On September 27, 2023, a collective of five international organizations expressed vehement condemnation for the arbitrary execution of Le Van
Amnesty Report Says Vietnam Sentenced At Least 102 People to Death in 2022
U.S. Department Of State: Vietnam Fails To Recognize New Religions For Fourth Year In A Row
The U.S. Department of State on May 15 released its annual report, 2022 Report on International Religious Freedom, assessing the status of religious freedom worldwide. According to the State Department website, the report contains information collected and analyzed based on multiple sources to enhance its fairness and comprehensiveness and reduce potential bias. The U.S. embassies in assessed countries prepared the draft reports.
It added that the Washington-based Office of International Religious Freedom collaborated in collecting and analyzing additional information drawn from consultations with multiple government agencies, domestic and foreign religious groups, and nongovernmental organizations.
Regarding religious freedom in Vietnam, the State Department report underscored that the government “did not recognize any new religious organizations, including chapters of larger, previously approved groups” for the fourth year. The local authorities were not responsive in approving new registration requests of certain religious groups, as in the Vietnam Baptist Convention (VBC) case. The police reportedly discouraged people from joining this religion. However, it was noted that many religious leaders across Vietnam said the conditions for practicing and holding religious services had improved compared to previous years.
The State Department also outlined severe crackdowns on different religious groups in Vietnam over the past year. Many members of these beliefs were tried and sentenced to long prison terms under controversial laws, such as Article 331 of Vietnam’s Penal Code. Also, Vietnam does not approve exemptions for mandatory military conscription due to religious reasons.
In May 2022, Tuyen Quang Province authorities sentenced 15 ethnic Hmong followers of the Duong Van Minh group to two to four years on charges of “resisting officials on duty” and “violating provisions on safety in crowded areas.” Last July, Vietnamese authorities also sentenced six members of Tinh That Bong Lai (Peng Lai Temple), a Buddhist sect, to prison terms ranging from three to five years for allegedly “abusing democratic freedoms.”
The police reportedly harassed and interfered in religious gatherings and practices of different religious groups. Vietnam’s law enforcement forces in Binh Duong, Lam Dong, and Dak Lak provinces disrupted gatherings of Falun Gong practitioners and confiscated their publications and other items. These practitioners said that the police sometimes insulted and attacked them. Meanwhile, local police in Dak Lak Province often summoned, questioned, and threatened the followers of several Protestant groups, including the Evangelical Church of Christ, Good News Mission Church, International Degar Church, and other house churches.
At a press meeting on May 18, Vietnam’s deputy spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pham Thu Hang, called the State Department report on religious freedom “not objective” and “based on inaccurate and unverified information about the situation in Vietnam,” State-owned media reported. Hang did not clearly say which information mentioned in the report was inaccurate or provide solid evidence to support her comments.
Amnesty International Report: Vietnam Sentenced At Least 102 People To Death In 2022
Vietnam sentenced at least 102 people to death last year, according to the latest Amnesty International report, released on May 16, on death sentences and executions. The report noted that Vietnam was among three Southeast Asian nations that carried out executions in 2022, along with Singapore and Myanmar. In Vietnam, The estimated number of death sentences imposed in 2022 decreased compared to the previous year, with at least 119 people receiving death sentences.
Amnesty noted that data on the use of the death penalty is classified as a state secret in Vietnam; therefore, the actual number of people receiving death sentences could be higher. Drug-related offenses accounted for most of the death sentences imposed in Vietnam, with 80 people sentenced to death in 2022, or 78 percent of the recorded cases. Vietnam uses lethal injection as a method for executions. Amnesty did not present the number of executions in Vietnam last year because the government did not officially publish the statistics. It is believed that Vietnam still implemented executions for drug-related criminals in 2022.
Meanwhile, the report said that the use of the death penalty in the Asia-Pacific region “continued to violate international law and standards in many cases.” Most death sentences in Vietnam were related to drug trafficking, which did not meet the “most serious crimes” threshold in international law. Economic crimes, such as corruption and embezzlement, are still punishable by death in Vietnam. Also, last year, Amnesty recorded commutations or pardons of death sentences in 26 countries, including Vietnam.
Vietnam Denies Allegations Of Repression Of Khmer Krom Minority
RFA reported that the Vietnamese government has denied allegations from United Nations rapporteurs that it represses the Khmer Krom minority in the Mekong Delta region. Seven special U.N. rapporteurs operating under Human Rights Council mandates sent a 16-page letter to Hanoi on Oct. 18 about the information it received concerning the country’s alleged failure to recognize the right to self-determination of the Khmer Krom as an indigenous people.
The Khmer Krom ethnic minority group, with a population of nearly 1.3 million, lives in Vietnam’s southwestern part, once a Cambodian territory. They face widespread discrimination in Vietnam and suspicion in Cambodia, where they are often perceived not as Cambodians but as Vietnamese. Many Khmer Krom asylum seekers live in Thailand to avoid persecution.
The experts said they had also received evidence of alleged violations of the group's freedom of expression, association, and religion, as well as their cultural and linguistic rights and land use rights. Concerns were also raised about Khmer Krom men detained by police and questioned for their activism, namely Duong Khai, Thach Cuong, Danh Set, Tang Thuy, and Thach Rine.
Of the five, authorities arrested and jailed Thach Rine in October 2021 on charges of “abusing democratic freedoms” for wearing a T-shirt with the UN Sustainable Development Goals logo. The letter said he was failed in April 2022 without a fair trial or access to his family and lawyer.
Dissident Blogger Bui Tuan Lam’s “Anti-State” Trial Scheduled For May 25
RFA reported that a court in Da Nang City would hold a first-instance trial for Bui Tuan Lam, a Vietnamese dissident blogger widely known as “Green Onion Bae,” on May 25.
Le Thanh Lam, Tuan Lam’s wife, informed Radio Free Asia (RFA) of the trial date following her visit to him in prison on May 13. He was charged under Article 117 of Vietnam’s Penal Code, which criminalizes the activities of “distributing anti-State propaganda aimed at opposing the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”
Attorney Le Dinh Viet, one of Lam’s defense lawyers, published the court’s notice in a Facebook posting on May 16. The notice said that the trial would be open to the public.
Thanh Lam added that her husband's health was in good condition, and his spirit was stable. But she said seven family members requested the People's Court of Da Nang City let them attend Bui Tuan Lam’s public trial since they had not received any invitations. Thanh Lam also expressed concern about being prevented from entering the courtroom by security forces on the day of the trial. “Green Onion Bae” could face up to 12 years of imprisonment if convicted.
Hanoi Protests China’s Opening Of A Hotpot Restaurant In The Disputed Paracels
Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry Deputy Spokesperson Pham Thu Hang, on May 18, protested Beijing’s recent opening of a hotpot restaurant on Woody Island, which Vietnam calls Dao Phu Lam, in the Paracel Archipelago, a cluster of heatedly disputed islands in the South China Sea.
“Vietnam resolutely opposes actions that infringe on the country’s sovereignty and related rights over the Hoang Sa (the Paracels) and Truong Sa (the Spratlys),” State-own media quoted Hang as saying. "As for cases of violating Vietnam's sovereign rights and jurisdiction, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and competent Vietnamese agencies have been implementing measures in line with international law and Vietnamese law to ensure the country’s legitimate rights and interests," added Hang.
Vietnam's foreign ministry statement was issued following a news report from the South China Morning Post (SCMP) about opening a new hotpot restaurant, Kuanzhai Xiangzi, last month. The government of Sansha, a name used by Beijing to describe the authorities governing both the Paracels and the Spratlys, headquartered on Woody Island, said the restaurant could accommodate up to 120 diners at a time.
The deputy manager of a logistics company on Sansha welcomed the opening, adding that it would “enrich the material and cultural life of the military, police, and people on the island,” SCMP reported. Beijing has reportedly upgraded Woody Island civil facilities further to consolidate its claims in the South China Sea. The construction included a court, a cinema, banks, hospitals, post offices, a stadium, and a coffee shop, according to SCMP.
Meanwhile, State-owned media reported that a Chinese naval ship is expected to visit Da Nang port between May 23 and 25, according to spokeswoman Pham Thu Hang. Hang said this activity would “contribute to strengthening and consolidating friendly relations” between the two countries. Previously, on February 17, the Chinese Consulate General in Da Nang and the leaders of Guangxi International Port Group paid a visit to the Da Nang port.
PH, Vietnam pledge progress on South China Sea code of conduct
“The Philippines and Vietnam have vowed to push for the completion of the South China Sea code of conduct and strengthen their maritime ties, as both nations expressed “serious concern” over aggressive actions that threaten peace in the region.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Philippines and Vietnam committed to working closely to come up with “an effective and substantive” code of conduct on the disputed waters.”
As US Woos Vietnam, Hanoi Remains Tied to China, Experts Say
“Bill Hayton, an associate fellow with the Asia-Pacific Program at London-based Chatham House, shared that observation. He noted that the Vietnamese leadership are Leninists who regard American-sponsored democracy as "the single biggest threat that they face."
"Compared to that, they think their problems with China are tiny," he told VOA Vietnamese.
As a result, Hayton thinks that Vietnam is not motivated to upgrade ties with the U.S. and that Beijing is aware of this.”
Vietnam ambitiously plans to verify social media accounts
“The fact that several platforms verify their users through different services (e.g. a Facebook account can be created using a Google email address) means that a single break in the chain could spell failure for the whole identity verification process, Son said.
Identity verification means users would need to send information like ID card numbers or phone numbers to social media platforms. That harbors the risk of data leaks, according to experts.”
Books: War and Redemption in Vietnam, 60 years after Agent Orange
“The last American combat soldier left Vietnam more than 50 years ago, but for hundreds of thousands of people in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and the United States, the painful legacies of war linger on. George Black's book "The Long Reckoning: A Story of War, Peace, and Redemption in Vietnam" tells the story of the decades that followed the war in a way that is as gripping as its war-telling.
The book is structured around the lives of two American veterans who return to Vietnam in the 1990s to help people recover from injuries caused by leftover explosives and Agent Orange, a dangerous chemical first used by the Americans in 1962, which causes debilitating effects for generations. While much of the story focuses on the horrific tragedies of the conflict, Black shows how the persistent efforts of a small group of unsung heroes -- Americans and Vietnamese -- broke through stonewall opposition in the U.S. to reestablish unofficial and official ties between the two countries and bring help to people in need.”
Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam
Asia Times/ Toan Le/ May 19
“The draft land law stipulates specific cases where the state can acquire land to develop for the national and public interest, potentially making the law clearer. It also removed state price frames, which fixed land prices for five years, in favor of a more flexible yearly price guide developed by the People’s Committee at provincial levels, which promises to be based on the market.
Although this has been welcomed, many commentators are skeptical about whether the amendment can be implemented as there is little guidance on how the market land price is to be established. Because the People’s Committee remains in control of determining land prices, the state is both a player and an umpire in the land acquisition and development process.”
Fulcrum/ Dien Nguyen An Luong/ May 19
“Granted, TikTok, the only foreign social media platform to have set up shop in Vietnam, should be regulated. Its algorithm, not friendships or follows as on U.S. social media platforms, chiefly dictates what content users see. The “For You” page, which recommends videos based on what users have watched and engaged, is tantamount to a Pandora’s box that is poised to send users down the rabbit hole of other videos containing fake news, misinformation and disinformation.
But regulation of the platform needs to put public interests above all else. If the Vietnamese government is really sincere about protecting its youths from harmful content on TikTok, the first major step forward would be to rein in its algorithm, making the platform more granular and transparent.”
Eurasia Review/ Matija Šerić/ April 17
“The crisis in the waters south of the Chinese mainland represents a potential threat to the whole world and not only to the Pacific Rim. More than any other crisis zone, except for Ukraine, in the South China Sea there is a very close confrontation of the interests of the superpowers, in this case America and China. If a war broke out there, it is very likely that it would not be another proxy war of great powers (like the Syrian war), but it would be a war of one superpower against another. If a war were to break out over territorial disputes in Southeast Asian waters, it would be a war that could escalate into World War III with all its devastating consequences. Year after year, the crisis in the sea south of the Chinese mainland is heating up more and more.”
VnExpress/ Nguyen Khac Giang/ April 16
“Instead of restricting it, [Vietnam Social Security] should expand the list of cases in which people are allowed to get the one-time withdrawal to cover more urgent needs of laborers such as the need to buy housing, pay for healthcare or invest in their children's education. This is something that successful social insurance funds in Southeast Asia such as those in Singapore and Malaysia have been doing for a long time.
Social insurance is first and foremost a right and benefit of laborers. Instead of focusing on arguing about whether to keep or withdraw, the amendment this time should aim to better serve laborers and businesses. If people could see that the fund operates transparently, efficiently and that their rights and benefits are guaranteed, I believe everyone will want to keep this "security net" for them in their old age. And to achieve that, they would fulfill their social security obligations on their own without the need of any regulations.”