Vietnam Court Plans to Proceed with the Execution of Nguyen Van Chuong, an Innocent Death-Row Inmate

Vietnam Court Plans to Proceed with the Execution of Nguyen Van Chuong, an Innocent Death-Row Inmate

Vietnam Court Decides To Execute Wrongful Death-Row Inmate Nguyen Van Chuong

The People’s Court of Hai Phong has decided to execute Nguyen Van Chuong, a Vietnamese wrongfully convicted death-row inmate. Chuong’s family received the court confirmation of its decision on Aug. 4. The Hai Phong court also sent Chuong’s family instructions on how to claim his body following the execution.

Nguyen Van Chuong, a native of Hai Duong Province, was arrested in August 2007, along with Do Van Hoang and Vu Toan Trung, due to their alleged involvement in the homicide of Nguyen Van Sinh, a high-ranking police officer. Officer Sinh was reportedly beaten and murdered in the port city of Hai Phong on July 14, 2007.

Notably, Chuong had strong alibi witnesses who testified that they were with him in his hometown in Hai Duong at the time of the murder of Officer Sinh. But Instead of investigating the validity of this alibi, the police arrested Chuong’s younger brother, Nguyen Trong Doan, on allegations of manipulating evidence and witnesses. Doan previously tried to bring forward alibi witnesses who confirmed they saw Chuong in Hai Duong. The police later convicted Doan of “concealing criminals and evidence” for trying to bring these forward to assist in the defense of his older brother’s criminal case.

The case of Nguyen Van Chuong highlights systemic problems in Vietnam’s criminal justice system. The evidence used to prosecute and convict Chuong and other defendants was solely based on their alleged confessions, which, according to their claims, were obtained through torture and coercion. Following the problematic conviction, Chuong and his parents have repeatedly advocated for his innocence on social media and through numerous petitions. However, these petitions, sent to multi-level government agencies, were of no avail.

Nguyen Truong Chinh, Chuong’s father, said in a video clip recorded shortly after receiving the court’s confirmation of its decision to carry out the death penalty that his son is “innocent” and that he has petitioned for his innocence every month.

“Currently, I am still petitioning for his innocence. If [the authorities] still deliberately kill Nguyen Van Chuong, I will take his corpse and bring it to the Party and State agencies to reclaim his life,” Chinh said in the video published on August 4. “I ask everyone who loves justice, freedom, and truth worldwide to save death-row prisoner Nguyen Van Chuong. My son has been wrongfully convicted for 17 years and two days today.”

Human Rights Foundation: Vietnam Increasingly Restricts Freedom Of The Press

The New York-based Human Rights Foundation (HRF) on July 31 released a report titled “Threats Against Journalists in Asia: Online Trolling and Jailing of Reporters.” The report is part of HRF’s Threats Against Journalists series, which, according to the group, seeks to “highlight the violence, intimidation, and harassment faced by journalists who refuse to be silenced by authoritarian regimes.”

The report considers Vietnam “one of the most repressive countries in Asia” regarding press freedom. In recent years, Vietnam has implemented stricter online censorship, requiring big tech companies like Facebook and Google to remove articles and videos critical of the regime. Reporters and citizen journalists using social media often see their accounts blocked or posts removed if they cover sensitive issues. Vietnam also established Force 47, a state-sponsored online army of thousands of members tasked with “defending the ruling party” and attacking dissidents on social media.

Furthermore, Vietnam uses vague laws to suppress journalists who report on sensitive topics, such as human rights, the environment, and democracy. Many activists and journalists have been charged under Article 117 and Article 331, which criminalize “distributing anti-State materials” and “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the interests of the State.” Independent journalist Do Cong Duong was one of those detained. He was charged under Article 331 and sentenced to 48 months in prison. Duong suffered from various illnesses in jail, but officials refused to provide him with medical treatment. He died in prison last year.

Ho Chi Minh City Police Assault And Interrogate A Local Facebook User Due To His Social Media Posts

Police in Ho Chi Minh City reportedly assaulted and interrogated Le Xuan Dieu, a local social media user, due to his Facebook posts criticizing the regime. A relative of Dieu, who requested to remain anonymous, told RFA in an interview that security officers from the Security Investigation Agency of Ho Chi Minh City Police are investigating two Facebook accounts, “Dieu Le” and “Deo Lu,” which are believed to be owned by Dieu.

According to the relative, Dieu, 46, was taken to the Security Investigation Agency headquarters on the morning of July 31. Previously, he refused to go to the police station after receiving three police summonses regarding his posts on social media. Four policemen stormed Dieu’s house and escorted him away without presenting any arrest warrants. The police did not search his home.

Dieu was questioned by the security agency for two consecutive days before being allowed to return home on the evening of August 1. He had bruises on his face and body. A medical examination showed Dieu had soft tissue injuries and a fractured rib. During an interrogation session on July 31, his relative said he was beaten every half an hour by several policemen. The security agency currently has control of his phone, social media accounts, and even his bank account.

Le Xuan Dieu is a dissident living in Ho Chi Minh City. In the past, he participated in several protests against China’s infringement of Vietnamese maritime sovereignty in the South China Sea, which Vietnam refers to as the East Sea. The Facebook accounts, Dieu Le and Deo Lu, have published many writings criticizing the regime on human rights violations, systemic corruption, economic mismanagement, environmental pollution, and its policy in dealing with Beijing over maritime sovereignty.

Independent Hoa Hao Buddhist Nguyen Hoang Nam Arrested On “Anti-State” Charges

The police in Vietnam’s southern province of An Giang July 24 arrested and indicted Nguyen Hoang Nam, an independent Hoa Hao Buddhist practitioner, on the charge of “distributing anti-State propaganda,” Vietnam’s State-run media reported on August 4. The Investigation Security Agency of the An Giang Provincial Police said they collaborated with the Department of Cybersecurity and High-tech Crime Prevention and Control to arrest and investigate Nam.

Nguyen Hoang Nam, 41, is a religious freedom advocate. He was also a former prisoner who completed his four-year prison term for “disturbing public order” in 2021. The Hoa Hao Buddhist was held in Xuan Loc Prison, Dong Nai Province. After being released, Nam told VOA News in an interview that the conditions at the Xuan Loc Prison are very harsh. He said prisoners are confined to narrow spaces and are not allowed to exercise. Furthermore, he said that the food provided to prisoners is inedible since they are often expired and have a bad smell.

According to An Giang Provincial Police, Nam is a “reactionary” figure who “took advantage of religion to conduct activities against the Party and the State.” The police accused him of “creating many social network accounts to publish and distribute documents, images, video clips, and live streams to propagate against and oppose the party, state, and local authorities.”

His activities are said to have “caused divisions and undermined the policy of religious and ethnic unity,” an accusation frequently used by the Vietnamese authorities to smear religious freedom activists. State media reported that the investigation agency “discovered and seized seven mobile phones, two USB drives, one laptop, 307 pages of documents, and 10 video clips” allegedly “containing propaganda content against the party and state.” The police also confiscated other items and documents at Nam’s house that are believed to be related to the case.

Six UN Experts Are Concerned About Government Harassment Of The Family Of Vietnamese Lawyer Dang Dinh Bach

RFA reported that a group of six human rights experts from the United Nations Human Rights Council sent a joint letter to the Vietnamese government expressing concerns that prisoner of conscience Dang Dinh Bach and his family were subject to repression and harassment by the authorities.

In a joint letter from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights for Southeast Asia published on July 29, the human rights experts mentioned the information they received regarding the increased administrative and judicial harassment against Tran Phuong Thao, Bach’s wife. They also raised concerns about the detention of Bach, who was imprisoned solely for exercising his freedom of speech through environmental advocacy and human rights promotion activities.

Bach, a lawyer, and an environmental activist, was arrested in June 2021 on “tax evasion” charges under Article 200 of the Penal Code. After Bach was imprisoned, the Hanoi Civil Execution Department repeatedly summoned Thao for a meeting. It forced her family to pay nearly 1.4 billion dong (USD$59,000), the amount of tax Bach was accused of evading. The agency also threatened to confiscate her car and house in Hanoi, where Thao and Bach live with their two-year-old son and Bach’s parents.

Vietnam’s Khmer Activists Arrested For “Abusing Democratic Freedom”

Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security on July 31 announced that the police of Tra Vinh and Soc Trang provinces had issued arrest warrants and prosecuted three people in these localities to investigate further their alleged “abusing democratic freedom to infringe upon the interests of the state,” according to Article 331 of the Penal Code.

The people arrested include Thach Cuong, 36, and To Hoang Chuong, 37, who live in Tra Vinh, and Danh Minh Quang, 36, a resident of Soc Trang. They are activists advocating for the rights of the Khmer Krom minority in the Mekong Delta.

The police of Tra Vinh accused Thach Cuong and To Hoang Chuong of “frequently using social networks to compile, publish and share many articles, videos and live streams containing false information to slander and insult the reputations of agencies and organizations, honor and dignity of individuals since 2020.” The authorities said they had previously fined Cuong and Chuong for “providing and sharing false information on social networks.”

The Tra Vinh Security Investigation Agency, a department tasked with cracking down on critical voices, declared they had collected enough evidence to prove that 11 articles and seven videos published on Cuong and Chuong's personal accounts allegedly violated Article 331.

Meanwhile, the Soc Trang Provincial Police accused Danh Minh Quang of “posting and sharing on his personal Facebook page photos, articles, and live streams that propagate, distort, and offends the reputation of state agencies and organizations, which negatively influence public opinion about the security and order situation in the province.”

Previously in March, the Soc Trang Police interrogated Quang and more than a dozen Buddhists for wearing T-shirts bearing the flag of Khmer Kampuchea Krom, a local Khmer group, when they attended a ceremony celebrating International Women’s Day in Tra Vinh Province. Following the incident, Danh Minh Quang told VOA News that the authorities constantly harassed the local Khmer Krom community and that the Vietnamese government sought to divide the community by barring them from contacting each other.

Hanoi Requests Manila “Strictly Handle” The Case Of Filipino Protesters Tearing The Vietnamese National Flag

On August 3, Hanoi asked Manila to strictly handle the case of Filipino protesters who tore the Vietnamese flag while protesting in front of the Vietnamese Embassy in Manila on August 1. The protest was against the alleged “militarization” and fishing of Vietnam in the Kalayaan Group of Islands in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. According to the Manila Bulletin, around 50 members of Makabayan Alyansa ng Bansang Anti-War and Anti-Terrorism (MAKABANSA), a local organization, staged the protest. The Philippines refers to the South China Sea as the “West Philippine Sea,” while Vietnam calls it the “East Sea.”

According to State media, Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned tearing the flag as an “insult to the feelings of the Vietnamese people.” The ministry spokesperson, Pham Thu Hang, said in a press conference that “the red flag with a yellow star is the sacred national flag of Vietnam,” and she reportedly asked the Filipino authorities to “strictly handle the case and take effective measures to prevent such behavior from occurring in the future.”

During the press event, Hang also protested China’s military exercises conducted in the area that also included parts of the Paracel archipelago between July 29 and August 2, adding that such military activities have “seriously infringed upon Vietnam’s sovereignty over the islands.” On July 28, China announced that it would conduct military training in the South China Sea in the area stretching from Hainan Island to parts of the Paracels. During the exercise, Vietnam’s State media reported that Beijing also forbade ships from entering this area.

Biden Says Vietnam Leader Wants To Meet Him At G20 To Elevate Ties

Reuters reported that U.S. President Joe Biden said on July 28 that Vietnam's leader, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, wants to meet him for talks at the September G20 summit in New Delhi to discuss elevating U.S.-Vietnam relations. Biden said that Chinh “desperately wants to meet with me” and wants to elevate the U.S.-Vietnam relationship to a "major partner" status, along with Russia and China.

This meeting is part of a more significant effort by the United States to deepen its ties with Vietnam to counter China's growing influence in the region. In April, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Chinh in Hanoi and expressed a desire to deepen our ties “in the weeks and months ahead.”

The U.S. wants to upgrade its bilateral relationship with Vietnam into a "strategic" partnership. This would mean that the two countries would have a closer relationship and work together more closely on various issues. But Vietnam has been cautious about upgrading the relationship because it does not want to antagonize China or Russia.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

How Vietnam’s Infrastructure Incapacity Undermines Its Geoeconomic Ambitions

The Diplomat/ To Minh Son/ August 3

“Vietnam’s infrastructure ineptitude goes further than just trains and railways. Even politically important projects that are smaller, cheaper, and less complex, like the expansion of the Vung Ang port, the terminus of the proposed railway from Laos, have struggled in Vietnam. Despite being a project of strategic priority that commands bilateral political attention, the seaport has still not finished adding two additional berths and upgrading the existing two since construction began in 2015. In a twist, Vietnam and Laos agreed in 2022 to increase the latter’s shares of the Vung Ang port from 20 percent to 60 percent, thus giving Laos more responsibility in the port management and expansion. Such development does not reflect well on Vietnam’s capacity to maintain the health of its relationship with Laos, especially in light of the “pride” that Laos has expressed in the Kunming-Vientiane railway.”

Biden Hopes for Vietnam Breakthrough

Foreign Policy/ Derek Grossman/ May 9

“Moreover, Hanoi may believe it has already handled the situation effectively without needing Washington’s support. Following the Vanguard Bank standoff, Vietnam released a defense white paper pledging never to unilaterally use or threaten force—the fourth “No” meant to be another reassurance to Beijing. It also added the “One Depends” clause, stating that “depending on the circumstances and specific conditions, Vietnam will consider developing necessary, appropriate defense and military relations with other countries.” By adding the One Depends clause, Hanoi drew a causal link between the deterioration of Vietnam’s external security environment and the nations with which it chooses to deepen defense cooperation. A reasonable interpretation of this is that, if China’s bullying behavior in the South China Sea continues, Vietnam might finally promote the United States’ status to that of strategic partnership. Given recent stability, there has been no impetus to do so. If this interpretation is correct, Hanoi will find a potential status upgrade more useful when it is not exercised.”

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