Vietnam Police Summon Two Defense Lawyers Of Buddhist Temple Tinh That Bong Lai
- Vietnam’s State media reported on March 14, 2023, that the police in Long An Province on March 14 summoned Dang Dinh Manh and Dao Kim Lan, two defense lawyers of Tinh That Bong Lai, a local Buddhist temple, to their investigation meetings. The police claimed that these lawyers’ postings and videos uploaded on social media potentially violated Article 331 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes the activities of “abusing democratic freedom to infringe on the State and individuals’ legitimate rights and interests.”
- According to Long An Police, they previously received a criminal report from the Department of Cybersecurity and High-Tech Crime Prevention accusing attorneys Manh and Lan of allegedly “distributing” materials on their social media, particularly their Youtube channel “Nhật ký luật sư” (“An Attorney’s Diary”), which were believed to have violated Article 331.
- The lawyers of Tinh That Bong Lai used this Youtube channel to update on the trial of their clients and to expose alleged violations of legal procedures committed by Long An police. This channel is no longer accessible at the time of this writing.
- In February, Long An police notified attorney Dang Dinh Manh, Dao Kim Lan, and Ngo Thi Hoang Anh, another member of Tinh That Bong Lai’s legal defense team, that they are being investigated for “abusing democratic freedoms.” It was unclear whether or not attorney Anh received a summons following the police allegations. Six practitioners of the Buddhist temple were imprisoned last year on the same charges.
- The Vietnam Bar Association, in a letter sent to the Long An authorities on March 7, requested the provincials investigation agency and its procuratorate office “resolve the [allegations filed against Tinh That Bong Lai’s lawyers] in a prudent and objective manner according to its authority and in accordance with the provisions of law.” The association also urged the lawyers to remove all videos uploaded on their Youtube channel, adding that they must be “careful when speaking and publishing these materials on the internet.”
- Article 331 is a controversial law in Vietnam’s Penal Code. This legal provision has been critically condemned by lawyers and legal experts due to its vague wording and broad interpretation. The Vietnamese government has frequently utilized this article to criminalize civil rights in the country, especially the freedom of expression.
- On March 14, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) sent an open letter to the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Public Security, denouncing the criminal investigation of attorney Dang Dinh Manh under Article 331 of the Penal Code. The ICJ argued that Manh is “being subjected to persecution through undue criminal investigation that aims to impair his work as a lawyer and his right to freedom of expression protected under international human rights law and standards.”
- The commission also called on Vietnam to respect the lawyer’s “legitimate exercise of his professional duties and right to freedom of expression.”
Vietnamese Political Blogger To Be Tried For “Illegally Possessing Narcotics”
- Vietnamese dissident blogger Nguyen Nhu Phuong is scheduled to be tried on charges of “illegally possessing narcotics” on March 20 after receiving a five-year sentence last December on the conviction of “distributing anti-State propaganda” under Article 117 of the Penal Code. His trial will begin at 8.00 am in the Ba Ria - Vung Tau Provincial Criminal Court. Nguyen Van Mieng, an attorney of Phuong, published the information on Facebook.
- Phuong, 32, is a resident of Ba Ria - Vung Tau Province. He returned to Vietnam in 2022 after studying and working in Japan for eight years. The dissident blogger was arrested along with three of his friends following a police raid when they were drinking at a local bar in Ba Ria. The police said Phuong and his friends tested positive for drugs and found narcotics on their table and the bar floor. The police later indicted Phuong under Article 117 and the charges of “possessing narcotics.”
- According to attorney Mieng, his client denied the allegations during a visit with Phuong while he was in detention. Phuong could face an additional five years of imprisonment if convicted.
Members Of Exile Organization Provisional Government Of Vietnam Imprisoned On “Subversion” Charges
- A court in Vietnam’s Binh Dinh Province on March 14 sentenced Huynh Tai, a local resident, and his father, Huynh Tien, to six and two years in prison, respectively, for conducting “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration,” State-run media reported. Both were members of the Provisional Government of Vietnam, a U.S.-based organization established by Dao Minh Quan, who self-proclaimed himself as the third president of this government.
- State media shows that Tien, 37, and his father, Tai, 71, live in Hoai Nhon Village, Binh Dinh Province. From the beginning of 2019, Tai became a Provisional Government of Vietnam member and asked his father to join this organization. The indictment said that Tai also voted in an online referendum to elect the leader of the Provisional Government via email as well as invited other people to participate in the elections.
- At the hearing, the People’s Court of Binh Dinh claimed that the activities of Tai and Tien “posed danger to society and infringed on national security, national independence, territorial integrity and the political regime of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” RFA reported that at least 19 people had been convicted and imprisoned for joining the Provisional Government of Vietnam since October 2022.
Activist Truong Van Dung To Be Tried On Charge of “Distributing Anti-State Propaganda”
- The Hanoi People’s Court will hold a first-instance trial on March 28 for activist Truong Van Dung on charges of “distributing anti-State propaganda” under Article 88 of the former 1999 Penal Code. According to Nghiem Thi Hop, Dung’s wife, she received a summons from the court on March 10 stating that she would become a witness in the upcoming trial.
- Dung, 65, is a Vietnamese activist who regularly participated in anti-China protests in Hanoi. He was arrested on May 21, 2022.
- Dung has been in solitary confinement since his arrest, according to RFA. On March 3, he met his lawyer, Ngo Anh Tuan, for the first time in preparation for his trial. Hop told RFA that she could not visit her husband in custody and could only send him monthly supplies. Earlier last month, Hop accompanied attorney Tuan to the Hanoi City Detention Center No. 1, where Dung is being held, but she was not allowed to see her husband.
Vietnamese Organizations Issue Joint Letter Condemning Beijing’s Aggression And Unlawful Territorial Claims In The South China Sea
- RFA reported that a group of 136 Vietnamese organizations worldwide issued a joint letter, “Action for the Paracels and Spratlys,” reiterating Vietnam’s sovereignty over these archipelagoes, which Vietnam refers to as Hoang Sa and Truong Sa. The letter, dated March 11, 2023, also urged Hanoi to file a lawsuit against China’s claims over the South China Sea at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague.
- A copy of the joint letter was also sent to the PCA, which condemned China’s unlawful invasion and occupation of the Paracels and Spratlys.
- These Vietnamese organizations laid out three main requests in their letters. First, they call on Vietnamese people worldwide to raise their concerns over Beijing’s aggression in the South China Sea, which the Vietnamese call the East Sea, at international forums. Second, they urged the Vietnamese population to unite with democratic countries in demanding Beijing stop its aggressive acts in the sea. And third, these organizations pressured Hanoi to release all imprisoned anti-China demonstrators because of their activism.
- On March 14, Vietnam marked the 35th anniversary of the Johnson South Reef skirmish, also known as Gac Ma in Vietnamese, in the South China Sea, when Chinese frigates sank two Vietnamese ships and killed 64 soldiers. Hanoi has, in recent years, allowed public commemorations and media coverage of the war. But it has still avoided mentioning China as an attacker and has not permitted people to talk at length about the event.
Former Government Office Chairman Mai Tien Dung Reprimanded For His Mistakes In Organizing Homebound Covid-19 Flights
- Mai Tien Dung, former chairman of the Office of the Government of Vietnam, was reprimanded due for his mistakes in managing repatriation flights during the COVID-19 pandemic, Vietnam’s State-owned newspapers reported on March 13.
- Deputy Prime Minister Tran Luu Quang issued the disciplinary decision on behalf of Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh on March 9. It was concluded that the reprimand of Dung resulted from the “violations and shortcomings” occurring while he performed his work. Dung’s violations have "caused serious consequences and affected the reputation of the Party and the state’s administrative branches,” State media quoted the Communist Party Secretariat as saying.
- The administrative discipline of Dung was carried out after the Party”s Secretariat issued a warning against him on Jan. 14. Ongoing investigation into the misconduct in organizing Vietnam’s COVID-19 flight repatriations has resulted in the arrest of more than 40 officials and businesspeople over the past year, VnExpress reported.
Why Vietnam doesn't want to claim Ke Huy Quan
“No-one in the Vietnamese government has said anything, though that is perhaps less surprising from the habitually taciturn Communist Party. Why this reluctance to embrace a successful and now globally-recognised actor, who openly acknowledges his Vietnamese roots?
The exodus of the boat people in the 1970s and 80s was one of the darkest episodes in Vietnam's recent history. More than 1.5 million people left, most of them ethnic Chinese, on often rickety boats across the South China Sea.
According to the UNHCR between 200,000 and 400,000 died, some at the hands of ruthless pirates. For a communist party which at the time had just defeated the military might of the United States, and has more recently presided over spectacular economic growth, it is an episode they would rather forget. Ke Huy Quan's Oscar is bringing it all back.”
Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam
Vietnam’s New President: Key Takeaways for Domestic Politics and Foreign Relations
The Diplomat/ Hai Hong Nguyen/ March 17
“Finally, in the run-up to the next party congress in 2026, Thuong will face a test of his ability and competency. In the first week dispensing his presidential duties, Thuong has been involved in both domestic politics and foreign relations. If he performs well and continues to gain trust and support from Trong over the next three years, Thuong is likely to replace him or even be entrusted to hold concurrently the two top positions – that of CPV chief and state president. Given his young age, he could serve in this position for as long as a decade, leading reforms at the top echelons of the CPV. His performance over the next three years, therefore, bears close watching.”
Mythbusting Vietnam’s Recent Leadership Change
The Diplomat/ Carl Thayer/ March 13
“The high-profile resignations of two deputy prime ministers were not because they were pro-business. They resigned because they failed to supervise subordinates who were heavily involved in highly emotive COVID-related corruption cases.
The assertion that Trong and his supporters lean toward China is also spurious. Vietnam consistently pursues a foreign policy of diversifying and multi-lateralizing its external relations through a network of 17 strategic partnerships and an additional number of comprehensive partnerships. Vietnam seeks a balance in its external relations, not alignment with any major power.”
The Analytical Obsession With ‘Factions’ in Vietnamese Politics
The Diplomat/ Khang Vu/ March 10
“Importantly, what sets past discussions of factions in Vietnamese politics apart from current discussions is their extensive use of primary evidence from Vietnamese archives, which lends credibility to their claims of factionalism and establishes a clear causal connection between actors and their preferred policies. Nevertheless, just because factions existed in the past does not mean they exist now, nor that the issues that divided the Party back then are the same.”
Vietnam hedges its bets on the BRI
East Asia Forum/ Viet Dung Trinh, Huy Hai Do/ March 15
“In its hedging approach to the BRI, Hanoi has also diversified its relations with other powerful states. Sovereignty disputes with China in the South China Sea have fostered a closer relationship between Hanoi and Tokyo, which was highlighted in 2014 by the two sides’ efforts to upgrade their relationship to an extensive strategic partnership, grounded on shared goals of peace and prosperity. Vietnam has welcomed Japan’s Partnership for Quality Infrastructure Investment more warmly than the BRI and has received substantial infrastructure investment from Tokyo.
Vietnam has even enhanced its relations with its previous foe, the United States, to restrict China’s attempts at broadening its influence in the region. Vietnam and the United States have boosted their bilateral economic ties and improved defence cooperation. Vietnam has also supported the United States’ Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy by welcoming US contribution to regional peace and stability. During the Trump administration, two US aircraft carriers visited Vietnam.”
Vietnam’s ‘blazing furnace’ corruption purge spotlights political tug of war, economic unease
South China Morning Post/ Govi Snell/ March 11
“Ho Chi Minh City-based social activist Tran Anh sees that raid as revelatory of the harsh reality of many Vietnamese, and blames inequality that has worsened on Trong’s watch.
“Vietnam’s economy is in crisis, people are unemployed, bankrupt, and the demand for loans increases,” he said. “Trong wants to acquire these large companies and corporations to punish political opponents.”
The effects of the crackdown are wide-ranging – and not always predictable. Le Cong Dinh, a long-time civil-society activist based in Ho Chi Minh City, said the local economy is stalling as officials fear harsh retribution for any misdeeds.”