The Vietnam Briefing, released every Monday morning at Vietnam time, looks at Vietnam’s social and political developments of the past week.
Vietnamese Facebook user imprisoned over “anti-State” charge
- A Vietnamese court in Ha Tinh Province on July 13 sentenced Nguyen Duc Hung, a local blogger and user of social media, to five and a half years in prison and two years of probation on the charge of “making, storing, and distributing anti-State propaganda and materials” under Article 117 of Vietnam’s 2015 Penal Code, state media reported.
- According to the indictment via state media, between 2016 and 2021, Hung created several social media accounts, including two Facebook accounts named “Nguyen Duc Hung” and Nguyen Duc Hung Sbr,” to publish information that was “distorted” and “contained anti-State propaganda.” Hung was also accused of calling other people to join private groups on social media, which were created to “defy the State.”
- Vietnamese authorities alleged that Hung’s activities had “affected the implementation of the Communist Party’s and State’s policy,” “divided national unity,” as well as “threatened the country’s order and security.”
- Nguyen Duc Hung, who is a Christian, was known for his activism on social media, where he regularly raised his voice regarding the Vietnamese government’s human rights violations, the illegal confiscation of Thien An Abbey’s land, and the wrongful conviction of Ho Duy Hai, among other things, according to The 88 Project. Hung was arrested and charged with Article 117 on January 6, 2022.
- Hanoi has frequently used Article 117 and Article 331 in the country’s penal code to arrest and convict pro-democracy activists and local dissidents. These law codes have been widely criticized by legal professionals and attorneys for their infringement on the Vietnamese citizens’ freedom of expression.
Journalist Pham Doan Trang receives the 2022 International Press Freedom Award
- The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ,) an organization advocating for press freedom worldwide, announced on July 14 the names of journalists who were awarded its 2022 International Press Freedom Award. Vietnamese journalist Pham Doan Trang, who was sentenced to nine years in prison on “anti-State” charges last December, is among CPJ’s honorees this year. The awarded journalists will be honored during a live gala dinner on November 17, 2022, in New York City.
- This year's awardees include three other journalists and one editor from Iraqi Kurdistan, Cuba, Ukraine, and Russia. According to the CPJ press release, these journalists “have withstood immense challenges, including government crackdowns, aggression, and imprisonment to bring the public independent reporting amid rampant disinformation and war.”
- “Our award winners exemplify the best of journalism: work that shines a light on the impacts of war, corruption, and abuse of power on everyday lives,” CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg said in a statement. “We look forward to honoring these inspirational journalists, who demonstrate the central role journalism plays in serving the public good.”
Local residents clash with riot police over the dismantling of a civil road
- On the morning of July 13, a clash broke out between residents of Nghi Thuan Ward in Vietnam’s Nghe An Province and the riot police as a result of the local authorities’ decision to destroy a road to clear land for an industrial project, RFA reported, with confirmation from local witnesses.
- According to the witnesses, Nghe An authorities on July 13 deployed hundreds of riot policemen and plainclothes police, armed with batons, shields and tear gas, to guard against the destruction of Route No. 5, a local road leading to the Nghi Loc Village in Nghi Thuan Commune. The road is reportedly situated in the land of the WHA Industrial Zone, which is part of an industrial project previously approved by the government.
- Although an alternative route has been built by the industrial zone’s management, local residents are still frustrated because the new road is built and controlled by the industrial zone’s investors. They expressed concerns that the project manager can arbitrarily force the road to close at any time to serve the project’s own interests. Some villagers claimed they had never been consulted about the plan to replace the old civil road with a new route.
- The clash broke out when local people tried to force their way past the police line to approach the construction site. A video circulated on social media, which is believed to have been recorded by local witnesses, shows some of the protesters throwing Molotov cocktails at the police. One riot policeman was also seen being beaten by the villagers. The riot policemen responded by firing tear gas and then rounding up and arresting several villagers.
- Father Nguyen Dinh Thuc, a pastor of a nearby parish, told RFA that at least five people were detained after the clash, adding that the police also confiscated the protesters' vehicles. Thuc said that the police remained in the village long after the protesters were dispersed. Nghe An provincial police on July 14 confirmed that 10 villagers were arrested after the clash.
A local man dies in police custody after cockfighting arrest
- Nguyen Ngoc Diep, a middle-aged Vietnamese man who was arrested with 10 other people while watching a cockfight at a local restaurant in Vietnam’s southern Soc Trang Province on July 1, died after spending 10 hours in custody at a district police headquarters, RFA reported.
- Previously, Diep was arrested on suspicion of betting on cockfighting, which is illegal in Vietnam. The practice remains popular in Vietnam, particularly in the southern part of the country.
- Diep’s family said he suffered from a stomach disorder, so they brought food and medicine to the Ke Sach District police headquarters, asking the officers to give them to him. Despite repeatedly telling the police about his medical condition, Diep’s family said the police ignored them.
- The family asked the police to let Diep out of jail since they didn’t think watching cockfighting was a serious offense and only warranted a fine. They said Diep would return the following day to answer police questions.
- However, the police refused to let Diep go home and continued interrogating him about his alleged betting on the cockfight. Diep reportedly collapsed and died the same night. Diep’s brother, Nguyen Van Do, looked into the forensic examination of his brother’s body by Soc Trang provincial police the following morning. He said Diep’s lungs were swollen, and blood had pooled in his heart.
- The use of torture as an interrogation technique to extract confessions is prevalent in Vietnam’s police custody system. While Vietnam doesn’t have an independent judiciary or any oversight from a free press or civil society, the police generally remain above the law whenever a suspicious death in police custody is recorded.
Vietnam’s Vinfast to raise $4 billion for EV factory funding
- The Vietnamese automaker Vinfast announced on July 13 that it had signed deals with Credit Suisse and Citigroup to raise at least $4 billion, which could include debt or private placements of equity, to build its first electric vehicle factory in North Carolina and further expand its operations in the United States, Reuters reported.
- Vinfast’s fundraising campaign came amid the rumors that Pham Nhat Vuong, the founder of Vinfast’s parent Vingroup, was banned from leaving the country. Previously, local authorities issued a travel ban for Vietnamese billionaire Trinh Van Quyet, the chairman of property developer FLC, before he was arrested on March 29 over alleged stock market manipulation.
- Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security and the Vingroup later said that the claim was false, according to Nikkei Asia. In a statement, the Ministry of Public Security said it’s launching an investigation into those who “committed the act of spreading false information on social networks, causing disturbances to the stock market and credit losses to an enterprise.”
Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam
The Diplomat/ Le Dong Hai Nguyen/ July 13
“While any radical changes to the country’s abortion laws remain unlikely, it is worth noting that the Vietnamese government has experienced manifold pressures to adopt a more restrictive stance on abortion.
With Vietnam becoming one of Asia’s fastest aging countries, the government has been keen to encourage couples to have more children. In 2020, the communist-ruled government quietly relaxed a decade-long restriction that barred civil servants and public-sector employers from having a third child. Communist party members are still limited to only two children, though this is expected to change soon, especially after its ideologically closed neighbor China pushed for a “three-child policy” last year.”
Bloomberg/ Bloomberg News/ July 12
“Negative phenomena, along with mentions of corruption, were used a combined 854 times in Trong’s speeches since the start of July last year. That’s more than during any one year period since Trong assumed the post in 2011, according to a Bloomberg analysis of more than 430 speeches and government website postings as of June 30.
The use of such language signals a concerted effort by authorities to stamp out graft as Southeast Asia’s fastest-growing economy seeks to bolster its appeal as a destination for foreign investment amid mounting trade tensions between the US and China.”
Nikkei Asia/ Lien Hoang/ July 1
“The Southeast Asian country last month revised its Cinema Law, detailing the hoops media companies must jump through to get permission for activities from shooting on location to screening films online. One of the aims is to attract production of more blockbusters like "Kong: Skull Island" and Spike Lee's "Da 5 Bloods," but some say Vietnam has lost the plot. The updated law also bans a wide catalog of content, including those deemed to contain "reactionary ideas and social evils."
Observers ask whether the one-party state's controls could hamstring a local industry vying with Thailand and the Philippines for investment and trying to move beyond foreigners' obsession with Vietnam War storylines.”