Vietnam Briefing: Journalist’s health deteriorates after two years in jail

Vietnam Briefing: Journalist’s health deteriorates after two years in jail
Mrs. Bui Thi Thien Can, Pham Doan Trang’s mother, received the Martin Ennals Award on behalf of her daughter on June 2 (left;) Vietnamese independent journalist Le Huu Minh Tuan is shown in an undated photo (right). Photo: Martin Ennals Award/ RFA.

The Vietnam Briefing, which is released every Monday morning Vietnam time, looks at Vietnam’s social and political developments of the past week.

Vietnamese journalist’s health deteriorates after two years in jail

  • Le Huu Minh Tuan, a Vietnamese independent journalist, and a member of the Vietnam Independent Journalists’ Association (IJAVN,) is reportedly in failing health after serving two years of his 11-year sentence at the Bo La Detention Center in southern Vietnam’s Binh Duong Province, according to information from Tuan’s sister after her visit to the detention center on May 26.
  • RFA reported that the journalist’s health is rapidly deteriorating because prison authorities have rejected requests to allow Tuan to receive medical treatment outside the detention facility. Meanwhile, Tuan is currently emaciated due to the insufficiency of nutritious food and poor living conditions; he has also suffered scabies and has a hearing difficulty.
  • Tuan’s family had heard no news of him for the first two years following his arrest. They were finally told that he had been sent to the Bo La facility in Binh Duong on April 14, according to an RFA interview with his sister. On February 28, an appeals court in Ho Chi Minh City upheld the independent journalist’s  11-year sentencing.

Martin Ennals Award Ceremony 2022: Pham Doan Trang’s mother accepts the award on her daughter’s behalf

  • On June 2, the Martin Ennals Award Ceremony 2022 took place in Geneva, Switzerland to honor three human rights defenders for their “courage and unique contributions” to the international human rights movement. The ceremony was hosted and live-streamed directly from Salle Communale de Plainpalais, Geneva.
  • The Martin Ennals Award laureates in 2022 are Pham Doan Trang from Vietnam, Dr. Daouda Diallo from Burkina Faso, and Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja from Bahrain. Bui Thi Thien Can, Doan Trang’s mother, was present at the ceremony and received the award on her daughter’s behalf. Pham Doan Trang has been sentenced to nine years in prison for allegedly “distributing anti-State propaganda.”
  • In her speech, Can said she was “happy and proud” of Doan Trang’s achievement and that she thought her daughter is “a courageous woman who was persistent to follow the dangerous and arduous path [of being a human rights defender.]”
  • “As a mother, I have had to sacrifice a mother’s love so that my child could become an activist. I hope that one day, the sooner the better, Vietnam will have real democracy and human rights so that our people can truly be free and happy,” Can says, adding that she has not been able to see her daughter for nearly 20 months.
  • Just before the award ceremony, Michèle Taylor, U.S. ambassador at the UN Human Rights Council, met with Bui Thi Thien Can in the U.S. Mission in Geneva. “I was honored to have met with the mother of Pham Doan Trang, one of this year’s Martin Ennals Award recipients, an inspiring human rights defender & journalist who has been unjustly detained in Vietnam,” Ambassador Taylor wrote on Twitter. “Today was a vivid reminder of the importance of the work we do in Geneva,” she added.
  • In a short documentary about Doan Trang’s activism shown during the ceremony, the journalist explained that she chose to become an activist because “being a reporter or a journalist was still not enough” to push for social change in an authoritarian country like Vietnam. “[Being an activist] means that someone can take the matter into their own hands and not wait for someone else to pick up the fight,” she said.
  • In an opinion article published on the Martin Ennals Award website on May 30, Saman Zia-Zarifi, secretary-general of the International Court of Justice, wrote that the human rights situation in Vietnam “continues to degenerate despite the country’s increasing engagement with the global economy.”
  • Zia-Zarifi added that Vietnam “should be held accountable to its international human rights obligations” and he urged the Vietnamese government to “immediately release Pham Doan Trang and all political prisoners like her.”
  • The Vietnamese government’s mouthpieces, on the other hand, have criticized and defamed the Martin Ennals Award. An article in Nhan Dan, the official mouthpiece of the Vietnamese Communist Party, accused the Martin Ennals foundation of cooperating with other human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, to “interfere in several countries’ internal affairs” and give the awards to those who “violated their country’s own laws and were given the prison sentences.”
  • Another article in the local Nghe An Newspaper wrote that there are “malicious purposes behind the human rights awards” and that these awards have been “used by hostile forces” to “inflict damages and interfere in the internal affairs of socialist countries, including Vietnam.” “The arguments and statements of the aforementioned organizations and individuals are groundless, unobjective, and blatantly distorted the situation in Vietnam,” it wrote.

Vietnamese independent journalist transferred to a new prison

  • Le Trong Hung, a Vietnamese independent journalist and former candidate for Vietnam’s National Assembly, was transferred to Nghe An Prison No. 6 from Hanoi Detention Center No. 1 on May 25, according to an online update from his wife Do Le Na on June 1. Na wrote that she was not informed about the transfer of her husband.
  • Hung was sentenced to five years of imprisonment and five years of probation on December 31, 2021. An appellate court in Hanoi City upheld his conviction in an appeal hearing on April 19 without his family’s knowledge. Do Le Na said that there was a heavy police presence guarding her house on the appeals trial date of her husband.
  • Do Nam Trung, another Vietnamese activist was also transferred to a new prison without his family’s knowledge. The Vietnamese authorities have commonly used this tactic in order to limit family visitations and contacts of Vietnamese political prisoners outside the prison.

Another monk at Tinh That Bong Lai monastery was arrested for “abusing democratic freedoms”

  • On May 27, the investigation agency of Long An Provincial police issued a warrant to arrest and prosecute Le Thanh Nhi Nguyen, a monk at the local monastery and orphanage Tinh That Bong Lai, for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the State and individuals’ interests” under Article 331 of Vietnam’s Penal Code. Nhi Nguyen is the sixth person from Tinh That Bong Lai arrested under this charge.
  • Previously, Long An Provincial police arrested four monks from Tinh That Bong Lai, including head monk Le Tung Van, and the monastery’s landowner Le Thi Cuc, over allegations of “incest” and “abusing democratic freedoms.”
  • Since the monastery is not registered with the government-controlled Vietnam Buddhist Sangha, many independent observers said that the Vietnamese authorities used the arrests of Tinh That Bong Lai members to crack down on independent religious facilities.

Vietnamese Facebook user to be tried for “distributing anti-State materials”

  • Nguyen Duy Linh, a local internet user in Vietnam’s Ben Tre Province, is expected to be tried on June 9 over allegations of “making, storing, or distributing anti-State materials and information” under Article 117 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.
  • Linh was arrested and indicted on September 14, 2021, for his alleged use of his personal Facebook account “to share and post articles, videos and pictures that defame Party and State leaders,” according to Vietnam’s state media.
  • Nguyen Ngoc Tuyet, Linh’s wife, told RFA Vietnamese in an interview that she received the Ben Tre court’s summons on May 30 to attend her husband’s first instance trial. Tuyet added that Linh said during a visitation that he would defend himself at the trial and requested her not to hire a lawyer.
  • Since 2017, Duy Linh has used his personal Facebook account to raise concerns over the missteps of Vietnamese officials in their public duty and to criticize the ineffective and abusive nature of the government’s anti-COVID agenda. He faces up to 12 years of imprisonment if convicted.

Hundreds of Rhade families in Central Vietnam demonstrate to demand land from forestry company


  • Hundreds of ethnic minority households in a commune in south-central Vietnam's Dak Lak Province are fighting to reclaim their land from a forestry company after 40 years of working on it as hired laborers. Protests in Lang Village, Ea Pok Town, Cu Mgar District began last month, with farmers demanding the return of about 40 hectares of arable land.
  • Demonstrations came to a head on May 18 when hundreds of people gathered on the land to protest against the coffee company's destruction of their crops. Videos and photos of the protest were shared on social media, showing riot police clashing with demonstrators.
  • Demonstrations continued last week with protestors holding up banners asking the coffee company to return the land. State media has so far not reported the incident.
  • “We want the company to return our ancestral land so that people can have a business in the future,” a local resident told RFA under the condition of anonymity. “People are getting [taxed] more and more but have less land, so people need to reclaim the land.”

UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention requests Vietnam release the delivery man of the Liberal Publishing House

The 88 Project:

“The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has determined that Vietnam violated several articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by imprisoning Nguyen Bao Tien, who is affiliated with the Liberal Publishing House. They are Article 2(3), Article 19, and Article 14. The Group has sent its findings to the government of Vietnam requesting that Tien be released immediately. The Group’s full report will be forthcoming.”

Vietnamese man extradited to Germany over oil executive kidnapping

The Guardian:

“A Vietnamese man has been extradited to Germany to face charges of taking part in a brazen cold war-style kidnapping of an oil executive ordered by Hanoi, prosecutors have said.

The suspect, identified only as Anh TL, was sent to Germany from the Czech Republic after he was detained in Prague last month on the basis of German and European arrest warrants.

In July 2017, the fugitive Vietnamese state company official Trinh Xuan Thanh was abducted during the day from a Berlin park and taken back to Hanoi.”

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Vietnam’s Growing Strategic Partnerships with European Countries

The Diplomat/ Hai Hong Nguyen/ May 30

“The strategic partnerships have led to the establishment of bilateral cooperation mechanisms, which act as advisory and coordination channels to promote the execution of agreements in mutually agreed strategic areas. These mechanisms vary, taking the form of an inter-governmental committee (with Spain), joint committees (with Germany, Italy, France, and the U.K.), political consultations (with Germany, Italy, and Spain), strategic dialogues (with the U.K., Germany, and France), and a strategic steering group (with Germany). They are often led and coordinated by Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, becoming an effective channel to maintain diplomatic contacts between the two sides.”

Environmental Volunteerism on the Rise in Vietnam

Geopolitical Monitor/ James Borton/ June 2

“Vietnam’s rapid development from one of the five poorest countries in the world in 1985 to one of the world’s fastest-growing economies has resulted in dramatic environmental consequences from polluted rivers, biodiversity loss, and air quality depletion.

Climate and disaster risks are widely viewed as a direct threat to Vietnam’s aspiration to become a high-income economy. This is especially true in the nation’s deltas from the Red River to the Mekong. The nation is one of the most hazard-prone countries in the Asia Pacific region. With an extensive coastline stretching over 2,025 miles, citizens are regularly exposed to severe storms, cyclones, typhoons, floods, landslides, and coastal erosion.”

What Is Behind Vietnam's Latest Anti-Corruption Fight: QuickTake

Bloomberg/ Philip Heijmans/ June 1

“People are sitting in jail, and some have been sentenced to death. But in Vietnam’s closely controlled, one-party state, it’s difficult to say if there’s any other motivation beyond building legitimacy. Freedom House, a US-based advocacy group, ranks Vietnam as “not free,” with a score last year of only 19 points out of 100. Human rights groups repeatedly accuse the government of tamping down on dissent. Transparency International, a Berlin-based anti-corruption group, gave it a score of 39 out of 100 last year, from 31 in 2012 -- the year then-Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s government was tainted by a series of scandals.”

50 years after 'Napalm Girl,' myths distort the reality behind a horrific photo of the Vietnam War and exaggerate its impact

The Conversation/ W. Joseph Campbell/ June 2

“Prominent among the myths of the “Napalm Girl,” which I address and dismantle in my book “Getting It Wrong: Debunking the Greatest Myths in American Journalism,” is that U.S.-piloted or guided warplanes dropped the napalm, a gelatinous, incendiary substance, at Trang Bang.

Not so.

The napalm attack was carried out by propeller-driven Skyraider aircraft of the South Vietnamese Air Force trying to roust communist forces dug in near the village – as news accounts at the time made clear.”

The US-Russia-Vietnam Triangle: Decoding Hanoi’s Strategic Balancing

The Diplomat/ Huynh Tam Sang/ June 1

“The way Vietnamese leaders framed the country’s foreign relations tells us about nuanced interpretations of its outside environment. Though keeping a close eye on security flashpoints, including those in Ukraine and the South China Sea, Vietnam has sought to maximize its geostrategic leverage by actively working to strengthen the resilience of ASEAN through its initiatives and dynamic engagement. Vietnam has also embraced multilateralism as its foreign-policy motto, and has established 30 strategic and comprehensive partnerships with foreign countries.”

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