange issue could undercut the Vietnamese people’s generally favorable opinion of the country, in the context of rising concerns about China. Regardless of the legality of Agent Orange, given the controversies surrounding the herbicide, the United States would be best placed to avoid insinuating that it is not guilty of chemical weapons use.”
ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute/ Kimkong Heng/ April 12
“Bilateral relations between Cambodia and Vietnam can be considered a love-hate relationship. As immediate neighbours with a long history of engagement, collaboration, and hostility, the two countries have been both friends and enemies. Following the fall of the Khmer Empire in the 15th century, weakened Cambodia was constantly threatened by its two more powerful neighbours, Thailand and Vietnam. To counter the threat from Thailand, Cambodia would establish an alliance with Vietnam and vice versa. Cambodia’s formal relationship with Vietnam began in the early 1600s when Cambodian King Chey Chetha II married a daughter of Vietnamese Lord Nguyen Hy Tong. Through the alliance, Vietnamese migrants were permitted to settle in Khmer territory. The complex relationship between the two countries and between Cambodia and Thailand have also led to Cambodia’s diminishing independence over the past centuries.”
The Diplomat/ Matthew P. Goodman, Aidan Arasasingham/ April 15
“After years on the sidelines in Asia, the Biden administration hopes its new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) will get the United States back in the economic game. But while partners in the region welcome a U.S. return to the economic field, they remain skeptical of the benefits of joining Team IPEF. For the Biden administration to win over regional partners, it must address questions and concerns.”