Meta Keeps an Internal List of Vietnamese Communist Officials Immune to Criticisms on its Platforms

Meta Keeps an Internal List of Vietnamese Communist Officials Immune to Criticisms on its Platforms

Vietnam’s National Assembly Considers New Draft Law On Grassroots Security Forces Following The Dak Lak Attack

On June 20, Vietnam’s public security minister, To Lam, presented the National Assembly lawmakers with a draft law proposal to develop a new police force for upholding grassroots security and order. The proposal, introduced in the National Assembly’s 10th session in December 2020, has reportedly been revised and completed and is now open for receiving opinions.

The new draft law, which consists of five chapters and 31 articles, stipulates the functions, tasks, principles of organizations, and activities of the forces participating in the protection of security and order at the grassroots level. The new security forces will reportedly operate alongside the commune and district-level police forces. According to To Lam, the purpose of the law is to “ensure security and order at the grassroots level” and to “build an orderly and safe society, where no one is threatened or harmed.”

Maj. Gen. Nguyen Thi Xuan, who sits on the National Assembly’s standing committee on defense and security, was quoted by state media as saying that she favored passing the proposed law, which would train 300,000 members of low-level security forces to become special security teams. Xuan added that these grassroots-level forces, when adequately trained, “will be the state’s ‘eyes and ears’ monitoring criminals across the country.”

Ha Sy Dong, standing deputy chairman of the Quang Tri People’s Committee, said the Dak Lak incident revealed the fact that “local security forces are weak and lacking in many areas and could not be mobilized quickly enough.” He added that he supported the new draft law on forming new security forces but that the formation of these task forces should not place a burden on the national budget.

The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) has ramped up security measures across Vietnam following the attacks on two government offices in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak on June 11, which resulted in nine deaths, including several policemen, local officials, and civilians.

As of June 20, the Vietnamese police have arrested 74 suspects due to their alleged involvement in the coordinated attacks, including “all leading suspects.” According to the initial MPS investigation, the alleged perpetrators who carried out the shootings were “fuelled by hatred and divisions” regarding ethnic issues between the indigenous and the Kinh people, the majority population of Vietnam. The police also claimed that several exiled members of FULRO, an armed group formed during the Vietnam War whose mission was to gain autonomy for the indigenous inhabitants, had conspired to “driving a wedge between the Kinh and ethnic minority peoples, causing disorder and attracting attention.” However, the government widely publicized in Vietnam that the FULRO was wiped out entirely in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Maj. Gen. Pham Ngoc Viet, head of the Department of Homeland Security at the Ministry of Public Security, declared on June 20 that one of the suspects involved in the attacks on the government offices of Ea Tieu and Ea Ktur communes is a member of a U.S.-based terrorist organization, adding that the June 11 incidents were the result of “organized terrorism.” However, Viet did not disclose the name of the purported “terrorist organization” nor present reliable evidence to support his claims.

Zachary Abuza, a professor at the National War College in Washington, wrote in an opinion article published on Radio Free Asia (RFA) on June 20 that issues such as land ownership and religious freedom are long-standing reasons for the grievances of the Montagnards, the indigenous inhabitants of this region. Abuza further stated that while the Hanoi regime seeks to shift the blame to foreign forces for allegedly carrying out the attacks, it has ignored the legitimate grievances of the country’s ethnic minorities living in the region.

Vietnam Upgraded To Tier 2 Watch List In State Department Trafficking In Persons Report

Vietnam was upgraded to the Tier 2 Watch List from Tier 3 in the latest U.S. State Department report on human trafficking. The 2023 Trafficking in Persons Report was released on June 15. According to the report, Vietnam made numerous efforts to combat human trafficking, including initiating more investigations, prosecuting and convicting more traffickers, increasing international law enforcement cooperation, and carrying out criminal proceedings against allegedly complicit officials. However, Vietnam still does not meet the minimum standards for eliminating trafficking.

Vietnam was categorized as Tier 3 in the State Department’s 2022 ranking, reserved for the countries and territories whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to eliminate human trafficking. This year, however, the Vietnamese government reportedly made considerable achievements, such as increasing law enforcement efforts and protecting the victims of trafficking. Vietnamese courts also sentenced two police officers for concealing a trafficking crime and knowingly extorting a trafficker in May 2022.

However, the report said that the Vietnamese authorities did not proactively identify victims who were trafficked and exploited while working in cyber scam operations. Furthermore, it said the government failed to provide them with necessary assistance following widespread reports about their horrific working conditions. It was reported that local authorities routinely penalized these victims, many of whom were lured into working in Cambodia and had to illegally cross the border to return to Vietnam for their immigration offenses.

The report also proposed recommendations for Vietnam to improve its efforts to eliminate human trafficking. These included collaboration with NGOs and civil society to revise anti-trafficking laws, investigate and prosecute traffickers and government officials allegedly involved in running trafficking rings, and expand training for social workers, first responders, diplomats, and the judiciary on how to work with the victims of trafficking.

Defense Lawyers Of Buddhist Temple Tinh That Bong Lai Arrive In The U.S. for Asylum

Three Vietnamese lawyers, Dang Dinh Manh, Nguyen Van Mieng, and Dao Kim Lan, who defended the local Buddhist temple Tinh That Bong Lai, were summoned by the local police force for allegedly “abusing democratic freedoms,” arrived in the United States on June 16, according to RFA and VOA News Vietnamese. The summon from the police means the government starts its formal criminal investigation of a case, and an arrest warrant will be issued very soon.

On June 12, Long An Provincial Police announced they had issued warrants to publicly search for the three Tinh That Bong Lai Buddhist Temple defense lawyers, Nguyen Van Mieng, Dao Kim Lan, and Dang Dinh Manh. The police alleged that these three lawyers potentially violated Article 331 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes the activities of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the legitimate rights of individuals and organizations.”

In an interview, Mieng, 57, told RFA that he arrived at the Dulles International Airport, Virginia, on June 16. He said he felt relieved upon arrival after more than three months of being hunted by the Vietnamese authorities. Meanwhile, Manh, 55, said he was not responsible for complying with the Long An Police warrants since that decision was not “based on the provisions of the [law on] criminal proceedings.”

Lan told VOA News in an interview that he had “arrived in a very safe place,” adding that he needed to organize a few things before starting a new life in the United States.

In an email sent to VOA News, the Department of State did not confirm or deny the arrival of the three Vietnamese lawyers, only declaring that the U.S. government encourages Vietnam to “respect the right to a fair trial as guaranteed under Vietnamese law, including by ensuring that defense attorneys can practice their legal duty effectively without fear of reprisal.”

The Long An Provincial Police and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to VOA News’ request for comment.

Washington Post: Meta Keeps An Internal List Of Vietnamese Officials Who “Should Not Be Criticized” On Facebook

The Silicon Valley-based technology giant Meta has adopted an internal list of Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) officials “who should not be criticized” on Facebook, one of its major social media platforms, two former employees in Asia revealed in an interview with the Washington Post. The list of names, reportedly shaped in large part by the Vietnamese authorities, is kept private even within the company and has not been disclosed before. The list is considered “unique to Vietnam” in East Asia.

Meta executives did not respond to the Washington Post’s request for comment. Meta’s former employees say social media posts criticizing anyone on this list are “generally removed.” These former employees said that they decided to share the information about the internal operations of Meta because they were concerned about the company’s concessions to the Vietnamese authorities and its inability to push back on the government’s demands for content removal.

Many activists confirmed that they frequently saw posts criticizing high-level officials taken down. The anonymous whistleblowers did not disclose the names of the inviolable Communist Party officials. But Nguyen Van Trang, a Vietnamese activist now living in exile in Thailand, told Amnesty International in a report published in 2020 that since May of the same year, Facebook had restricted everything he posted that contained names of two particular politicians, Nguyen Phu Trong, the secretary general of the VCP, and Tran Quoc Vuong, a senior party member.

More than 70% of Vietnam’s population uses Facebook, quickly making the country the seventh-largest market for Meta worldwide. Many local activists have expressed concerns that the Hanoi regime could use its lucrative market as leverage to make Meta and other tech companies comply with its censorship requests. According to Meta’s transparency reports, as of June 2022, it had blocked more than 8,000 posts in the country, many of them containing content allegedly “opposing the Communist Party and the Government of Vietnam” or information that “distorts, slanders, or insults” organizations or individuals.

Activist Nguyen Lan Thang Gets Transferred To Thanh Hoa Prison After Refusing To Appeal His Sentence

Vietnamese activist Nguyen Lan Thang was recently transferred to Prison No. 5 in Yen Dinh District, Thanh Hoa Province, after he declined to appeal his conviction. Le Bich Vuong, Thang’s wife, only learned about the transfer when she visited him at the Hoa Lo Detention Center, where he was previously held.

Thang, a prominent Vietnamese blogger, was arrested in July last year after the authorities discovered his online postings about democracy, human rights, environmental protection, and criticisms of the country’s foreign policy towards China. The government alleged that his postings violated Article 117 in the Penal Code, which forbids the “making, storing, and distributing anti-State propaganda.” In an April hearing, he was sentenced to six years in prison and two years of probation.

In an interview with RFA, Vuong said Thang did not appeal the sentence because he didn’t want to burden the family and since filing an appeal in political cases seldom brought any results. She added that Thang told her he simply accepted the punishment, considering his imprisonment as going on a long trip or attending a new college program. Vuong expressed her hope that the prison authorities would allow Thang to receive periodic supplies from his family and be treated in accordance with the law on detention.

Land Rights Activist Transferred to a New Prison

Recently, Vietnamese land rights activist Nguyen Thi Tam was transferred from Gia Trung Prison, Gia Lai Province, to Prison No. 5. Previously, Tam requested the authorities to move her to a prison closer to home in Duong Noi District, Hanoi City. However, Tam’s family told RFA she had less time outside the cell in the new detention center.

CIVICUS: Vietnam Continues Its Crackdown On Activists Despite Election To UN Human Rights Council

CIVICUS, a South African-based civil society advocacy group, writes in its latest publication that Vietnam’s civic space has not significantly improved despite the country’s election to the UN Human Rights Council and the holding of various bilateral human rights dialogues with the EU, the United States, and Australia.

The CIVICUS report notes that Hanoi has continued to arrest and convict many activists and journalists for conducting “propaganda against the state,” while continuing to weaponize its tax evasion laws against environmental activists. The authorities also barred an activist from travelling and allegedly abducted an activist in exile in Thailand. Vietnamese police also crushed a protest against a drainage project in Dak Lak Province, according to the report.

Vietnam Officially Charges Climate Change Activist Hoang Thi Minh Hong With “Tax Evasion”

Vietnam’s State media reported that the Ho Chi Minh City Public Security Investigation Agency on June 21 had officially prosecuted Hoang Thi Minh Hong, a Vietnamese climate change activist and the founder of a wildlife protection advocacy group named CHANGE, on a charge of “tax evasion” under Article 200 of the Penal Code. The initial investigation declared that Hong had evaded taxes amounting to more than 5.2 billion dong ($221,000).

According to state media, Hong, 51, had admitted her criminal wrongdoing and paid around 200 million dong to the temporary financial account of the Criminal Investigation Department of Corruption, Economic and Smuggling of Ho Chi Minh City Police. The decision to prosecute Hong has been approved by the People's Procuracy of Ho Chi Minh City.

On June 20, 65 International human rights organizations released an open letter calling on former U.S. President Barack Obama to demand the immediate and unconditional release of Hoang Thi Minh Hong. The letter stated that Hong could face up to seven years in prison in Vietnam, which is notoriously known for its use of torture and disregard for fundamental human rights. The advocacy coalition also urges the former U.S. president to issue a public statement pressuring the Vietnamese government to intervene and expedite her release.

On June 22, a group of social activists, including former colleagues of Hong, gathered in front of the Vietnamese Embassy in New Zealand to protest her arrest while urging the New Zealand government to voice concerns about Hong’s prosecution. The protest spokesperson, Aaron Packard, called for releasing Hong and other environmental and religious activists, including Nguyen Trung Ton, Nguyen Bac Truyen, Pham Van Troi, Truong Minh Duc, and Dang Dinh Bach.

USS Ronald Reagan arrives in Vietnam’s port city of Danang

The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan arrived in Danang in central Vietnam on June 25, in a rare visit by one of the U.S. Navy’s biggest ships. The visit comes as Washington and Beijing scale up efforts to foster stronger ties with Vietnam and other Southeast Asian nations. It is the third visit to Vietnam by a U.S. aircraft carrier since the withdrawal of American troops and the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. It also occurred only a few weeks after Chinese vessels sailed in Vietnam’s waters, prompting protests from the country’s foreign ministry. The USS Ronald Reagan is scheduled to remain in Danang until June 30.

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's largest destroyer, the Izumo, also made a port call to Vietnam’s Cam Ranh Bay between June 20 and 23. The visit of the Izumo also took place against the backdrop of China’s ramping up its maritime activities in the South China Sea. According to Vietnam’s state media, the Izumo visit to Vietnam paved the way for the 50th celebration of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Japan on Sept. 21.

Meanwhile, Vietnam’s state media announced on June 25 that Volodin Vyacheslav Victorovich, chairman of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, had postponed his official visit to Vietnam, originally scheduled to occur between June 25 and 26, due to an “unexpected situation in Russia.”

According to an announcement from the Vietnamese National Assembly’s Committee for External Relations on June 24, the Russian official wished to visit Vietnam at another time. The postponement of Victorovich’s visit coincided with the short-lived revolt of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a mercenary commander of the Wagner Group, a paramilitary organization, staged against the Russian government on June 24.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan Dies Aged 86

Vietnam’s State-run media reported that former Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan, a Vietnamese veteran diplomat, died on June 21 at the 108 Military Central Hospital in Hanoi. He was 86. Khoan began his career as an interpreter at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 19??. His job was to interpret for officials and accompanying delegations.

Khoan became Vietnam’s deputy foreign minister in 1990 and later got elected to the Central Party Committee in 1991. He became the first deputy minister in charge of relations with Asia-Pacific countries in 1998 and became an ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary and the minister of trade in 2000. Khoan was also remembered for his dedication to ushering Vietnam into membership of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1995. He retired in 2007 due to health reasons.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Vietnam's political infighting has gone quiet but is far from over

Nikkei Asia/ Zachary Abuza/ June 20

“The anti-corruption campaign will also continue because it is needed. Given unclear property rights and a shortage of resources for regulatory enforcement and white-collar investigations, incentives to engage in corruption remain enormous.

The fact that investment approvals and government spending are moving forward again is good news for the business community. But there is a new level of risk in trying to understand who may be a target of investigation.

This will be especially true in the real estate sector, where $10.7 billion in corporate bonds will mature by year-end, with a risk of default seen with $4.8 billion of that debt. The Ministry of Public Security warned late last year that more arrests would be coming in the real estate sector, and some executives have already been called in for questioning and likely have had their passports seized.”

Vietnam censors Netflix shows for ‘hurting the feelings of the people’

Coda Story/ Dien Nguyen An Luong/ May 8

“While the authorities were explicit in asking that Netflix remove “Pine Gap” and “Little Women” in their entirety, they were less specific when it came to the MH370 docuseries. In fact, they only requested the rectification and removal of “inaccurate information” related to the country’s search efforts in the show. But Netflix gutted the entire episode instead, in what looked like a bid to get on the good side of the officials who regulate it.  

This underlines Vietnam’s growing leverage over western tech companies, many of which are making a lot of money in Vietnam. Facebook is especially dominant. Vietnam ranks seventh among the ten countries boasting the highest number of Facebook users worldwide, an estimated 70 million. The company reportedly generates annual local revenue of more than $1 billion. But others aren’t far behind. DataReportal estimates that YouTube has 63 million users in Vietnam and TikTok has around 50 million.”

The party strikes back

Asia Democracy Chronicles/ Tuan Nguyen/ February 22

“On the legal front, laws intended to create a legal framework for civil society, such as the Law on Associations and the Law on Demonstration, were placed on hold indefinitely, while laws restricting civil rights, such as the Law on Cybersecurity, were quickly approved.

But the Party’s animosity toward civil society did not end with unregistered groups and rights activists, and swiftly extended to registered NGOs and their influential leaders.

The crackdown on NGOs began with targeted restrictions and harassment of a few prominent organizations and their leaders, and then became more widespread and systematic as the authorities honed in on the NGOs’ primary vulnerability: their sources of funding.”

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