Vietnam Police Arrest More Than 50 Suspects Allegedly Linked to Attack in Dak Lak Province

Vietnam Police Arrest More Than 50 Suspects Allegedly Linked to Attack in Dak Lak Province

State Media: Police Arrest More Than 50 Suspects Following An Alleged Attack On Government Offices In Dak Lak Province

Vietnam’s State-run media on June 16 reported that police had detained more than 50 suspects, many of them ethnic minorities, in connection with their alleged involvement in a coordinated attack against government offices Ea Tieu and Ea Ktur communes in Dak Lak Province. According to the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), nine people were killed in the attack.

According to state news reports, in the early morning of June 11, an armed group of more than 40 assailants riding on motorbikes launched a brazen attack on the government offices. State media quoted information provided by Lt. Gen. To An Xo, spokesman of the MPS, that this group first went to the commune headquarters, throwing Molotov cocktails which set fire to the buildings. They later drove to the main road, stopping vehicles and allegedly shooting the drivers and passers-by.

The MPS spokesman said the ministry would “deploy all necessary measures” to track down all the suspects and seize all weapons and explosives. The MPS has not commented on the actual motivations behind the attack. It only claimed that the assailants had received money from hostile forces to conduct the assault.

On June 15, state media reported that the police had arrested Y Tho Ayun, 35, living in Krong Buk Commune, Dak Lak Province. He was accused of being among the leading suspects involved in the attacks. Ayun reportedly confessed to the authorities that he had “persuaded and incited some villagers in the region” to participate in the shooting and murdering several policemen and civilians. The state media reported all the detainees to have  “admitted their wrongdoings.”

Another detained suspect, Y Tim Nie, appeared on state-owned Vietnam Television (VTV) on June 13 and confessed that he was ordered by the group leader to “shoot everyone he saw.” Y Man Mio, another ethnic minority detainee, said he received an order “to stab civilians who decline to follow his requests.” The Vietnamese Magazine cannot verify these confessions, and it is unclear whether or not the Vietnamese police tortured the detainees to extract their statements.

Many independent observers and critics in Vietnam have expressed concerns over the mistreatment and discrimination against ethnic minorities in the region following the unfortunate event in Dak Lak.

Following the incident, videos and short clips that emerged on social media showed residents in Dak Lak, many of whom were ethnic Vietnamese, chasing and beating up indigenous people who they thought were involved in the coordinated attack. Many also worry that the police might wrongfully arrest and prosecute the alleged assailants as they are under immense pressure to investigate and solve the case quickly.

Overseas organizations representing the Montagnards, such as the North Carolina-based Dega Central Highlands Organization and Vietnam Evangelical Church of Christ, told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that they don’t have any members involved in the recent incident. But according to these organizations, the attacks could be an unfortunate result of the Hanoi regime’s prolonged suppression of the ethnic minorities in the highlands. Many indigenous Montagnards have been the victims of government crackdowns on religious freedom, while others have seen their land confiscated and sold to forestry companies.

Vietnamese police have also summoned and fined social media users who publish information deemed to be “false” or “distorted” about the Dak Lak attack.

State media on June 16 reported that the Department of Cybersecurity and High-Tech Crime Prevention, under the Ho Chi Minh City Police, fined a Facebook user named Dung Dinh 7.5 million dong for claiming that the actual cause of the attack on the two commune offices in Dak Lak on June 11 was related to “land disputes.” On the same day, another social media user in Ea H’leo Commune, Dak Lak Province, received a 5 million dong fine for sharing information about the incident on his TikTok account.. The police did not publicize the content of his online postings, only declaring that he had “taken advantage of social networks to share fabricated information, causing confusion among the people.”

As of June 17, it was reported that the police in Dak Lak had summoned and fined over 100 social media users regarding their purported posting and sharing of “false information” about the June 11 incident.

On June 16, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the Cambodian Armed Forces and responsible authorities to fend off “Vietnamese rebel networks” that might be hiding in Cambodia following the shootings. According to the Khmer Times, the Cambodian prime minister asked the authorities of the two provinces of Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri, which share their borders with Dak Lak and other Vietnamese Central Highlands provinces, to shore up border inspections and prevent insurgency networks from operating in the region.

USCIRF Delegation Traveled To Vietnam To Assess Religious Freedom Situation

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) announced on June 12 that Vice Chair Frederick A. Davie and Commissioner Eric Ueland had travelled to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City between May 15 and 19 to assess the state of religious freedom in Vietnam. According to the announcement, the delegation also met with government officials, religious communities, and other civil society representatives to discuss religious freedom.

The USCIRF statement expressed concerns about the two draft religion decrees issued by the Vietnamese government in June 2022 to implement the Law on Belief and Religion. These draft decrees, if passed, could further restrict religious freedom in Vietnam. It was reported that authorities continue to crack down on religious prisoners of conscience, including spiritual freedom activist Nguyen Bac Truyen. Meanwhile, former religious prisoners of conscience continue to report poor prison conditions, according to USCIRF.

Last November, the U.S. Department of State placed Vietnam on its Special Watch List for systematic and severe violations of religious freedom. Since February 2002, the USCIRF has recommended Vietnam’s designation as a “Country of Particular Concern” due to “systematic, ongoing, and egregious” violations of religious freedom.

“While USCIRF acknowledges the incremental improvements in religious freedom that Vietnam has made over the years, we continue to identify significant and worsening trouble spots,” said Davie. “We urge the U.S. government to engage its Vietnamese counterpart to encourage amending this law and the implementing decrees to conform to international standards, including by making registration simpler and optional.”

Several individuals from different Vietnamese religious sects met the USCIRF delegation during their Vietnam visit. Most Venerable Thich Khong Tanh, a representative of the Unified Buddhist Sangha of Vietnam, told RFA that the USCIRF delegation met with him and members of the Vietnam Interfaith Council (an unregistered and independent civil society organization in Vietnam working on religious freedom).

According to RFA, Hua Phi, a political affairs representative from the Cao Dai Chon sect, was questioned by the police in Lam Dong Province and was fined 7.5 million dong after he met with the delegation for “spreading false information.” When Hua Phi refused to pay the fine, the police threatened to take strong measures in the near future.

Civil Society Leader Dang Dinh Bach Begins His Hunger Strike In Prison

Vietnamese environmental civil society leader and lawyer Dang Dinh Bach initiated a hunger strike on June 9 to protest his prison sentence, according to Tran Phuong Thao, Bach’s wife, in an interview with VOA News after she visited her husband on June 11. “He refused to accept the prison food rations from June 9,” Thao told VOA News. She said that her husband was thinner but that he was “mentally and physically stable.”

On May 26, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) called on Vietnam to immediately release Bach after they concluded in a report that he had been arrested arbitrarily and tried unfairly. However, Hanoi denied that Bach’s “tax evasion” charges were politically motivated.

Thao said that her husband decided to go on a hunger strike to raise people's awareness of social issues such as the environment, justice, and climate. Bach added that he “will accept the consequences” even if he lost his life. The lawyer is behind bars at Nghe An Prison No. 6, where many other political prisoners are also being held.

Long An Police Search For Defense Lawyers Of The Buddhist Temple Tinh That Bong Lai

On June 12, Long An Provincial Police announced that they had issued warrants to publicly search for three defense lawyers of the local Tinh That Bong Lai Buddhist Temple. They include attorney Nguyen Van Mieng, 57, attorney Dao Kim Lan, 56, and attorney Dang Dinh Manh, 55.

According to the investigative agency of Long An Provincial Police, they had previously received criminal reports from the Department of Cybersecurity and High-Tech Crime Prevention and Control, which 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.” Long An Province Police reportedly sent numerous summons to these lawyers for further investigation, but they did not come to the questioning sessions or explain their absence.

It said that the defense lawyers of Tinh That Bong Lai “had distributed videos, photos, postings, and articles on social media” that contained information deemed to be potential violations of Article 331.

The Long An Police urged local citizens to immediately report to the investigation police agency of the Public Security of Long An Province if they see these lawyers.

In a petition addressed to the Vietnamese government on March 30, the UN Special Rapporteurs urged Hanoi to provide detailed information regarding the criminal investigation of attorney Dang Dinh Manh, who has defended many political prisoners, activists, and journalists in Vietnam. The UN Special Rapporteurs raised concerns about the government’s interference in Manh’s professional duties with their allegations that he violated Article 331. They also called on Vietnam to ensure that lawyers could perform all their professional functions without intimidation or interference.

UN Working Group On Arbitrary Detention Calls On Vietnam To Release Journalist Nguyen Tuong Thuy

In a petition published on June 14, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) issued opinions on Vietnam’s arrest, detention and imprisonment of journalist Nguyen Tuong Thuy, arguing that the deprivation of his liberties violated Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil Political Rights (ICCPR). WGAD said the appropriate remedy is to “release Mr. Nguyen Tuong immediately and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations.”

Nguyen Tuong Thuy, 73, is a human rights activist, blogger, and journalist. He is a member of the Brotherhood for Democracy, a now-defunct pro-democracy advocacy group, and vice chairman of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vietnam. He was arrested in May 2020 at his home in Hanoi and later charged with “distributing anti-State materials” under Article 117 of the Penal Code. At a trial on January 5, 2021, Thuy was sentenced to 11 years under Article 117.

WGAD concluded in their letter that the charges against Thuy are “overly broad and fail to define key terms allowing individuals to regulate their behavior and to ensure it is in accordance with the law.” It further stated that Thuy’s conviction and sentence were retaliation for his public criticism of the government and his active participation in journalistic work. He was also held incommunicado for approximately six months after his arrest. Furthermore, the government did not provide any appropriate explanations for the prolonged delay of Thuy's trial.

The UN human rights rapporteurs also found that various articles of Vietnam’s Penal Code were vague and broadly formulated, which could be used to “curtail freedom of opinion and expression.” Meanwhile, according to the UN letter, the definition of certain crimes related to national security does not appear to comply with the principles of legal certainty, necessity, and proportionality. The letter said further that the regime utilizes arbitrary arrests and detention, unfair trials, and criminal convictions, against human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers, and lawyers, for criticizing the State or its policies.

Vietnam’s Largest Electricity Company Said The Country Needs An Additional 1 Million Tons Of Coal To Boost Energy Production

Vietnam’s largest electricity company, EVN, a State-owned enterprise, said that its thermal power plants required an additional one million tons of coal in June and July to boost energy production as widespread power outages have engulfed the country’s northern region. EVN officials made the comment on June 13 during a working session with Dong Bac Corp., one of the primary fossil fuel providers for EVN’s thermal power production.

Vietnam’s State-run media, quoting information from EVN, reported that it needed more than six million tons of coal for its thermal power production in June and July. The company has signed contracts with the Vietnam Coal and Minerals Group and Dong Bac Corp. to acquire 4.39 million tons of coal to fulfill its demand, but the number is still 1.64 million tons short of the requested amount.

EVN leaders demanded the Dong Bac Corp supply an additional amount of coal in accordance with the signed contract. They added that EVN was seeking other providers to supplement the necessary coal supply to meet the demand for its thermal production system in the coming months.

According to the Associated Press, Vietnam’s latest national energy plan, called Power Development Plan 8 or PDP8, calls for a shift away from polluting fossil fuels, such as coal, and expanding the use of domestic gas and imported liquefied natural gas, which altogether accounts for about 25% of the country’s electricity generation capacity. Other renewable sources, including hydroelectric, wind, and solar, will account for nearly 50 percent by 2030. However, it was expected that Vietnam’s coal power generation capacity would still rise, contributing around 20 percent of total energy production.

Hanoi’s recent detention of influential climate activists and anti-coal advocates cast a shadow over the country’s commitment to reduce coal-fired power generation and adopt greener methods of electricity production.

The UK Spoke Out Against the Arrest of Environmentalist Hoang Thi Minh Hong

In a statement issued on June 14, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office of the UK government said it is “concerned about the arrest of Hoang Thi Minh Hong, former leader of environmental campaign group CHANGE.”

The statement said the UK recognized “the importance of civil society actors like CHANGE in securing sustainable and inclusive development for all,” while urging Vietnam to “respect all human rights, including the right to freedom of expression and association.”

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Vietnam Is Doubling Down on Its 'Multi-Alignment' Strategy

World Politics Review/ Richard Javad Heydarian/ June 14

“In the first two decades of the 21st century, however, Vietnam has had to once again confront China, amid festering disputes in the South China Sea. Hanoi responded by gradually courting the West, particularly Washington, which was intent on constraining Beijing’s ambitions in the region. Vietnam joined the negotiations for membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal, while pursuing a strategic partnership with Washington to deepen security and defense ties.

Over the past decade, Vietnam has reaped the fruits of its strategic gamble. Trade with the West has increased exponentially; bilateral trade with the U.S. alone reached $139 billion last year, compared to less than $1 billion in 1999, with Vietnam even surpassing the United Kingdom to become the United States’ No. 7 trading partner. Meanwhile, Washington began to relax decades-old sanctions against Hanoi, paving the way for their expanded defense partnership. As part of this rapprochement, the U.S. designated Vietnam a “cooperative maritime partner” in the Indo-Pacific, culminating in the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier’s historic goodwill visit to Vietnam in 2018.”

Mother Goddess Worship: A Safe Space for Vietnamese Queer Spirits

New Narratif/ Author: Huynh Tan Gia Bao, Illustrator: Nikru/ June 12

“The act of sanctification of nature, like Đạo Mẫu, can be seen in other beliefs, such as Hinduism and Shintoism. Other deities in the divine system include Guanyin Buddha, Jade Emperor, the Holy Ladies, Big Officials, Princes, and many more.

With the majority of the divine system being female goddesses and deities, Đạo Mẫu was seen by Vietnamese citizens throughout history as a powerful message for women—who have suffered from sexism and gendered norms in patriarchal Vietnam.

It enhances the voices of the unheard, empowers women’s rights with their blessings, and becomes a spiritual shelter for sexual minorities. It is their inspiration and burning desire for freedom, health, and happiness in their lives. Not only mythical characters but actual heroines were regarded as goddesses, those who have led the fights against invaders such as Võ Thị Sáu, who was a Vietnamese martyr that resisted the French colonial forces at the age of fourteen, became one of the most prominent heroines.”

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