The Vietnam Briefing, released every Monday morning at Vietnam time, looks at Vietnam’s social and political developments of the past week.
Appeal hearings scheduled for Vietnamese political activists
- The Hanoi People’s High Court will hold appeal trials for independent journalist Le Van Dung, also known as Le Dung Vova, and two land rights defenders, Trinh Ba Phuong and Nguyen Thi Tam this August. Dung will have his appeal hearing on August 16, while Phuong and Tam will have their appeal hearings on August 17. The trial schedule was published on August 3 in a Facebook update from attorney Dang Dinh Manh, the defense lawyer of many prominent political activists and human rights defenders in Vietnam.
- Le Dung Vova, 51, was sentenced to five years in prison and five years of probation on March 23 on the conviction of “distributing anti-State materials” under Article 88 of Vietnam’s 1999 Penal Code.
- Meanwhile, Trinh Ba Phuong was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment and five years of probation, and Nguyen Thi Tam was given six years of imprisonment and three years of probation on December 15, 2021. They were also convicted of “distributing anti-State materials” under revised Article 117 of Vietnam’s 2015 Penal Code.
- Attorney Manh also wrote in his update that he had registered as a defense lawyer for two other recently detained activists, Truong Van Dung and Nguyen Lan Thang. Manh claimed that he would only be able to visit his clients and get access to their legal profiles after the investigation period concludes, since the Vietnamese authorities regarded the case of Dung and Thang as “endangering national security.”
- Also, according to Manh, the Hanoi People’s High Court hasn’t informed the lawyers about the appeal hearing of journalist Pham Doan Trang since her last trial on December 14, 2021. Doan Trang was given a nine-year prison sentence for “distributing anti-State propaganda.” She appealed her sentencing after her trial.
- In another update from attorney Nguyen Van Mieng, the Dak Lak Provincial People’s Court will hold an appeal trial for the Rhade activist Y Wo Nie at 7.30 a.m. on August 16. Nie was sentenced to four years in prison on May 20 after being convicted of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the State and individuals’ legitimate rights and interests” under Article 331 of the Penal Code.
Imprisoned Vietnamese journalist Nguyen Hoai Nam has his prison sentence reduced
- An appellate court in Ho Chi Minh City on August 4 announced the reduction of the prison term of Nguyen Hoai Nam, a former State journalist, from three and a half years to two years in prison, according to Vietnam’s state media via RFA. On April 5, Nam was convicted of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the State and individuals’ legitimate rights and interests,” violating Article 331 of the Penal Code.
- The appellate court announced that its decision to lower the journalist’s prison term was based on his “contribution to Vietnam’s anti-corruption drive” and his family’s “sacrifice for the [Communist] revolutionary movement.”
- Nam was a journalist at many of Vietnam’s major news agencies, including the Ho Chi Minh City Law Newspaper. In 2018, he investigated a corruption case involving state-managed Vietnam Internal Waterways employees and submitted the evidence to the Investigation Department of the Ministry of Public Security.
- However, among the suspects who were identified in Nam’s investigation, 14 were unpunished despite having been allegedly proven guilty in a bribery case. The journalist later wrote on Facebook that the court’s handling of the case was insufficient and that investigators were trying to “cover it up and allow the defendants to slip away.”
- In December 2020, Tran Van Ve and Tran Van Quan, investigators of the corruption case, submitted a criminal report to the Investigative Police Agency of the Ministry of Public Security, claiming that Nam had “defamed and humiliated” them with profane language. The authorities later concluded after the trial that the journalist’s posts on social media had “slandered and insulted the prestige of organizations as well as the honor and dignity of individuals.”
Vietnamese political prisoner Do Cong Duong dies in prison at 58
- Do Cong Duong, a Vietnamese citizen journalist and land rights activist sentenced to eight years in prison, reportedly passed away in prison on August 2 following a prolonged illness, RFA reported with confirmation from three sources familiar with the matter.
- The sources added that the prison authorities denied the family’s request to bring Duong’s body back to his hometown in Bac Ninh Province and hold a funeral for him there.
- Duong was a reporter focused on the Vietnamese government’s illegal land grabs and forced evictions. He was arrested in 2018 by the police while filming a forced eviction in Tu Son Commune, Bac Ninh Province. Duong was then prosecuted with two separate charges: “abusing democratic freedoms” under Article 331 and “disturbing public order” under Article 318. He consequently received four years in jail on each charge.
- Do Cong Duong was previously held at Nghe An Provincial Prison No. 6. The reporter’s health significantly declined after imprisonment. According to his family, Duong was later diagnosed with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, but the prison authorities refused to provide him with medical assistance until his health conditions critically worsened.
Vietnamese foreign minister attends ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights
- Vietnam’s State media reported that a Vietnamese delegation led by Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son had attended a dialogue between ASEAN foreign ministers and representatives of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) on August 2 in Cambodia. The dialogue was hosted within the framework of the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
- According to State media, the ASEAN ministers reaffirmed the significance and values of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration in protecting and promoting human rights in the region and contributing to building the ASEAN Community.
- At the dialogue, Minister Son spoke highly of AICHR’s efforts to overcome difficulties and maintain its operations. He also emphasized the importance of maintaining solidarity and observing the basic principles of ASEAN while carrying out AICHR policies.
- Meanwhile, in a press conference on the same day, Le Thi Thu Hang, spokeswoman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that Vietnam continues to follow a “one-China policy” and calls on all parties to “not escalate tension in the Taiwan Strait.” Hang’s statement was made public following U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan on August 2.
- “Vietnam wishes for all relevant parties to restrain themselves, not escalate tension in the Taiwan Strait, positively contribute to maintaining peace and stability, and strengthen cooperation and development in the region and the world,” Hang added.
Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam
The Diplomat/ Thi Mai Anh Nguyen/ August 5
“Southeast Asian countries have long felt the strain of living in the shadow of China-U.S. rivalry, but that stress was especially acute in the days following Pelosi’s visit to Taipei. The one-page statement said that “ASEAN is concerned with the international and regional volatility, especially in the recent development in the area adjacent with the ASEAN region, which could destabilize the region and eventually could lead to miscalculation, serious confrontation, open conflicts and unpredictable consequences among major powers.” Obviously, governments in Southeast Asia are cautious about the escalation of China-U.S. tensions, which are highly likely to jeopardize the interests of all regional countries.”
Asia Times/ David Hutt/ July 29
“According to Nguyen Khac Giang, an analyst at the Victoria University of Wellington, official crackdowns on Vietnam’s private sector and tycoons are still far from those seen in China, but there are signs they are accelerating.
“Solving corruption in the private sector and fostering economic growth will be a dilemma for the Party because its development model, in a way, depends on corruption, whether as petty corruption, embezzlement or ‘access money.”
Fulcrum/ Dien Nguyen An Luong/ July 1
“Growing media crackdowns and censorship have also permeated the media landscapes in the Philippines and Thailand. In the former, journalists, fact-checkers and their organizations have become targets of government-sanctioned attacks online and in real life, according to the report. The report noted that in Thailand, self-censorship was still “widely practiced in traditional mainstream media”, especially for coverage of the monarchy and the military. This trend extends to other Southeast Asian countries not polled by Reuters, namely Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar, where public trust in the mainstream media is unlikely to fare any better, given their repressive settings.”