Police Charge Blogger Thai Van Duong with “Distributing Anti-State Propaganda”

Police Charge Blogger Thai Van Duong with “Distributing Anti-State Propaganda”

Vietnam Police Officially Charge Blogger Duong Van Thai with “Distributing Anti-State Propaganda”

Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS), the state police, officially charged Duong Van Thai, a Vietnamese blogger who lived in exile in Thailand, with “distributing anti-State propaganda,” a purported violation of Article 117 in the Penal Code. According to an announcement letter dated July 5 that was sent to Duong Thi Lu, the mother of Thai, the police also extended the detention of the Vietnamese blogger until August 12. The letter said he was detained at MPS Detention Center B14 in Thanh Tri District, Hanoi City.

Lu said the police letter was delivered to her home on July 14, three months after state-sponsored agents allegedly kidnaped Thai.

Duong Van Thai, 41, owned a Youtube channel called “Thái Văn Đường” and specialized in reporting on infighting within the Vietnamese Communist Party. All videos and live streams published on the channel disappeared shortly after he went missing. Thai had been a political refugee in Thailand since early 2019 and was granted refugee status by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Bangkok in the same year.

On April 13, he was reported missing after leaving his home in Pathum Thani Province, Thailand. Three days later, on April 16, the Ha Tinh Provincial Police in Vietnam said they found a man named Duong Van Thai who “illegally crossed the border to enter Vietnam from Laos.” Vietnamese activists and those close to Thai believed he had been kidnapped by Vietnamese security agents in Bangkok and forcibly transported back to Vietnam.

The alleged abduction of Duong Van Thai worried Vietnamese dissidents and human rights activists living in Thailand, who feared that Vietnam’s security apparatus has become increasingly bold in its repression of foreign-based critics.

In a Facebook posting on July 20, attorney Dang Dinh Manh, a human rights lawyer in the United States, said that the Vietnamese police inadvertently admitted their operations to kidnap Duong Van Thai in their announcement of indicting him.

Manh wrote that according to Vietnam’s criminal procedure law, the limit for the first temporary detention is four months. This coincides with the unconfirmed information that Thai was kidnapped on April 13 in Thailand, while his temporary custody will conclude on August 12. The attorney believes that the Vietnamese police planned the abduction of the blogger in Thailand’s territory in advance.

Moreover, Manh added that the police security investigation agency officially charged Duong Van Thai with violating Article 117 of the Penal Code instead of punishing him for an illegal border crossing, which the Ha Tinh Police initially alleged.

Procuracy Suggests Death Penalty For Former Secretary Of The Deputy Minister Of Health In Connection With Rescue Flights

On July 17, the Hanoi People's Procuracy proposed the punishment for 54 government officials and directors of tourism companies accused of bribery in organizing repatriation flights for Vietnamese citizens stranded overseas due to the COVID-19 pandemic that happened in 2021. According to the proposals of the Procuracy, 18 out of 21 Vietnamese officials accused of “receiving bribes” could receive a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, life sentences, or the death penalty.

To Anh Dung, former deputy minister of foreign affairs, who allegedly received a bribe of 21.5 billion dong ($909 million), was recommended a sentence of between 12 and 13 years in prison. Nguyen Thi Huong Lan, former head of the Consular Department under the foreign affairs ministry, accused of receiving a bribe of 25 billion dong, was proposed to be sentenced to between 18 and 19 years in prison. Meanwhile, Pham Trung Kien, former secretary of Deputy Minister of Health Do Xuan Tuyen, who allegedly received the most bribes, amounting to 42.6 billion dong, is facing a suggested death penalty.

Directors of tourism companies prosecuted for greasing the palm of Vietnamese consular staff and provincial authorities to choose their firms as the main organizers of such flights face suggested sentences of between 18 months and 12 years in prison.

Former deputy director of the Hanoi City Police, Nguyen Anh Tuan, who was prosecuted for “brokering bribery,” was recommended a sentence of between 6 and 7 years in prison. Hoang Van Hung, a former investigator at the Security Investigation Department of the MPS, was a chief investigator handling the case and was recommended a sentence of between 19 and 20 years in prison for “committing fraud.” Previously, Tuan allegedly accepted bribes from Le Hong Son and Nguyen Thi Thanh Hang, the respective director and deputy director of a tourism company, and bribed Hung to help Son and Hang clear their penal charges.

According to the Procuracy, as of July 18, 54 defendants implicated in the rescue flights trial had returned nearly 130 billion dong and paid $1.5 million as a remedial method to have their sentences reduced according to Vietnam's laws. Pham Trung Kien and To Anh Dung reportedly paid back nearly 90 billion dong. Nguyen Thi Huong Lan, accused of receiving over 25 billion dong in bribes, has only returned 900 million dong.

Vietnamese Prisoner Of Conscience Tran Huynh Duy Thuc Requests He Is Immediately Released

Vietnamese prisoner of conscience Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, who was sentenced to 16 years in prison for “conspiring to overthrow the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the former 1999 Penal Code, has continued to petition for the abolition of his remaining penalty and demanded he be immediately released. Previously, Thuc, a former entrepreneur, petitioned the People’s Supreme Court to release him and others convicted under Article 79.

Thuc argued that those convicted under Article 79 should receive a more lenient punishment if they were arrested before they actually committed the alleged crime, as stipulated in the recent 2015 Penal Code. The 2015 penal code applies to those convicted under the former 1999 code. Tran Huynh Duy Tan, Thuc’s brother, informed Radio Free Asia (RFA) about his brother’s letter on July 18, three days after his family visited Thuc at Detention Center No. 6 in Nghe An Province.

However, according to Tan, Vietnam’s Supreme Court rejected Thuc’s petition in a response letter dated July 5. The letter, titled “Document 253,” cites the provisions of the legal code prohibiting activities to overthrow the people's administration of the 2015 Penal Code as the basis for the rejection. The new legal code states that those who “are about to commit the crime of overthrowing the people’s administration” could receive sentences between one and five years in prison. But the court's letter argues that Thuc was the “main organizer of the crime,” so his sentence could not be mitigated.

In a Facebook posting, attorney Ngo Ngoc Trai, from the Hanoi Bar Association, writes that the sentencing of Thuc under Clause 1 of Article 79 of the 1999 Penal Code was incorrect. Trai argued that the investigation showed that Thuc had not joined an anti-government organization and had only established a group called “Chan Research Group,” which consisted of only five people, including Thuc before the case was prosecuted. According to Trai, the prosecutors claimed the group was part of an anti-government organization was incorrect.

Civil Society Leader Dang Dinh Bach Ends His Month-Long Hunger Strike In Prison

Dang Dinh Bach, an environmental civil society leader and community lawyer, reportedly ended his hunger strike to protest his prison sentence after a month, according to his wife, Tran Phuong Thao. Bach is being held at Detention Center No. 6 in Thanh Chuong District, Nghe An Province, where he is serving a five-year prison term for allegedly committing "tax evasion."

Bach, 45, former director of the Center for Legal Studies and Policy for Sustainable Development (LPSD), started a hunger strike in early June to demand his release because he believed he was unjustly convicted. Bach’s nonprofit organization campaigned for environmental protection and provided legal assistance for disadvantaged people.

Thao told RFA in an interview that during her visitation to Bach on July 13, she learned that her husband had already ceased his hunger strike on July 10. Thao added that Bach started to fast on June 9 as he rejected all food rations from the prison. According to Thao, Bach’s health significantly weakened, and he lost 44 pounds after the strike. Thao said her husband’s mental health was fine and that Bach stopped fasting because he felt he had “already achieved his goal.”

“His goal is to create a global solidarity campaign to raise awareness of the people,” Thao told RFA. “The purpose of his hunger strike was achieved as it united resources worldwide to strengthen the voice of civil society on shared goals such as justice, the environment, and the climate.”

The latest hunger strike was the fourth Bach initiated since his arrest. Before the first instance hearing in January 2022, he went on a hunger strike for 11 days to protest his arrest and demand to have a fair trial. In July 2022, he went on a hunger strike for 24 days. And at the end of last November, Bach went on a five-day hunger strike.

A Vietnamese Teacher Arrested On “Distributing Anti-State” Charges Due To Online Postings

Duong Tuan Ngoc, a macrobiotic teacher who often uploaded his lessons on social media, was arrested by Lam Dong Province police on July 15 for “distributing anti-State propaganda” under Article 117 of the Penal Code, according to his family.

On July 16, Bui Thanh Diem Ngoc, Ngoc's wife, told VOA News that the police arrested her husband after they were invited to multiple interrogation sessions beginning on July 11. According to Diem Ngoc, the police questioned her husband about his postings on Facebook and Youtube. She said the police also confiscated their cell phones while her husband remained detained at the police station.

The police announced that Tuan Ngoc "had posted and shared articles on social networks" that contained content "attacking the socialist building agenda, distorting history, and denying revolutionary achievements."

Tuan Ngoc, 38, is a well-known teacher with thousands of followers on YouTube and Facebook. On a YouTube channel called "Liberal Education 2," Tuan Ngoc appeared to discuss Vietnam's socioeconomic situation in many talks. His talks focused on problems of modern Vietnam, such as corruption, weak governance, and the prevalence of interest groups within the political system.

On another Youtube channel, "Liberal Education," which has over 450 videos and attracted more than 34,000 subscribers, Tuan Ngoc claims that his purpose in creating these videos is to "revitalize the nation, and thereby to revitalize the country."

Vietnam's Proposed Internet Decree Requires Social Media Companies To Ban Users Who Publish "Anti-State Content"

The  Ministry of Information and Telecommunications (MIT) has proposed a new draft decree on the management, provision, and usage of Internet and online services in the country, which contains new provisions requiring social media companies to terminally block and ban users, groups, or pages that are found publishing “anti-State content.” The new draft decree will replace Decree No. 72/2013/ND-CP on Internet regulations and Decree 27/2018/ND-CP, issued to amend and supplement Decree 72/2013/ND-CP. The draft decree is now open to gather public opinion.

More specifically, the decree instructs foreign and local companies and cross-border social networks that provide online services to prevent and remove content that violates the law, temporarily or permanently block social network accounts, community pages, community groups, and channels that “often violate [nationals security]” or “violate national security.” According to the MIT, this regulation will help reduce the time and resources needed by the Vietnamese authorities to block and remove every piece of “illegal content.”

In addition to the above requirement, the revised decree also proposed to require the authentication of social media user accounts via mobile phone numbers. The telecommunications ministry believes that it is necessary to make domestic and foreign social networks providing cross-border services in Vietnam authenticate user accounts via mobile phone numbers in Vietnam when registering to set up social network accounts. Furthermore, only local social networks that acquire a social network license or foreign social networks that register with MIT can provide live streaming services in Vietnam.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen Visits Vietnam, Hoping To Cultivate Stronger Ties With Hanoi

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen arrived in Vietnam on July 20 after visits to China and India, where she attended financial meetings of the Group of 20 major industrial economies. During her meeting with Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, Yellen said the United States considers Vietnam "a key partner in advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific."

“Vietnam is also a close economic partner, with our two-way trade reaching record highs last year and the United States serving as Vietnam’s largest export market,” Yellen said. “It is a priority for our administration to deepen our economic and security ties with Vietnam in the months and years to come.”

Talking about climate change, Yellen said it poses an existential threat to the world but also provides a “key economic opportunity” and a way to build “greater resilience into our economies,” she said, describing the facility as “impressive.” She added that the United States was actively promoting green resilience in supply chains, although that doesn’t mean ending trading relationships with China. “But we do partner with more countries. And we see Vietnam as an excellent partner,” Yellen said.

According to her remarks published on the U.S. Department of Treasury website, the United States wishes to support Vietnam’s transition toward a net-zero economy by 2050. She added that the United States is also committed to helping Vietnam accelerate the clean energy transition by launching the Just Energy Transition Partnership, financed by the G7 economies to allow the country to terminate its reliance on coal and fossil fuels.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

In Vietnam, risking all in the search for a better life

Al Jazeera/ Sen Nguyen/ July 20

‘The majority of Vietnamese labour migrants come from the north and north central region of the country - where Nghe An is located, and according to a Nghe An provincial state media report in March, remittances attributed to Vietnamese working on contracts overseas were valued at half a billion dollars annually for the province.

Such inflows of cash have contributed to putting Vietnam in 10th place among the largest remittance-receiving countries in the world.

And for five consecutive years to 2016, Nghe An sent more migrant workers abroad than any other locality in Vietnam, according to a study by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

But the IOM report also said gaps in regulatory oversight of labour recruitment agencies, coupled with limited administrative and criminal law enforcement, allowed unethical recruitment practices to thrive, putting migrant workers at risk of forced labour and human trafficking.”

Hoang Thi Minh Hong’s Release Is Vital for Vietnam’s Energy Transition

The Diplomat/ Norly Mercado/ July 18

“In December 2022, Vietnam became the third recipient of a $15.5 billion Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) agreement that aims to assist the country in phasing out coal and achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

To ensure the success and fairness of energy transitions, it is imperative that JETPs incorporate comprehensive protection measures for people like Hong. While financial deals that assist low and middle-income countries to leapfrog dirty development and embrace clean energy systems are vital, a just transition is only possible when civil society is able to meaningfully participate in the design and monitoring of any deals, including critique of policies, without fear of persecution.

As a heavily climate-impacted country and emerging economy, Vietnam has an instrumental role to play in ensuring a just, equitable response to climate change. But this cannot happen with climate leaders like Hong in jail. The country’s bold climate ambitions are the result of the hard work of climate defenders such as Hong.”

Vietnam’s Censoring of ‘Barbie’ Is a Reflection of the Party’s Paranoia

The Diplomat/ Minh Tran/ July 15

“The censorship of “Barbie” not only highlights the regime’s hyper-paranoia regarding the South China Sea disputes but also reveals a broader implication, namely its potential global influence. The stringent measures taken by Vietnamese authorities have prompted other countries to consider similar actions against “Barbie” and ignited discussions among U.S. lawmakers who are already concerned about China’s influence on Hollywood.

While it is crucial to scrutinize Hollywood productions to prevent the dissemination of illegal territorial claims, it is equally important to exercise caution and resist the temptation to be swayed by the decisions of a heavily censored state. Succumbing to the influence of a regime known for its control over cultural products could set a dangerous precedent, potentially leading to a global wave of censorship that undermines the very foundations of democratic societies.”

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