The Vietnam Briefing, which is released every Monday morning Vietnam time, looks at Vietnam’s social and political developments of the past week.
Vietnamese attorney assaulted by police while defending their client
- On May 17, attorney Le Hoang Tung from Everest Law Firm filed a complaint to the relevant authorities after he was reportedly beaten by an investigator during a meeting between the police officers and his client at the Crime Investigation Division of Ho Chi Minh City Police.
- According to Tung and his colleague, attorney Nguyen Thi Hoai Thuong, Tung was punched, beaten and kicked by a police investigator named Tran Duc Minh after he complained about the investigator’s alleged violations of his client rights during the interrogation.
- The attorneys wrote on their Facebook pages that their client, who is pregnant, showed potential signs of fetal distress after witnessing the incident and was hospitalized immediately. Meanwhile, Tung got a nosebleed and headache after being assaulted and was also admitted to the hospital afterwards. Photos posted on attorney Thuong’s Facebook account showed Tung with a bleeding nose and a shoe mark on his white shirt.
- After the incident, the Vietnam Bar Federation (VBF), which protects the rights of lawyers, submitted a request to the director of Ho Chi Minh City Police and the People’s Procuracy Office to investigate the incident, RFA reports. The VBF also asked the local authorities to act against people who abuse attorneys or interfere with their practice of law.
- In a response on May 18, Ho Chi Minh City Police denied the accusations and announced that the investigator did not assault attorney Tung. Instead, the police explained that Tung had “tumbled” and injured himself on his way out of the interrogation room after “interfering with the investigator’s duty” and “causing disruptions” at the police station.
- The Ho Chi Minh City Police added that “unverified information” shared by a number of Facebook accounts “had affected the image and reputation of the city’s public security forces.”
- However, this was not the first time that Vietnamese attorneys were physically harassed by the public security forces. In November 2021, video footage showed that attorney Ngo Anh Tuan from the Hanoi Bar Association was pushed out of a police station by a security guard when he visited a detained client in Thanh Khuong Commune, Bac Ninh Province.
Vietnamese blogger sent back to detention after spending three years in mental hospital
- Le Anh Hung, a Vietnamese blogger who was subjected to forced mental health treatment since May 2019, had his treatment order suspended and was sent back to his former detention center on May 9, 2022, according to an update from attorney Nguyen Van Mieng.
- Attorney Mieng wrote that Hung had been held in pretrial detention for three years and 10 months, with most of his detention period being spent in a mental hospital. In an interview with RFA, Tran Thi Niem, Hung’s mother, said that his official trial would now be held “within a few months.”
- Le Anh Hung used to be a member of the online advocacy group Brotherhood of Democracy and he also reported for the U.S. government-funded Voice of America. He was arrested on July 5, 2018 under the allegation of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State and lawful rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens” in Article 331 of Vietnam’s Penal Code. If found guilty, Hung could face up to seven years in jail.
- Nguyen Thuy Hanh, another Vietnamese activist known for her funding campaign to help the families of political prisoners in Vietnam, was also transferred to a State-run psychiatric facility at the end of April.
- The Vietnamese authorities allege that Hanh was sent to the mental hospital for treatment of her depression; her family expressed a concern that the police might forcibly hold Hanh in the facility and not bring her case to trial.
Attorney allowed to meet three Vietnamese activists in prison
- On May 17, attorney Nguyen Van Mieng was allowed to meet his three clients, blogger Le Anh Hung, journalist Pham Doan Trang, and lands rights activist Trinh Ba Phuong at the Hoa Lo Detention Center in Hanoi City, according to the lawyer’s Facebook posting.
- Mieng wrote in his update about the health conditions and general mentality of the three activists. According to his update, blogger Le Anh Hung looked slimmer but his mentality remained percipient. Hung demanded the court release him unconditionally at his trial.
- Journalist Pham Doan Trang suffers shortness of breath since she had not fully recovered from COVID-19. Trang added she refused to sign any documents or to compromise with the security forces in exchange for her freedom.
- Activist Trinh Ba Phuong was not informed about his appeal trial, which was previously scheduled for May 19. However, the court later announced that the appeal trial for Phuong and Nguyen Thi Tam, another land rights activist, had been postponed because of a “change in the working schedule.” The court has not yet announced an alternative hearing date.
15 Hmong people prosecuted for attending a religious leader’s funeral
- On December 12, 2021, around 50 Hmong religious practitioners were detained by Vietnamese police and others dressed in protective suits at the funeral of Duong Van Minh, Minha Hmong, was the founder of the religious group named after himself in Ngoi Sen Village in Vietnam’s northern Tuyen Quang Province.
- The Tuyen Quang investigation agency later officially prosecuted 15 people and charged them with “resisting officers in the performance of their duties” and “violating safety regulations in crowded places.”
- Many of the practitioners alleged that the Vietnamese authorities had used these prosecutions to suppress the freedom to practice religion of Hmong ethnic minorities. The Duong Van Minh religious group is not recognized by the authorities and has been branded a “false religion.”
- According to attorney Nguyen Van Mieng, who previously registered to defend the arrested Hmong practitioners on March 7, all of the defendants allegedly co-wrote a letter refusing to hire a lawyer and declining to meet anyone while in detention. Mieng said that his request to meet the defendants to verify their refusal of representation was denied by the investigation agency.
Rhade activist sentenced to 4 years in prison on “anti-State” charges
- On May 20, a Vietnamese court in Dak Lak Province sentenced Y Wo Nie, a member of the Rhade ethic minority in the Central Highlands, to four years in prison on charges of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State and lawful rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens” under Article 331 of Vietnam’s 2015 Penal Code. It was reported that Nie had no defense lawyer for his trial.
- According to state media, Nie had taken several online courses on religious beliefs, Vietnam’s civil laws, international law and writing to produce reports regarding human rights violations. The indictment stated that Nie had “collected the distorted and false information” and “written three reports on human rights violations [in Vietnam]” to send to “reactionary figures abroad.”
- Nie was arrested in September 2021 for allegedly storing materials that “defame, slander and humiliate the Party and the State’s reputation.” He was previously sentenced to nine years in prison for “sabotaging the national unity policy.”
- The Vietnamese government has been accused of the suppression of the religious freedom of minority groups in the Central Highlands. The land of ethinic minorities has also been confiscated by local authorities, for which these groups have not been adequately compensated. Some ethnic minorities have been forced to flee Vietnam and acquire refugee status from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Thailand to escape the Vietnamese government’s suppression and intimidation.
Landowner of the Tinh That Bong Lai monastery arrested for “abusing democratic freedoms”
- Cao Thi Cuc, the landowner of Tinh That Bong Lai, a local monastery and orphanage, was arrested on May 12 on charges of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State and lawful rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens” in Vietnam’s 2015 Penal Code, according to State media.
- Tinh That Bong Lai is a Buddhist Monastery located in Vietnam’s southern Long An Province. Previously, the police conducted an investigation into this facility and arrested four of its monks, including head monk Le Tung Van. They were accused of “abusing democratic freedoms,” “committing fraud,” and “incest.”
- Many independent observers have claimed that the Vietnamese authorities have deployed these trumped up charges to suppress any religious institutions that are not controlled by the State.
Vietnam court jails ex-health official amid anti-graft drive
“A court in Vietnam on Thursday sentenced a former deputy health minister to four years in prison for his involvement in a trading ring for fake medicines.
Truong Quoc Cuong, 59, who served as a deputy health minister since 2016, was accused late last year of helping local firms to import more than 148 billion dong ($6.4 million) worth of fake medicines to sell domestically, according to a Ministry of Public Security statement.
The Vietnam authorities have stepped up an anti-graft drive with a recent series of arrests targeting prominent business people, market regulators and health officials.”
Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam
History Education and the Politics of Identity in a Globalizing Vietnam
The Diplomat/ To Minh Son/ May 18
“These effects of globalization on the Vietnamese youth have given rise to anxieties of national identity, typically among establishment scholars and elites. Complaints about students’ lack of historical knowledge have become a social trope in contemporary Vietnam. From 2005 to 2021, history was consistently one of the subjects in which students performed the worst in Vietnam’s highly competitive national high school exam. The youth’s lack of historical knowledge and basic historical facts have been widely and repeatedly reported in Vietnamese media since at least 2005.”
Sizing-up the US-ASEAN Summit and Vietnam’s Place in the World
The Diplomat/ Luke Hunt/ May 18
“Carl Thayer, Emeritus Professor at the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, spoke with The Diplomat’s Luke Hunt about the summit and Vietnam, which is in an awkward position due to its reliance on Russian military hardware.
He says efforts to maintain a “free and open Indo-Pacific” have been complicated by the Southeast Asian nations and their desire to be seen at the center of the framework, despite their growing and at times intractable differences.”
Hikvision sanctions signal uncharted waters from UK to Vietnam
Al Jazeera/ Liam Gibson/ May 17
“Vietnam, also accustomed to balancing a giant northern neighbor in China, is Hikvision’s biggest customer. With more than 670,000 Hikvision camera networks estimated to be installed in the country, according to Top10VPN, ditching the Chinese vendor will not happen overnight.
“There are a few alternatives in the Vietnamese market, including domestic ones … but it will take time for the market to shift significantly,” Nguyen Khac Giang, a senior fellow at the Vietnam Institute of Economic and Policy Research in Hanoi, told Al Jazeera.”
After renewables frenzy, Vietnam’s solar energy goes to waste
Al Jazeera/ Lam Le/ May 18
“After an unprecedented boom in renewable energy investment in recent years, the transmission lines that connect solar and wind projects to the national grid lack the capacity to deal with spikes in supply.
Policymakers have not been able to keep up either, leaving regulatory gaps that prevent some investors from monetising the power they harness.”
Early exit for Vietnam’s communist boss Trong?
Asia Times/ David Hutt/ May 6
“Trong, a committed ideologue who has significantly refashioned party politics during his 11-year reign, still doesn’t think his anti-corruption campaign is secure enough to be passed on to another leader, especially since Vuong, his trusted graft-buster, failed to win support to succeed him last year.
Question marks were previously raised about Trong’s health, another reason why he might have found support for a third term last year, if others sensed he may not have physically been able to complete a full five-year term.”