Vietnam Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh Visits China, Pledges to Bolster Bilateral Partnership

Vietnam Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh Visits China, Pledges to Bolster Bilateral Partnership

Vietnam Prosecutes 84 Suspects for Alleged Involvement in the Dak Lak Attack

The Dak Lak Provincial Police Investigation Agency announced on June 23 that it would prosecute 75 of the 84 arrested suspects who allegedly attacked two government headquarters in Ea Tieu and Ea Ktur communes in Dak Lak on charges of “conducting terrorist acts against the people’s administration.” Seven others were charged with “failing to denounce criminals,” and another two defendants were respectively charged with “hiding criminals” and “organizing and brokering for others to exit, enter, or stay in Vietnam illegally.”

The Dak Lak People’s Procuracy approved prosecuting the 84 defendants. It was unclear whether or not the detainees had access to lawyers. The Procuracy also ordered the defendants remanded to provincial detention before their trial.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security, the state police, confirmed that “organizations and individuals from overseas” had been involved in the Dak Lak shooting without providing further information. The ministry designated the shooting a “terrorist act” while accusing a “U.S.-based terrorist organization” of sending one of its members to Vietnam to stage the attack. But the Vietnamese police did not disclose the organization's name or supply any concrete evidence to support their claims.

On June 26, state-run media reported that the Ministry of National Defense sent a delegation to Dak Lak Province. The commission, led by Lt. Gen. Nguyen Van Nghia, deputy chief of the General Staff of the People’s Army, was reportedly tasked with checking the combat readiness of the Dak Lak Provincial Border Guard.

Ninh Thuan Social Media User Arrested for “Abusing Democratic Freedoms”

The Investigative Police Agency of Ninh Thuan Province on June 28 arrested a social media user in Phan Rang - Thap Cham City and charged him with “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State” under Article 331 of the Penal Code, state-run media reported.

Le Thach Giang, 66, was accused by the police of setting up an account on a social network called Bọn cường quyền (The Despots) from August 2022 to host live streams and publish articles regarding coercion and confiscation of lands by local authorities. The police also claimed that Giang had called on local people to read websites containing “toxic content” and that he had shared unverified information to distort and defame the Communist Party.

Article 331 is a controversial legal provision in Vietnam’s Penal Code due to its vague and broad definitions. Multiple petitions have been filed to urge the Vietnamese government to abolish this law. According to Radio Free Asia (RFA), Vietnam has arrested at least 10 people this year for their alleged violation of Article 331.

Government Rejects Most of the UN Special Rapporteurs’ Requests to Visit Vietnam

RFA reported that the Vietnamese government had rejected most visit requests made by the United Nations Special Rapporteurs, according to statistics from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Since 2010, 24 UN Special Rapporteurs have requested to visit Vietnam, but only seven of them have been approved to visit the country.

According to the OHCHR, Hanoi has recently approved a Vietnam visit request from the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Development. The proposed date for this visit is from November 6 to November 15, 2023; however, the schedule is still pending confirmation from the Vietnamese government. Meanwhile, on June 15, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders repeated its request to visit Vietnam. The proposed date for the trip is in the second half of 2023. But so far, the request has yet to be approved.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has also reiterated its request to visit Vietnam, but the authorities in this country have yet to respond. Meanwhile, since 2020, many UN rapporteurs, including the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples and the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, have requested permission to visit the country. Hanoi has still not accepted their applications. The Special Rapporteurs on Religious Freedom were only allowed to visit the one-party state in 1998 and 2014.

Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton, a Prisoner of Conscience, Suffers from Multiple Diseases in Prison

Nguyen Trung Ton, a Vietnamese Protestant pastor and religious freedom activist, suffers behind bars as he contracts multiple diseases without treatment from the prison authorities. Ton, 52, received a 12-year sentence in April 2018 on a charge of “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration,” violating Article 79 in the former 1999 Penal Code. The Vietnamese pastor, whose hometown is Thanh Hoa Province, is now being held at Gia Trung Prison, Gia Lai Province.

According to a Facebook update by Nguyen Thi Lanh, wife of Ton, her husband informed her in a phone call that he had an eye problem that made his vision blurry. Lanh wrote that Ton’s eyes had pterygium, a growth of fleshy tissue in the eye. Although Ton had sent several requests to the Gia Trung Prison authorities asking them to send him to the hospital to remove the pterygium, he has not received any response from the authorities.

In an interview with RFA, Lanh added that her husband suffered from chronic coughing, which could be a post-symptom of COVID-19. She said the prison did not allow his family to send him medicine since they required a doctor’s prescription. “Even if we sent him the medication, they wouldn't let him take it,” she added.

Meanwhile, the pastor’s health has weakened further due to prostatitis, which has not been examined or treated because the prison has limited medical facilities. Lanh said that she had repeatedly petitioned the Gia Trung Prison and the Police Prison Management Department to allow her husband to be examined and treated and that the family was willing to bear all costs. She said she was worried about Ton because several political prisoners died in custody this year because of Vietnam’s abusive and egregious prison system.

According to RFA, since 2019, at least seven political prisoners have died while in custody, including Pastor Dinh Diem, citizen journalist Do Cong Duong, religious leader Phan Van Thu, teacher Dao Quang Thuc, activist Huynh Huu Dat, and religious freedom activist Doan Dinh Nam.

Vietnamese Student Activist Tran Hoang Phuc Completed his Prison Terms

Vietnamese student activist Tran Hoang Phuc, who received a six-year sentence in 2018 on the charge of “distributing anti-State propaganda,” was released on July 1 following his prison term. Huynh Thi Ut, Phuc’s mother, published the news on her Facebook account the same day. Phuc will serve another four years of probation after his release.

Phuc is the founder of the Vietnam Human Rights Students Association. He is also a member of the Young South East Asia Leadership Initiative (YSEALI), a program funded by the U.S. government.

In 2016, Phuc was interrogated by the police while waiting to meet with former U.S. President Barack Obama and other YSEALI members during his visit to Vietnam. Phuc also campaigned for compensation for the victims of the Formosa maritime disaster and relief for flood victims in the central provinces; he also participated in other advocacy initiatives for human rights.

5 Former Vietnam Coast Guard Officials Convicted of Embezzlement

On June 29, a military court in Hanoi convicted seven former Vietnam Coast Guard officials of embezzlement and sentenced them to 16 and 12 years of imprisonment following a three-day trial.

Nguyen Van Son, former commander of the Vietnam Coast Guard, has received a 16-year sentence. Other subordinates of Son included four admirals, Hoang Van Dong, Doan Bao Quyet, Pham Kim Hau, and Bui Trung Dung. Two lieutenants, Nguyen Van Hung and Bui Van Hue, were convicted of the same exact charges. These Coast Guard officials were previously accused of embezzling 50 billion dong (US$2.1 million) from the financial budget allocated to the Coast Guard Command from Vietnam’s National Defense Ministry to purchase supplies and equipment.

The convicted officials reportedly reimbursed the embezzled money to the Coast Guard Command. The jury regarded the case as particularly serious and dangerous to society. According to the military court, the embezzlement of the national budget has also infringed on the right to the proper functioning of units in the military, including its asset management capability in general and financial management in particular.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh Visits China, Pledging to Bolster Bilateral Comprehensive Strategic Partnership

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh returned to Hanoi on June 28, concluding his four-day visit to China between June 25 and 28. Chinh’s visit marked the 15th anniversary of establishing the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership framework between the two countries. The meeting was regarded as “having achieved many new positive results” since the visit of Vietnamese Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong to Beijing last year.

Chinh’s visit to China coincided with the arrival of the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier to Danang on June 25. During his meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang, the Vietnamese prime minister pledged to promote “an in-depth exchange of ideas” regarding the South China Sea issue while “unanimously affirming the importance of properly managing disagreements and maintaining peace and stability in the [sea.]” Chinh also called on both countries to respect each other's legitimate rights and interests and settle disputes and disagreements peacefully under international law.

During a meeting with his counterpart, Vietnam’s National Defense Minister Phan Van Giang, on June 27, Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu said Beijing is willing to work with Vietnam to strengthen high-level communications and cooperation between the two militaries. Li emphasized that China and Vietnam “should continue to work hand in hand and closely unite in the new journey of socialism, safeguard the common strategic interests of the two countries, and make positive contributions to regional peace and stability.”

On the same day, Chinese government mouthpiece CGTN quoted China’s military as saying that Chinese and Vietnamese navies began a two-day joint patrol in the Beibu Bay, or northern bay, on June 27. This is the 34th joint patrol between the two countries since the signing of a bilateral agreement 2005 to conduct joint maritime patrols. Both sides will reportedly conduct joint patrols and search and rescue drills as part of the efforts to strengthen friendly relations between the two militaries, according to CGTN.

On June 28, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Pham Minh Chinh and urged him during their meeting that Vietnam and China should jointly oppose the politicization of economic, scientific, and technological issues. Xi added that both countries need to defend global fairness and justice, as well as their model of development and interests. Xi also suggested that the two countries should firmly support each other in pursuing the socialist path and the path of modernization based on each country’s characteristics.

Freedom of Religion in Vietnam: What Happened Last Week?

Two Hoa Hao Buddhist Practitioners Complete Prison Terms

Two Hoa Hao Buddhist prisoners of conscience, Bui Van Trung and his son Bui Van Tham, finished their six-year prison sentences on June 26 and returned to their home in Phuoc Hung Commune, An Phu District, An Giang Province, RFA reported.

Trung, Tham, and four other independent Hoa Hao followers were sentenced to prison in 2018 for “disturbing public order” and “resisting public officials.” They were victims of the Vietnamese authorities’ crackdown on Dao Trang Ut Trung, a place of worship for Hoa Hao followers, in 2017. While in detention, Trung was reportedly diagnosed with colon cancer. He also lost only four teeth in each jaw, while he lost sight in one of his eyes and the other became blurry.

An Phuc Prison authorities released Trung, 62, from Cho Ray Hospital, in Ho Chi Minh City,  where he had undergone surgery to remove a colon tumor. Following his family's relentless petition, he was finally approved for the surgery on June 12, 2023. Meanwhile, Tham, 36, was released from Xuyen Moc Prison in Ba Ria - Vung Tau Province.

Bui Van Trung is the head of Dao Trang Ut Trung in An Giang Province. Between April 17 and April 19, 2023, Dao Trang Ut Trung invited Hoa Hao Buddhist followers to a religious ceremony. But on April 19, local police blocked the roads to prevent the followers from reaching the worship location. Plainclothes police also brutally assaulted eight of the practitioners. Both the hosts and the attendees vehemently protested the police crackdown.

Two months later, on June 26, local police prosecuted six followers of Hoa Hao Buddhism, including Trung and his son Tham, on allegations of “disturbing public order” and “resisting officers on duty.” They were later sentenced to prison terms of between three and six years.

Vietnamese Police Allegedly Beat Khmer Krom Activists due to Their Activism

To Hoang Chuong, 36, a local activist defending the rights of Vietnam’s indigenous Khmer Krom communities in the Mekong Delta, alleged that he had been stopped and beaten by Soc Trang Provincial Police while on his way back from visiting another Khmer Krom activist who was also allegedly assaulted by local police.

Chuong said he and other activists traveled from Tra Vinh Province to Soc Trang to visit Lam Vong, a Khmer Krom rights activist, on June 23. When they returned to Tra Vinh, a group of police stopped their vehicle and took them to the police station. According to Chuong, he was forced into an interrogation room where several plainclothes police reportedly punched his face and head while questioning him. He added that he was the only person in the group beaten by the police, while others were only questioned.

In an interview, the Khmer Krom activist told RFA that when he asked the police why they assaulted him, the interrogator said that it was because he was a “reactionary who propagates the United Nations declaration of the indigenous people’s human rights for the Khmer Krom.” Chuong said he got released at 6.30 p.m. on the same day. Before being released, the police made him sign a confession document, stating they wouldn't let him leave unless he signed it. The Vietnamese police often coerced detained local activists into signing documents confessing their “wrongdoings.” The activist said he didn’t remember the content of that document.

On June 19, Soc Trang Police also detained and beat Lam Vong simply because he distributed books, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and wore a shirt bearing a Khmer Krom logo and a map of the 21 Vietnamese provinces inhabited by Khmer people. Lam Vong said he was taken to the security room of Soc Trang Police, where he was handcuffed and beaten. He was only released on the evening of June 20. He said the police also confiscated his books and the Khmer Krom T-shirt.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

In Search of Greener Pastures for Sustainable Growth in Vietnam

East Asia Forum/ Joseph Negrine/ June 27

“Significant proportions of Vietnam’s ‘energy mix’ are harmful non-renewable sources like coal (49.7 per cent), oil (21.7 per cent) and gas (5.9 per cent). The continued use of non-renewables is concerning due to the impact of climate change on the country. Vietnam is one of the countries most severely affected by climate change. Vietnam’s poorest — many of whom live along the Mekong Delta in areas that frequently flood — will be disproportionately affected.

Environmental degradation — partially caused by unsustainable growth practices — will increase sea and air pollution, with a range of social and health consequences. A 2017 study found that ‘air pollution was the sixth leading cause of death in Vietnam’ and a majority of Hanoian participants in another survey expressed that air pollution was more concerning than job security. These consequences have negative flow-on effects on the economy. Increased rates of illness and death place a higher burden on the health system and government finances while also reducing productivity.”

Vietnam's Tech Manufacturing Boom Goes Bust

Rest of World/ Lam Le/ June 26

“These are the symptoms of a global slump in the demand for electronics, and the result of difficulties in sourcing components from China. Once the pandemic’s peak began to decline, people in the U.S. or Europe tamped down on their purchases of new smartphones and TVs; when inflation bit, they tightened their belts another notch. New orders and production for big electronics companies tanked to their worst levels since mid-2020. The effects of that contraction have rippled across the world, throwing the lives of tens of thousands of people who make these items into disarray.

In the first five months of 2023, 45,000 people lost jobs in electronics manufacturing in Vietnam. The country’s biggest company, Samsung, which once offered lucrative pay that was a worker’s dream, is now slashing work hours, renewing fewer contracts, and furloughing some workers, current employees told Rest of World. Dorms that housed employees assembling smartphones and Apple Airpods stand half-empty. According to workers employed in these factories for up to a decade, this is the worst slump in their memory.”

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