The Conviction On Sept. 22, 2016, the Hanoi People’s Court held a first-instance trial  for Vu Van Binh,
Vietnam Sentences “Onion Bae" Peter Bui Tuan Lam to Five Years and Six Months in Prison Under Article 117
Vietnam Sentences Another Activist for "Conducting Propaganda Against the State"
On May 25, activist Peter Bui Tuan Lam faced a public trial in Da Nang City for "conducting propaganda against the State." However, his family was not allowed to enter the courtroom.
The charges against Lam were based on Clause 1, Article 117 of the Penal Code, which pertains to creating, storing, distributing, or promoting information, documents, or items that oppose the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The charges against him could result in a prison sentence of five to 12 years.
Lam is the noodle seller who rose to fame after making a video that imitated Turkish chef Salt Bae, who prepared a gilded cow for a high-ranking Vietnamese government official, earning him the title Onion Bae on social media.
Lam's family members were blocked from entering the courtroom and had to wait outside. The police later arrested his wife, Le Thanh Lam, and his two younger brothers, Bui Quang Khiem and Bui Quang Minh, and held them for the entire day. A representative of the Dutch Embassy was also prevented from entering the court.
One of Lam's attorneys, Ngo Anh Tuan, was also admonished and ordered to leave the courtroom while the trial was ongoing.
Lam's wife later described on social media the harassment and physical abuse she suffered while detained.
She said security guards wearing masks monitored Lam's family near their home for three days.
Similar surveillance was observed near the residences of other activists and relatives of prisoners of conscience in Hanoi. The police summoned and warned them not to share sensitive information on social media.
Attorney Le Quoc Quan, who previously served a prison sentence for his human rights advocacy, believes that the charges against Lam violate his human rights.
Lam was sentenced to five years, six months in prison, and four years probation. A few days before the trial, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch demanded Vietnam release the activist unconditionally.
Dang Dinh Bach's Anticipated Hunger Strike Gains Global Support from Activists
Dang Dinh Bach has announced that on June 24, which marks two years since he was arrested, he will start an indefinite hunger strike to protest his imprisonment. Activists worldwide are calling people to join forces in a global solidarity hunger strike. Anyone can choose any day between May 24 and June 23 to go on strike, and on June 24, everyone will strike together.
Bach is a well-known lawyer in Vietnam who fought for environmental justice and worked to improve the lives of marginalized communities.
Unfortunately, Bach was arrested and imprisoned for alleged "tax evasion" after leading a campaign to reduce Vietnam's dependence on coal. He received a five-year prison sentence. However, international human rights organizations declared that his trial was unfair because he was not given the opportunity to meet with his lawyer until seven months after his arrest. Moreover, his trial was held in secret, and his sentence was much harsher than what is typically given for tax evasion charges in Vietnam.
An ongoing petition calls for Bach's release, initiated by his wife, Tran Phuong Thao.
Vietnamese Political Prisoner Alleges Deliberate Contamination of Water by Jailers
A prisoner in Vietnam's Dong Nai Province, who is serving an 11-year sentence, believes that prison staff made the drinking water in the prison canteen unsafe. The prisoner fell ill with stomach pain and diarrhea after drinking water from the Xuan Loc Z30A prison canteen. The prisoner, Nguyen Van Duc Do, has been in prison for seven years for his involvement in alleged activities against the government. However, he was convicted under Article 117 for writing on social media to protest the Formosa environmental disaster in 2016. Amnesty International previously called on Do's release and classified him as a príoner of conscience.
According to Do's brother, Do and his cellmate bought 17 jugs of drinking water for themselves. However, Do gets sick after drinking from the fourth jug, which smells strange. Do thinks the guards intentionally poisoned him and his cellmate because no other inmates who bought the same water had problems. Now, Do has to buy more expensive bottled water because he can't trust the prison water anymore.
Do try to complain to the prison warden about the issue through a guard, but his request was ignored. It is a concern for human rights groups and families that political prisoners often don't have access to safe food, water, or medical care while in jail. Unfortunately, The Vietnamese Magazine could not confirm the information about the contaminated water with prison officials.
Do, who claims he is innocent, was arrested in 2016 along with four others for alleged actions against the government under Article 117. They were sentenced to prison terms ranging from eight to 15 years. During his imprisonment, Do has been isolated, denied fresh air and exercise, and even threatened by guards when he sought help for chest pain and difficulty breathing.
Save Tam Dao - A Facebook Fanpage for an Environmental Protection Group – Disappeared on Social Media for Two Days
Last week, Facebook users observed that Save Tam Dao, a fan page, was missing from the platform for a period of two days. On May 28, 2023, the page reappeared, confirming that it had indeed been shut down during those two days. Its administrators do not know the reasons behind the sudden suspension.
Save Tam Dao is a fan page dedicated to an environmental protection organization in Vietnam. The page serves as a platform for sharing updates on the unlawful activities of large corporations that harm the country's natural resources. Unfortunately, the volunteers associated with this organization have been subjected to harassment and even physical abuse by unidentified individuals. Moreover, the fan page on social media, particularly Facebook, faces frequent instances of online abuse. Furthermore, it is sometimes deactivated without prior notice to its administrators.
Many unregistered civil society groups like Save Tam Dao routinely experience this treatment on Facebook.
Assessing Vietnam's Human Rights Performance as $15 Billion Climate Deal Looms
NPR reports Vietnam is set to receive billions of dollars in funding from wealthy countries and investors to support its transition from coal to renewable energy.
This financial assistance, amounting to at least $15.5 billion, was pledged after climate activists in Vietnam pressured the government to commit to eliminating or offsetting the country's carbon dioxide emissions by midcentury. The funding, known as the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP), aims to tackle climate change while promoting economic development in Vietnam.
However, the space for environmental activists and civil society groups to work in Vietnam has become increasingly restricted. Climate advocates who played a significant role in facilitating the JETP have been imprisoned on what critics believe are fabricated tax evasion charges. This crackdown on civil society groups is part of a broader trend of repression by Vietnam's ruling Communist Party.
In response to these alleged human rights abuses, civil society organizations worldwide are urging governments and financial institutions involved in funding Vietnam's transition to put pressure on the country regarding its human rights practices.
A United Nations working group has called for the release of one of the jailed climate activists, Dang Dinh Bach, who plans to go on a hunger strike in June to protest his imprisonment.
Furthermore, a coalition of 36 environmental and human rights groups has written letters to President Joe Biden and other world leaders, urging them to advocate for the release of unjustly jailed activists and the removal of restrictions on civil society in Vietnam.
Similar letters have been sent to the World Bank's International Finance Corporation and the Asian Development Bank, which are expected to contribute to the climate fund.
The situation in Vietnam highlights the challenge of upholding human rights as countries tackle climate change. There is a growing concern globally that grassroots efforts to address global warming face pushback from states and human rights abuses, which can hinder emission reduction efforts.
Experts emphasize that active civil society participation is crucial for transparency and accountability in climate and development programs.
While Vietnam's human rights record is deemed "dire" by Human Rights Watch, it remains uncertain how and when funding organizations will apply policies to address human rights abuses. Vietnam's treatment of civil society groups poses a fundamental challenge to the climate initiative's aim of benefiting local communities.
The Biden administration, which is seeking a closer relationship with Vietnam, considers it an essential country in regional dynamics and in countering China's influence. The issue of climate change necessitates the funding offered through the JETP, as Vietnam faces severe risks from flooding and extreme heat. However, concerns remain regarding the ruling Communist Party's focus on maintaining political power over addressing human rights.
Activists and experts insist on guarantees that civil society groups can freely participate in shaping and monitoring the implementation of the JETP. Vietnam must allow civil society to flourish and fulfil its watchdog role in scrutinizing the government. The involvement of NGOs and other stakeholders through regular consultation is emphasized. While international pressure has led to the release of some activists, there are no indications of a broader shift in the government's treatment of civil society.
The situation in Vietnam raises concerns about human rights and sets a dangerous precedent for climate funding initiatives. Investors and funders demand accountability to ensure that their contributions are effectively utilized. Without fair and transparent governance, the success of development programs and climate initiatives remains uncertain.
Collaborative Efforts between the Philippines and Vietnam to Address China's Actions in the South China Sea
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has strengthened defense ties with Western allies and increased cooperation with regional states opposing China's actions in the South China Sea, including Vietnam.
Vietnam has become an essential partner in the Philippines' strategy to counter China's ambitions in the disputed area. Marcos recently met Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh to discuss enhancing cooperation in the South China Sea and preventing clashes between their fishermen. They also emphasized the need for a bilateral code of conduct and pledged to protect their rights under international law.
The Philippines and Vietnam have a history of aligning against China's assertiveness in the region, and they are now exploring closer ties once again. The election of Marcos has revived hopes of a strategic alliance between the two countries, and the two sides have pledged to collaborate in various areas such as defense, climate change, and food security.
U.S. Senate Delegation Backs Vietnam and ASEAN's Stand on the South China Sea
During a meeting with Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, a U.S. Senate delegation expressed support for Vietnam and ASEAN's position on the South China Sea.
Prime Minister Chinh requested continued cooperation in various fields, such as the economy, commerce, investment, and climate change response. He also sought the senators' support in market access and limiting trade defense measures on Vietnamese goods.
The U.S. senators affirmed their commitment to a strong Vietnam and supported peace, stability, and freedom in the South China Sea. Vietnam and the United States have a comprehensive partnership with bilateral trade exceeding $123.86 billion in 2022. The United States is Vietnam's largest export market and second-largest commercial partner. U.S. investments in Vietnam have reached over $11 billion, and around 30,000 Vietnamese students study in the U.S., contributing $1 billion to its economy.
In March, General Party Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and U.S. President Joe Biden emphasized economic cooperation as a driving force for bilateral relations. Biden expressed support for Vietnam's independence and prosperity.