Human Rights Watch Urges EU to Pressure Vietnam to Improve Human Rights; Gunfire in Central Highlands, 7 People Killed

Human Rights Watch Urges EU to Pressure Vietnam to Improve Human Rights; Gunfire in Central Highlands, 7 People Killed

Vietnam Sentences Music Teacher Dang Dang Phuoc To Eight Years Imprisonment On Anti-State Charges

A Vietnamese court in Dak Lak Province on June 6 sentenced Dang Dang Phuoc, a music teacher and social critic, to eight years of imprisonment on a charge of “distributing anti-State materials” under Article 117 of the Penal Code. The trial of Phuoc reportedly began at 7.30 a.m. and concluded at 2.30 p.m. on the same day. The Dak Lak music teacher must also serve four years of probation after his release.

Phuoc, 60, was arrested in September 2022 and was charged under Article 117. He became a music teacher at the Dak Lak College of Pedagogy after serving in the Vietnamese Army for four years when he was stationed in Laos. According to rights advocate Human Rights Watch (HRW), Phuoc has spoken about social, political, and environmental issues in Vietnam while campaigning against corruption and abuse of power at the grassroots level. He also defended the rights of Vietnamese land rights petitioners and ethnic minority groups.

Le Thi Ha, Phuoc’s wife, told Radio Free Asia (RFA) in an interview that although the court announced that the trial of her husband would be open to the public, Phuoc’s relatives, friends, and those concerned about his case were not allowed inside the courtroom. Only those summoned by the court, including Ha, could attend the hearing. Ha added that Phuoc’s request to summon the investigators and assessors of his case to the court for further inquiry was not approved. She told RFA that her husband plans to appeal the verdict.

According to the indictment of the Dak Lak Provincial People’s Procuracy, Phuoc had downloaded and written “articles containing unobjective content, which slander, insult, and smear the prestige and honor of the state; defame the people's administration; distort [the truth], and sow confusion among the people; and cause psychological warfare.” He was then accused of publishing such content on social media. The indictment added, "Phuoc also directly sang and played the piano for others to sing songs containing untruthful content, which seek to defame the people's government.”

Following her husband’s arrest, Ha was summoned by the Dak Lak Police for questioning multiple times about the songs Phuoc sang and posted on his social media. They include the song “Vietnam Path,” composed by a former political prisoner, Viet Khang, to honor the political prisoner Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, and “A Big Circus Troupe in a Small Homeland,” composed by the rights blogger and composer Tuan Khanh. The police also warned Ha that she would lose her job if she kept posting about her husband’s case on social media.

Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director at HRW, condemned the sentence imposed by the Dak Lak court on Dang Dang Phuoc in a tweet, saying that “This unjust prison sentence reveals GS Nguyen Phu Trong’s anti-corruption campaign is a sham game that is really more about holding on to power [...] but does not care to address the Communist Party of #Vietnam’s widespread malfeasance in its ranks.” Robertson urged the European Union to call out Hanoi “for its unrelenting rights violations.”

Un Special Rapporteurs Request A Further Explanation From Vietnam Regarding The Criminal Investigation Of Attorney Dang Dinh Manh

In a petition dated March 30, UN Special Rapporteurs requested the Vietnamese government provide detailed explanations regarding the criminal investigation into Dang Dinh Manh, a human rights lawyer. Manh is the defense lawyer of many political prisoners, pro-democracy activists, and journalists in Vietnam. Last year, he legally defended the practitioners of Tinh That Bong Lai, a local Buddhist temple located in Long An Province, who were prosecuted and imprisoned for “abusing democratic freedoms” under Article 331 of the Penal Code.

The Long An Police Investigative Agency summoned attorney Manh for the first time in February 2023 for questioning, saying that it had received a notice from the  Department of Cybersecurity and High-Tech Crime Prevention and Control  of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) alleging that Manh, along with some other individuals, “had spread online, through video clips, images, words and articles infringing on the interest of the state, the legitimate rights and interest of organizations and individuals.” It added that the Long An Police were investigating his case.

The UN Special Rapporteurs raised concerns about Vietnam’s interference in a lawyer's professional duties in the criminal investigation of attorney Dang Dinh Manh. The petition noted that Manh had been placed on a travel ban list at the request of the Ministry of Public Security since August 18, 2021. However, he only learned about the travel ban imposed on him on Feb. 4, 2023, while crossing the border between Vietnam and Cambodia for personal travel.

The UN letter requested Hanoi provide further information on the criminal investigation launched against attorney Manh and measures adopted by Vietnam to ensure that lawyers can perform all their professional functions without intimidation or interference. The letter was later published on the website of the special procedures of the Human Rights Council on May 30 since Vietnam did not respond to these inquiries within 60 days of receiving them.

Two Australians Facing Death Penalty Granted Clemency Following Prime Minister Albanese’s Visit to Vietnam

Vietnam has granted clemency to two Australians sentenced to death following the official visit of Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese last week, according to his statement given to Australian broadcaster ABC News’ 7:30 program. Albanese said that the identity of the two Australians was not revealed at the request of their families for privacy. The Australian prime minister added that Australia has a long history of strongly opposing the death penalty and lobbying diplomatically for its citizens detained overseas.

Regarding the case of Vietnamese Australian political prisoner Chau Van Kham, 73, who got imprisoned for 12 years in Vietnam on purported “terrorism” offenses, Albanese told the 7:30 program that he had made representations on behalf of Kham during his high-level meetings with Vietnamese officials. "We are after an international prisoner transfer and we're hopeful in that case," Mr Albanese said.

Kham is a member of Viet Tan, a pro-democracy group with offices in several countries outside Vietnam. Vietnam’s Ministry of  Public Security ministry deems Viet Tan a “terrorist organization.” Kham, who has already spent almost four and a half years behind bars, is expected to mark his 74th birthday this week. Kham’s family, who currently reside in Australia, has been urging the Australian government to pressure Hanoi to free him since his arrest in 2019.

Human Rights Watch Urges European Union To Press Vietnam To End Human Rights Violations

In a letter issued on June 8, rights advocate HRW urged the European Union to raise the issue of the deterioration of human rights with Hanoi during the bilateral rights dialogue on June 9. HRW said that Vietnam had disregarded its commitments to protect fundamental human rights when signing the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement in 2020.

The country had since arrested and imprisoned different civil society leaders, including Mai Phan Loi and Dang Dinh Bach, who intended to join the Domestic Advisory Group, part of the EU-Vietnam Trade Agreement. Bach and Loi were charged with “tax evasion.” The Domestic Advisory Group would have included independent civil society observers that monitor the trade agreement's implementation and ensure that Vietnam complies with labor rights, human rights,  and environmental requirements.

HRW also raised the cases of recently incarcerated political activists, including Vietnam border war veteran Tran Bang, noodle vendor Bui Tuan Lam, and music teacher Dang Dang Phuoc, charged under Article 117 of the Penal Code.

Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director at HRW, called on the EU to “get serious about pressing the Vietnamese government to convert rights pledges into genuine reform.” “It’s not much of a rights dialogue if Vietnam officials are just going through the motions, expressing platitudes, and waiting for the meeting to end,” he added.

On June 7, the German government said it was concerned about the recent detention of Hoang Thi Minh Hong, another influential Vietnamese climate activist, on the same “tax evasion” charges levied against other civil society leaders. Germany’s Foreign Ministry said that the arrests of Hong and others “are an alarming signal for civil society actors across the country, as well as for environmental and climate protection.” The ministry added that they “view the arrest critically with regard to the upcoming implementation of the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) agreed between Vietnam and the G7 countries, Denmark and Norway.”

The JETP agreement, funded by the G7 and the two Nordic countries, pledges to provide Vietnam with $15.5 billion to help it accelerate the transition from coal-fired energy to renewable sources, the Associated Press reported.

In a tweet published on June 10, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg called the arrest of Vietnamese civil society leader Hoang Thi Minh Hong “political” and that “she is just one of the victim[s] of a larger crackdown on environmental activists everywhere.” “Free Hong, free them, free them all,” Thunberg added.

Despite the firm commitment to weaning itself off from dependence on coal, Vietnam’s actual undertaking provides a contrasting narrative. State-run media reported that Vietnam’s central Quang Tri Province recently proposed to the government a plan to build a 160-km conveyor belt to transport coal from Laos to a local seaport due to the rising demand. According to a method suggested by local authorities, the belt, with an expected cost of around $460 million, would be able to transport up to 20 million tons of coal from Laos to Vietnam every year.

Northern Vietnam Experiences Widespread Power Blackouts Due To Electricity Generation Shortfall

Many of Vietnam’s northern provinces have experienced widespread power outages due to the surge of electricity demand nationwide during the dry season, outmatching the capacity that regional hydropower plants could supply. It was reported the northern region is heavily dependent on hydropower, and the situation is exacerbated as the water levels of major reservoirs in the north have receded, affecting their sustainable supply of electricity.

The Vietnamese government has campaigned on saving electricity by urging its citizens to switch off lights and air conditioners when not in use. Several Vietnamese cities, including the capital Hanoi, and economic powerhouse Ho Chi Minh City, have reportedly dimmed all decorative lights, street lamps, and billboards to save electricity. Restaurants, hotels, office complexes, and apartment buildings have also reduced their outdoor advertising lighting by 50%, according to a news report from the state-run VnExpress.

Vietnam’s energy supply predicament occurred after Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh approved the country’s long-awaited power strategy until 2030, Power Development Plan 8 (PDP8), which reportedly provides a roadmap to help Vietnam double its energy capacity to 150 gigawatts (GW) from the current 69 GW, according to the South China Morning Post. The new plan seeks to increase Vietnam’s renewable and gas-fired power to replace much of its coal-fired capacity.

Vietnam Censors News Reports About Attacks On Two Police Stations In The Central Highlands

Two police headquarters in Ea Tieu and Ea Ktur Communes, Cu Kuin District, Dak Lak Province, were attacked early on June 11. It was reported that at least six officers were killed and many others injured, according to reports from state-run news outlet VnExpress. The news report published by VnExpress, titled “Shooting at two commune police headquarters, with 6 officers killed,” was removed shortly after its publication.

VnExpress reported, using sources from the Ministry of Public Security, that at 12.35 a.m. on June 11, about 10 people dressed in camouflage uniforms rode motorbikes to the headquarters of the Committee and the Ea Tieu Commune Police Station and opened fire. After killing two police officers, they reportedly went to the Ea Sim Junction on Highway 27, allegedly stopped one pickup truck, and shot the driver dead. However, there is no independent evidence to support this claim.

At the same time, another group of 30 people, riding in two jeeps and several motorbikes, attacked the headquarters of the People's Committee and the Ea Ktur Commune Police Station. They used guns and knives to attack a police general, a captain, and two lieutenants. The commune secretary, chairman, and one young man were also shot.

According to preliminary investigations, seven people, including one civilian, were killed, while three others were reportedly injured. The motive for the mass shooting remains unclear.
Later that same day, state-run media reported that the Dak Lak Police had arrested six people due to their connection to the attacks on two police stations in Ea Tieu and Ea Ktur Communes. It was estimated that 40 people had planned and coordinated the attacks. The provincial police are reported to be searching for other assailants.

Prime Minister Hun Sen asks the Vietnamese government to look out for Rainsy’s entry

Khmer Times:

“[...] Prime Minister Hun Sen asked the Vietnamese government to watch out for former CNRP President Sam Rainsy entering Vietnam using his French passport and also ask[ed] the Vietnamese authorities to arrest Rainsy as soon as he steps into the country’s territory.

The Premier made the remark during the launch of the construction of the bridge across the Mekong River, which connects the Phnom Penh-Bavet Expressway this morning.

Mr. Hun Sen asked Ambassador Nguyen Huy Tang to inform his government that Rainsy wished to enter Cambodia through Vietnam.

He added that he had known this plan from his “sources”, claiming that Rainsy is trying to get into Cambodia’s neighbouring countries in order to irritate the Prime Minister.”

Why Trade Winner Vietnam Is Taking Some Blows


“Rarely has winning looked less appealing. Widely hailed in the past few years as a big beneficiary of US-China economic rivalry, Vietnam is stumbling. Its recent performance is so anemic that China’s much-derided recovery looks relatively vigorous. Hanoi can’t escape the gravity of slowing global growth — combined with some homegrown setbacks.

That the nation’s travails have received minimal attention says a lot about how narratives can get stuck. When tensions between Beijing and Washington escalated during Donald Trump’s presidency, Vietnam became the toast of think tanks and investment banks. It had proximity to China. The country was busy enmeshing itself in supply chains that dotted Southeast Asia, especially in electronics. Its Communist rulers had developed cordial ties with the US. Real estate was booming. Things that might go wrong were glossed over if ever considered at all.”

Vietnam - Latest draft of the Cybersecurity Administrative Sanctions Decree - what you must know

Duane Morris LLP:

“After the official issuance of Decree No. 13/2023/ND-CP on personal data protection on 17 April 2023 and Decree No. 53/2022/ND-CP guiding the Cybersecurity Law on 15 August 2022, the Cybersecurity Administrative Sanctions Decree (CASD) is expected to be the final piece of the puzzle to enforce the said Decrees and to form a comprehensive set of laws on cybersecurity in Vietnam.

For that reason, the first draft of the CASD for public consultation in September 2021, following by workshop organized in 2022 by the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) in Hanoi to collect public opinions on the second version of the CASD where repeated offenders are subject to a monetary fine of up to 5% of such offender’s annual revenue.”

Chinese ships leave Vietnam waters after Hanoi protest


“In a rare public protest on May 25, Vietnam's government urged the Chinese research ship and its escort to leave the country's EEZ after a visit to Hanoi by senior Russian official Dmitry Medvedev.

The incident comes amid what Washington has described as "growing aggressiveness" from Beijing, following close encounters between U.S. and Chinese ships and jets in the area. Senior U.S. and Chinese officials held talks in Beijing on Monday that both parties called constructive.”

TikTok probe's findings expected in July: deputy minister


“Findings of the probe into TikTok operation in Vietnam are expected to be announced in July, Deputy Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Thanh Lam said on Monday.

Inspection of the cross-border social network TikTok operation was launched in the middle of last month after reports on TikTok users arbitrarily using private and personal images to spread fake news, smears, and insults to others.

Lam said that authorities initially have clues to identify TikTok’s violations and they are further verified following legal regulations.”

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Remembering Vietnam’s Great Famine

The Diplomat/ Christelle Nguyen/ June 6

“Vietnamese state leaders have long touted the country’s rice export successes as a sign of wise leadership, highlighting Vietnam’s status as the world’s second-largest rice exporter and one of the fastest-growing economies. However, the Great Famine is largely overlooked. Each year, Independence Day is celebrated on September 2, but with only fleeting reference to the famine that preceded the 1945 declaration of independence.

While the government has not actively suppressed discussion of the famine, calls for official commemoration of the 1944-1945 famine have yet to receive a response. Such calls from Vietnamese historians have been covered by non-state media outlets and featured in BBC reports, but Vietnamese domestic media have not given them attention.”

South China Sea: three barriers to a fully-fledged Philippines-Vietnam alliance

South China Morning Post/ Richard Heydarian/ June 6

“Hanoi, which is again courting its communist brethren in Beijing, will have misgivings about fully aligning with Washington and/or its regional allies such as Manila. Also, Hanoi cannot afford to fully alienate Beijing, a top trading and investment partner.

Meanwhile, both nationalist and Beijing-friendly voices in the Philippines have increasingly zeroed in on Vietnam’s expansive footprint in the South China Sea, pointing to its reclamation and militarisation activities in contested waters. One prominent pro-Beijing Filipino commentator went as far as openly portraying Vietnam as the “more serious threat” in the South China Sea.”

Searching for Guardrails: A Vietnamese Perspective on Strategic Equilibrium Amid Uncertainty

The Diplomat/ Vu Le Thai Hoang, Ngo Di Lan/ June 5

“From the perspective of Vietnamese policymakers, strategic equilibrium in Southeast Asia is likely to be predicated on the U.S. and China reaching a modus vivendi – that is, an informal set of rules to limit their power competition and allow both to peacefully coexist. More specifically, there should be mutual respect between the superpowers and a mutual acknowledgment that neither can truly dominate this critical region. Therefore, such a vision of regional equilibrium, first and foremost, depends on a lack of superpower crisis and conflict in Southeast Asia. In particular, the South China Sea issue must be peacefully managed and eventually resolved in accordance with international law and regional norms.”

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