The Vietnam Briefing, released every Monday morning Vietnam time, looks at Vietnam’s social and political developments of the past week.
Vietnam grants amnesty to more than 2,400 prisoners; none are political dissidents on the celebration of its National Day
- Vietnam is granting amnesty to 2,434 prisoners this year, State media reported, quoting Pham Thanh Ha, vice chairman of the President’s Office, who spoke at a news conference in Hanoi. Ha added that fewer amnesties were granted this year than last year’s 3,026 because of stricter regulations on conditions for the special amnesty and cases where an amnesty had not been requested.
- President Nguyen Xuan Phuc granted amnesty to prisoners on September 2, which marked the National Day of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Vietnam grants amnesty every year on this day.
- Among the pardoned prisoners were eight people whose cases had been monitored by the Central Steering Committee on Anti-Corruption, 16 foreign nationals, with ten death row inmates having their sentences reduced to life imprisonment. However, the official amnesty announcement stated that those convicted of “conducting propaganda against the State” or “subversion,” which includes many prisoners of conscience, are not eligible for amnesty.
- Last month, several Vietnamese activists who had received prison sentences for spreading anti-State propaganda rejected their appeals. They include award-winning Vietnamese journalist Pham Doan Trang, citizen journalist Le Van Dung, and land rights activists Trinh Ba Phuong and Nguyen Thi Tam.
Facebook user fined for accusing Vietnamese police of “singing too much karaoke”
- A Facebook user in Vietnam has been fined 7.5 million dong (US$323) by authorities in Bac Giang Province for “slanderous acts, distorting and affecting the honor and reputation of the police force.”
- State media cited a source from the Son Dong District police as saying the 35-year-old local social media user, who has the initials N.V.P, was summoned and fined after posting and adding a comment on an article titled: “Crackdown on brothels hiding in the shadow of karaoke bars.”
- N.V.P allegedly added the comment when he posted the article on his social media account: “The crackdown was for show. Maybe policemen go singing more [than ordinary people],” implying that “singing” was not the only activity the police were taking part in.
- N.V.P was fined under Point A, Clause 1, Article 101, Decree 15 of the government regulations on penalties for administrative violations in the fields of the post, telecommunications, radio frequencies, information technology and electronic transactions, often used to punish those accused of spreading “fake news” online.
- Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communication says it is cracking down on “online fake and malicious news” spread by users in a country where tens of millions of people use social networking sites daily despite strict censorship.
Cambodia returns 26 Vietnamese workers as embassy warns of job scams
- Vietnam’s state media reported that Cambodia had repatriated 26 Vietnamese citizens, including 11 workers who were working at the Rich World Casino in Kandal Province, which was accused of luring foreign workers into forced labor involving online scams.
- Last month, a video showing more than 40 Vietnamese workers escaping from the Rich World casino complex in Cambodia’s Kandal Province went viral.
- The video, posted on Vietnamese news site VnExpress on August 18, showed men and women jumping into a river bordering the two countries, chased by guards equipped with metal sticks and batons. A 16-year-old victim from Vietnam’s Gia Lai Province was reportedly found dead in the river.
- The 26 were handed over to Vietnamese authorities at the Tinh Bien International Border Gate between Vietnam’s An Giang Province and Cambodia’s Takeo Province. They came from Vietnam’s northern and central provinces, the Central Highlands and the southwest region, according to Lieutenant Colonel Tran Hoa Hiep, head of the Border Guard Station.
- The Vietnamese embassy in Cambodia said that more than 600 Vietnamese had been tricked into going to Cambodia on the promise of “easy work and a high salary.” In reality, they were exploited and forced to carry out online scams, leading many to seek outside help or to try to escape.
Ninth U.S.-Vietnam Asia-Pacific Dialogue held in Washington D.C.
- In a media note released on August 30, the office of the State Department spokesperson noted that Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink had welcomed Vietnam Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Minh Vu to Washington for the ninth U.S.-Vietnam Asia-Pacific Dialogue in Washington D.C. on August 30.
- According to the announcement, the assistant secretary and deputy foreign minister discussed multiple issues related to the two countries’ shared interests in “promoting peace, stability, and prosperity across the region.”
- The representatives from both countries claimed they looked forward to celebrating the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership in 2023 and agreed to hold the dialogue next year in Vietnam.
- U.S. climate envoy John Kerry is expected to visit Vietnam from September 2 to 6 to meet government officials, business leaders and civil society representatives, VnExpress reported. His agenda includes climate change discussions and accelerating Vietnam’s transition to a green economy.
The unrecognized Unified Buddhist Sangha of Vietnam elects a new leader
- The Unified Buddhist Sangha of Vietnam, a religious organization, not recognized by the Vietnamese government, has just elected a new Council of Elders, and Venerable Thich Tue Sy, a Buddhist scholar, got elected as the head secretary of the Supreme Patriarch’s Institute (Viện Tăng Thống), the highest office of the Sangha at this time.
- According to the announcement of the Central Committee of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam on September 1, a ceremony was held to pray and honor the Central Council of Patriarchs and appoint the head secretary of the Unified Buddhist Sangha. The ceremony occurred at Phat An Temple in Long Thanh District, Dong Nai Province.
- After the passing of the supreme leader of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, the Most Venerable Thich Quang Do, on February 22, 2020, the Sangha had not elected a new leader. Therefore, the head secretary position for Executive Affairs of the Supreme Patriarch’s Institute is currently the highest in the Sangha.
- Venerable Thich Tue Sy, born in 1943, is a Buddhist scholar and a religious figure. He was sent to a reeducation camp by the new Communist government for three years starting in 1978. In September 1988, Venerable Thich Tue Sy was sentenced to death on charges of “conducting activities to overthrow the people’s administration.”
- His death sentence was later reduced to life imprisonment due to international pressure. Venerable Thich Tue Sy was released on September 1, 1998, but he was later placed under administrative probation for two years in 2003. In 1998, Thich Tue Sy was awarded the Hellman-Hammett Grants for human rights by Human Rights Watch.
Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam
RFA Vietnamese/ September 1
“Though staunch communists in Vietnam reflected on Mikhail Gorbachev’s passing on Tuesday by calling him a traitor for causing the USSR’s 1991 collapse, others in the country credited reforms he implemented as the Soviet Union’s last leader with starting Vietnam on its own path to modernization.
Gorbachev, who passed away on Tuesday at age 91, is most remembered for his policies of glasnost, or more transparency in government, and perestroika, the political and economic restructuring meant to kick start the stagnant Soviet economy of the 1980s that eventually led to the end of the Cold War.
Those policies had a ripple effect well beyond Soviet borders, eventually affecting the entire communist world, including Vietnam, sources said.”
Can India Edge Vietnam As Alternative To China For Supply Chain, Coupled With Large Domestic And Export Market
Eurasia Review/ Subrata Majumder/ August 31
“Though India has not appeared in the limelight as an alternative to China as Vietnam for supply chain manufacturing, it has several factors to edge out Vietnam. Firstly, it has a bigger domestic market and more skilled workforce than Vietnam, such as in IT operation manufacturing. Secondly, its wage level is marginally higher than Vietnam. Thirdly, it is far ahead in digitization than Vietnam. Lastly, political stability and strong democracy in India are ensured by its strong judiciary, which reaffirm India’s strength over Vietnam. Vietnam is ruled by communism and feared to be enslaved by large communism like China.”
Asia Times/ James Borton/ August 29
“The Communist Party of Vietnam operates under a top-down, centralized policymaking system. Its leadership knows it will take a web of actors and a chorus of voices from citizen scientists, climatologists, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international partners to combat climate change, since the nation is hurtling toward an economic, social, and environmental crisis if policies to reduce the carbon intensity of growth are not addressed.
While Vietnam maintains it will stop building coal-fired power plants, the nuanced policy shift to renewables is a dramatic pivot for central planners struggling to break free from the country’s dependence on coal. The dilemma rests against the backdrop of not replacing coal with renewables and securing financing from other sources besides China, especially since Beijing announced it was cancelling financing of overseas coal-fired power plants.