Vietnam Briefing August 29, 2022: Family Visitations Are Allowed for Trinh Ba Phuong, Nguyen Thi Tam, and Le Van Dung Following Their Appeals Hearings

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

Vietnam Briefing August 29, 2022: Family Visitations Are Allowed for Trinh Ba Phuong, Nguyen Thi Tam, and Le Van Dung Following Their Appeals Hearings
Journalist Pham Doan Trang had her conviction upheld in an appeal hearing on August 25 (left); Rhade Protestants in Vietnam’s Central Highlands mark the “International Day Commemorating Victims of Violence based on Religion or Belief” (right). Photo: Pham Doan Trang/ Người Thượng vì Công lý/ Facebook.

Families of a few political prisoners are allowed visitations after their appeals

  • In social media updates on August 24, the families of two Vietnamese farmers and land rights activists, Trinh Ba Phuong and Nguyen Thi Tam, confirmed that they were allowed visits to their family members after 26 months of separation. Do Thi Thu, Phuong’s wife, and Nguyen Thanh Mai, Tam’s daughter, wrote that both the activists got thinner since the last time they saw them, but they were generally in good health.
  • Previously on August 17, an appellate court in Hanoi rejected the appeals of both Phuong and Tam, who respectively received 10 and six years in jail last December on charges of “distributing anti-State propaganda.” Their families were not allowed to enter the courtroom, despite the court authorities’ announcement that the trial would be open to the public.
  • The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership with the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), issued an urgent appeal on August 22 regarding the allegations of torture and ill-treatment against Trinh Ba Phuong after his appeal was rejected by the court. The Observatory also raised concerns about Vietnamese police harassment of Phuong’s family members and the unlawful prevention of them from attending his public trial.
  • Meanwhile, the family of Vietnamese citizen journalist Le Van Dung was allowed to visit him in prison on August 25, following Dung’s appeals hearing on August 16, according to his wife, Bui Thi Hue. Hue wrote that her husband’s health was in good condition. The appellate court previously upheld the citizen journalist’s five-year imprisonment on the charges of “distributing anti-State propaganda.” His family was also not permitted to attend the trial.

Vietnamese appellate court upholds journalist Pham Doan Trang’s “anti-State” conviction

  • An appellate court in Hanoi on August 25 rejected the appeal of Vietnamese journalist and human rights defender Pham Doan Trang, upholding her earlier nine-year imprisonment on the conviction of “distributing propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”
  • According to the appellate court, Doan Trang refused to plead guilty at the appeal hearing. The court dismissed Doan Trang and her lawyers’ request to accept her appeal and reject the preliminary conviction. The journalist’s family, including her elder mother, and foreign diplomats in Vietnam, were not allowed to enter the courtroom. The authorities previously declared that the hearing would be open to the public.
  • The spokesperson of the U.S. Department of State Ned Price said on August 25 that the United States “is deeply concerned by the upheld conviction and nine-year prison sentence of renowned Vietnamese author and journalist Pham Doan Trang” and urged Vietnam “to ensure adequate medical care and to allow access to Trang to assess her medical condition.”
  • “We call for the Vietnamese government to release Trang and to allow all individuals in Vietnam to exercise their right to freedom of expression, without fear of retaliation, consistent with the human rights provisions in Vietnam’s constitution and Vietnam’s international obligations and commitments,” the statement added.
  • The European Union issued a press statement on the same day following the upheld conviction of Doan Trang, calling on Vietnamese authorities “to release all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained” and “to allow trial observation and to guarantee the right to a fair trial for all individuals.”
  • “The European Union will continue to monitor the human rights situation in Vietnam and actively work towards its improvement,” the statement added.

Human trafficking rings found after 40 Vietnamese escape from Cambodia casino

  • According to Vietnam’s state media, four human trafficking rings have been found operating across the country after more than 40 Vietnamese migrant workers escaped from a Chinese-owned casino in Cambodia and fled back to their home country by swimming across a river, RFA reported.
  • Colonel Dinh Van Noi, director of An Giang Provincial Police, a Vietnamese province which borders Cambodia, told State media that information on the rings had been sent to the Criminal Police Department of Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security. He added that the ministry would work with local police to round up the criminal gangs.
  • Previously, a video published on August 18 on social media showed dozens of Vietnamese workers sprinting out of a Chinese-managed casino in Cambodia and jumping into a river while being chased by security guards equipped with batons and iron sticks.
  • It was reported that a 16-year-old worker from Gia Lai Province was found dead in the Binh Di River, the natural border between Vietnam and Cambodia, where the workers jumped into the river as they fled the casino. Thirty-five men and five women who managed to escape the casino had been questioned and tested for COVID-19, the An Giang Province police head said. According to official numbers, around 250 other Vietnamese workers were rescued from unscrupulous employers in Cambodia in the first half of this year.
  • One 20-year-old victim said that the Vietnamese migrant workers were poorly treated and exploited while working at the casino, adding that she was forced to work 14 hours a day. Another worker named Diep told the local news outlet VnExpress that she and other employees had to create fake social media accounts and trick people into spending money on a fraudulent dating platform. Diep said that she “would be beaten” and her life “would be at risk” if she refused to do it.

Vietnamese police harass religious groups commemorating victims of faith-based violence

  • Several religious communities in Vietnam were harassed by the police as they gathered to celebrate the “International Day Commemorating Victims of Violence based on Religion or Belief,” which is held on August 22 every year, to commemorate the victims of persecution because of their religion or belief, RFA reported.
  • According to RFA, police from Binh Khanh Ward in Vietnam’s An Giang Province on August 20 visited the Cao Dai Binh Khanh religious pilgrimage group, a local independent Cao Dai sect, forcing its members who gathered at the house of the group leader to disperse. A clergyman of the independent Cao Dai sect, Nguyen Trong Tieng, said fellow believers met at the sect leader Nguyen Thi Thu Cuc’s house to mark the memorial day after their morning worship.
  • Other Cao Dai communities in An Giang and Vinh Long Province said that they also faced constant police monitoring during their memorial day.
  • According to Nguyen Dinh Thang, the General Director of Boat People SOS (BPSOS), an organization which monitors religious freedom in Vietnam, more than 50 religious communities across Vietnam previously informed him that they planned to hold the commemorating event. They include 23 religious groups in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, 20 Cao Dai sect communities, as well as around 12 Catholic churches and parishes, including the Thai Ha Church in Hanoi.
  • Seven embassies in the Vietnamese capital also issued a joint statement marking the religious freedom event.
  • The diplomatic missions of Austria, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States said they “strongly condemn the continuing acts of violence against individuals based on religion or belief, including those belonging to religious minorities,” while urging states and people everywhere “to join forces in the fight against violence and discrimination, and in ensuring all individuals can enjoy their human rights in dignity and freedom.”

Former FLC chairman investigated for fraud


  • Former FLC group chairman Trinh Van Quyet and two of his sisters are being investigated for fraud following their earlier arrests for alleged stock market manipulation.
  • The Public Security Ministry said Thursday that Quyet and his sisters Trinh Thi Thuy Nga and Trinh Thi Minh Hue are being investigated for obtaining property by fraud. All three were arrested on allegations of stock market manipulation in March and April.
  • The investigation found that from 2014 to 2016, he had performed procedures to raise the capital of FLC Faros Construction (ROS) from VND1.5 billion to VND4.3 trillion, issuing 430 million shares on the stock market.

Vietnamese in Ukraine and Russia find themselves with divided loyalties

South China Morning Post:

“[Bang] favorably compared the Ukrainian military to the Vietcong and called Ukraine’s defense a “resistance war”, the same term used in Vietnam to refer to both the anti-colonial struggle against France and the later fight against the United States.

But while Ukraine may enjoy the support of its local Vietnamese community, Bang laments that his compatriots in Russia see things differently. He has unsuccessfully tried to persuade his friend and former classmate Le Dinh Vu, who heads the Vietnamese Association in St Petersburg, to renounce the invasion.

Vu, 61, said in a phone interview that from what he has seen on Russian television, he is inclined to take President Vladimir Putin at his word.”

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Vietnam’s broken rice bowl

Asia Times/ James Borton/ August 26

“At the start of its Doi Moi (“Renovation”) reform program in 1986, Vietnam’s political leadership invoked national plans to raise the country out of poverty and the hardships resulting from the protracted Vietnam War. A central part of that new strategy was opening up rice farming not only to feed the nation but to be a major rice exporter. Rice matters because it is the staple diet for half the world’s population.

Now scientists have provided evidence that the Vietnamese are facing perhaps their biggest challenge: climate change, with its intense storms, droughts, and food insecurity.”

Why Vietnamese Private Conglomerates Are Venturing Into Social Housing

Fulcrum/ Le Hong Hiep, Phan Xuan Dung/ August 25

“What has emerged is a form of ‘symbiotic relationship’, whereby Vietnamese political elites and business tycoons support each other’s respective goals: political legitimacy for the former and capitalist expansion for the latter. Thus, the party-state is comfortable with private conglomerates assuming an active role in advancing national goals that cement its right to rule, whereas rent-seeking entrepreneurs are willing to get involved as long as they could get some economic rewards and political favours along the way. This quid pro quo underlies Prime Minister Chinh’s ambitious plan for the public-private partnership on social housing.”

US sanctions reversing Russian gains in SE Asia

Asia Times/ Richard Javad Heydarian/ August 25

“It’s unclear how the sanctions will affect Vietnam’s defense ties with Russia, from where it has received the bulk of its modern equipment. But given the significance Hanoi attaches to its strategic ties with Moscow, recent economic setbacks are unlikely to deter efforts to maintain robust strategic relations.

The future of Russia’s relations in the region, however, will largely depend on its economic conditions at home and, crucially, the eventual reversal or easing of Western sanctions and the risk of being hit with so-called secondary sanctions.”

To Guarantee Its Survival, Vietnam Needs to Look West

The Diplomat/ Khang Vu/ August 24

“The key point is that China now poses a comprehensive threat to Vietnam, on both land and sea, as it presses forward with its Belt and Road Initiative and militarization of islands in the South China Sea, as well as the modernization of its navy. As a weaker power, Vietnam has little choice but to adjust its calculations accordingly and prioritize wisely. China’s occupation of SCS features claimed by Vietnam does not offer it more leverage on land. However, China’s ability to attack Vietnam on land does offer it more leverage on the sea because the stakes are much higher for Vietnam’s security. And this suggests that Vietnam should look west for its survival.”

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