Civil Society Groups Propose Recommendations for Vietnam Ahead of Periodic Human Rights Review Representatives of four non-governmental organizations on Feb.
Vietnam Recorded Several Cases of Alleged Police Brutality; Hanoi Expected to Upgrade Ties with U.S., Australia
Vietnamese Man Dies in Police Custody, Raising Concerns about the Heinous Use of Torture
A Vietnamese man from Tuyen Quang Province died after being detained for two days at the Ha Giang City Police Detention Center last week, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported. The police told the victim’s family that he committed suicide, but they doubted the police's claims.
Nguyen Van Hung, 44, was arrested by Ha Giang City police on the evening of Aug. 17 while settling a personal debt problem at a neighbor's home in the city. The Ha Giang Police informed Dang Thu Hoai, Hung’s wife, of her husband’s detention the next day, on Aug. 18, but they didn’t give her exact information regarding his arrest. Hoai visited Hung on the same day at the Ha Giang City Police Detention Center and found several bruises on his face. Hung confirmed that the police had beaten him while in custody.
On the morning of Aug. 19, Hoai received a notice from the Ha Giang City Police that her husband had died. The police told her that Hung committed suicide by tying up his legs and hands and dipping his head into a water tank. Another relative told RFA under the condition of anonymity that the police prohibited the family from filming and taking photos when they went to the police station to retrieve his body on the evening of the same day.
According to Hung’s family, they had to sign the autopsy report if they wanted to receive his body. However, as of Aug. 21, the family still did not know the exact cause of Hung's death because the authorities said the autopsy had not been completed. The police also did not authorize the filming and taking of the autopsy photos. Relatives of Hung said they didn’t believe the police suicide allegations because those contradicted his Christian beliefs, and he was the family's breadwinner.
Hai Phong Man Hospitalized After Spending Two Days in Police Detention
Tran Duc Trinh, 37, a native of Hai Phong, was hospitalized on Aug. 17 in a coma after being held for two days by Do Son District Police in Hai Phong, allegedly investigating a theft case. Trinh was detained on Aug. 15 after the police suspected him of stealing cell phones from several tourists at a beach in Hai Phong.
Two days later, on Aug. 17, Tran Van Trich, father of Trinh, received a phone call from a relative informing him that Trinh had suffered a “slight stroke” and was taken to Kien An General Hospital by the Hai Phong Police, Trich told the local newspaper Tuoi Tre Online. Trich added that his son’s face had bruises and that his skin had gone pale following the detention, even though he looked healthy at the time of the arrest. The doctor diagnosed Trinh with a brain hematoma, facial injury, and three broken left ribs.
On the evening of the same day, the family sent Trinh to the Department of Neuro and Craniofacial Surgery of Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi for a skull surgery, which took place on Aug. 18. Tran Duc Sang, Trinh’s brother, told Phap Luat Online - a state media - on Aug. 21 that his brother was still in a coma following the surgery. Sang said that the doctor told him that even if the operation was successful, he could still develop hemiplegia in the future.
According to Phap Luat Online, Trinh’s family had submitted a report of his hospitalization to the authorities at the commune, district, and city levels and are waiting for their response. A representative of the Hai Phong People's Procuracy confirmed on Aug. 18 that they investigated the incident after they received a report that Tran Duc Trinh was hospitalized following being detained by the Do Son District Police.
Vietnamese Authorities to Verify the Allegation of a Man Beaten by Traffic Police
The Traffic Police Department of Ho Chi Minh City Police said it is verifying an assault report submitted by Dao Nhat N., a native of Tien Giang Province, whom a traffic police officer allegedly beat while driving in Thu Duc, Ho Chi Minh City, state media reported.
According to N., whose first name is reported in initials, said that on Aug. 13, when he was driving a motorbike heading from Thu Duc intersection to Saigon Bridge, he saw traffic police officers on duty. N. said that although he was complying with traffic law by driving in the motorcycle lane, a traffic policeman waved a baton and signaled him to pull over to the side of the road.
“When the police officer waved, I intended to keep driving without stopping,” N. said. “And simultaneously, another traffic police officer came at me and used a traffic control baton to hit me directly on the left side of my eyeglasses.” According to the motorbike driver, the hit was so strong that it broke his glasses.
When he stopped to check his eyes, N. saw much blood streaming from his face. He then went back to the traffic police group and asked who hit him, but the police officers said that they did not know and told him to stand aside. Later, a policeman reportedly called a motorbike taxi to take N. to the Ho Chi Minh City Eye Hospital.
N. was diagnosed with a torn corneal and a broken iris, which could lead to the risk of vision loss and long-term eye damage. His doctor said that he may wear a prosthetic eye in the worst scenario. In the afternoon of the same day, N. underwent emergency eye surgery.
N. was discharged from the hospital on the afternoon of Aug. 18. The doctor said that his injured eye would recover, and according to the victim, he has recovered around 30 percent of his vision so far.
N. told the local news agency that he was wrong not to pull over upon the police order, but he said he did not harm or attack the police officers on duty. The motorbike driver wrote in his report that he wanted the relevant authorities to hold the alleged police officer accountable and compensate him for his injuries. According to his written petition, N. hoped local authorities would handle this incident to prevent similar cases from happening in the future.
Facebook User Imprisoned on Charges of “Abusing Democratic Freedoms”
A court in Ho Chi Minh City on Aug. 22 sentenced a Facebook user to one and a half years in prison on the charges of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state and the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and individuals” under Article 331 of the Penal Code, Vietnamese media reported.
Vu Ngoc Suu, 50, was accused of posting on her personal Facebook account, “Vu Ngoc,” three articles that allegedly “distort and defame the Vietnamese Communist Party” and “insult and slander party and state leaders” between May 19, 2019 and Jan. 29, 2021. Vietnam’s state media quoted the Facebook user’s explanation in court that she published those articles to express her discontent towards many social issues. The prosecutors did not disclose the alleged defamatory postings.
Suu’s defense lawyer told the court she had a history of mental illness and asked the jury to give her a suspended sentence, but this proposal was rejected. Another appellate court in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City, dismissed Suu’s appeal to reduce the punishment and upheld her first-instance sentence.
Vietnamese Land Petitioner Prosecuted on “Abusing Democratic Freedoms” Allegations
The Police Investigation Agency of Ky Anh District, Ha Tinh Province, on Aug. 23 issued a decision to arrest and prosecute Hoang Van Luan, 35, a resident of Ky Anh, to investigate his alleged act of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state and the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and individuals,” a violation of Article 331.
According to the state-run news outlet Tuoi Tre Online, since 2019, Luan has filed complaints about the land compensation for local households affected by construction projects in the locality. Luan has gathered similar land petitioners in the communes of Ky Tay, Ky Trung, and Ky Thuong in Ky Anh District and provided them with necessary means, such as transportation, to help them send their petitions to several central agencies in Hanoi. He also printed and distributed protest banners for the Ha Tinh land petitioners.
State media reported that, since 2018, Luan has called for nearly 1,000 local people to participate in petition issues regarding land compensation at the communal, provincial, and central levels. The land petitioner’s activity was said to complicate the security situation in the province. The banners Luan printed for petition groups allegedly contained “false content” that “caused serious misunderstandings about the process of compensation, site clearance, and resettlement support for the households affected by the projects in the Ky Anh District.”
Previously, on November 25, 2019, the police of Ha Dong District, Hanoi, also issued a financial punishment for Luan for “causing public disorder.”
Vietnam Holds Appellate Hearings for Two Political Prisoners at the End of August
The High People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City on Aug. 29 will hold an appellate hearing for Tran Van Bang, a Vietnamese activist and veteran of the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese Border War, who was previously sentenced to eight years in prison on a charge of “distributing anti-State propaganda,” an alleged violation of Article 117 in the Penal Code.
Another appeals court in Danang City is scheduled to hold a trial for Bui Tuan Lam, a beef noodle vendor popularly known for his nickname “Green Onion Bae,” on Aug. 30. Le Thi Thanh Lam, Tuan Lam’s wife, told VOA News Vietnamese about her husband’s appeals trial on Aug. 22. “Green Onion Bae” became famous after he recorded his imitation of Turkish chef Salt Bae’s signature salt sprinkling move.
Previously, Vietnamese public security minister To Lam was filmed being hand-fed by Salt Bae at his restaurant in London, leading to public questioning about To Lam’s lavish lifestyle compared to his meager monthly salary.
Bui Tuan Lam was sentenced to five years on May 25 on a similar charge of “distributing anti-State propaganda.” The indictment said that between April 20, 2019, and September 7, 2022, Bui Tuan Lam had drafted and published 19 articles on his personal Facebook account, “Peter Lam Bui,” and 25 videos on YouTube that allegedly contained “untrue, fabricated, and distorted anti-State information.”
A relative of Tran Van Bang, who requested anonymity, told RFA Vietnamese that his family hoped he would have his sentence reduced in the upcoming appeal trial because the sentence of eight years in prison and eight years of probation is too harsh for him. “He is patriotic and only wants to build a better society,” the relative said. Bang’s family also visited him in prison on Aug. 18 and learned that his health remained poor. According to the relative, Bang also developed a headache, which could result from being locked up for days in a confined and dark space.
Meanwhile, Thanh Lam said that the possibility of her husband's sentence being reduced in the upcoming appeals trial is “very low.” “However, appealing the sentence is a chance to speak up for our rights, to be able to defend ourselves, and to protest against the wrongful conviction that the Vietnamese state has imposed on prisoners of conscience,” she told VOA News.
Thanh Lam added that she had petitioned the High People’s Court of Danang to allow her and her family to attend the appeal hearing next week. In her petition, she said she objected to the first-instance trial on May 25 because the Danang court barred them from going into the courthouse by allegedly using the police force to coerce, harass and assault her.
Reporters Without Borders Said It Restored Online Access To German Newspaper Taz.de In Vietnam
The press freedom advocate Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Aug. 22 announced that it had recently used a mirror site technology called “Operation Collateral Freedom” to restore online access to taz.de. This German newspaper had been blocked in Vietnam.
RSF had accused the Vietnamese government of blocking taz.de after this German newspaper published an investigation about Nguyen Thi Thanh Nhan, who is wanted after being tried in absentia and received a sentence of 30 years in prison for bribery and violating the regulations on bidding. Taz.de reported that Hanoi wanted to abduct Nhan, who fled to Germany to escape the regime’s persecution, and bring her back to Vietnam.
The press freedom advocate said that its “Operation Collateral Freedom” can quickly restore access to a blocked website by creating an exact copy or “mirror” of the site and placing it on a Content Delivery Network (CDN) that hosts many other services. “Authoritarian governments cannot block access to the CDN without suffering the collateral damage of blocking their access to its other services,” according to the announcement on RSF’s website.
RFA reporters on Aug. 23 asked three people in different provinces in Vietnam to verify the organization’s claims. However, they said the Taz website was still inaccessible within the country. One of the residents had to use a virtual private network (VPN) to access the Taz webpage.
Politico: U.S. President Joe Biden To Sign Strategic Partnership Deal With Vietnam Next Month
Politico reported that U.S. President Joe Biden will seal a strategic partnership agreement with Vietnam next month to foster a closer relationship between Washington and Hanoi during rising tensions with Beijing, according to three people who know the deal. Biden is expected to sign the agreement with Vietnam during a state visit to the Southeast Asian country in mid-September.
The bilateral collaboration agreement will help Vietnam develop its technology sector in areas including semiconductor production and artificial intelligence.
The agreement comes amid rising tensions regarding territorial disputes between Vietnam and China over the South China Sea. However, many observers believe that the agreement doesn’t necessarily signal that Vietnam is moving away from China in favor of better ties with the United States. The deal is seen as a symbol of the steady improvement in U.S.-Vietnam relations since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1995.
The Biden administration’s expected upgrading of its relationship with Hanoi will likely draw criticism from activists who accuse Biden of ignoring Vietnam’s abysmal human rights record. Vietnam is a repressive authoritarian one-party state, and its human rights record has significantly worsened in recent years.
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong Said Canberra Will Elevate Official Ties With Hanoi
Nikkei Asia reported that Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said her country will elevate official ties with Vietnam as both countries have been on the front line of strategic salvos from China. Wong stressed that neither Australia nor Vietnam is a superpower. Still, both countries want to prosper and operate internationally without being “encroached upon or be unable to do that because of a greater power.”
Last week, the Australian foreign minister visited Vietnam to deepen cooperation in digital services, security, trade, and climate change. She spoke at a college in Ho Chi Minh City two days after Australia said it would acquire 1,500-kilometer-range Tomahawks to counter China. However, Wong did not give a specific timeline for Vietnam and Australia’s bilateral upgrade.
During the Vietnam War, Australia sent its troops to fight along with the U.S. and South Vietnamese armies. The former war enemies have another challenge in common: coal. Both are targeting net-zero carbon emissions through clean energy. Wong said this transition should be exploited for profit, if not for ethical or existential reasons.
Vietnam War: The pastor who survived 17 years in a forgotten jungle army
“Landing in the US back in November 1992, Hin Nie was greeted by a banner welcoming the "forgotten army". He and H Biuh moved to Greensboro with their surviving children, who remain in the US.
Soon Hin Nie started speaking out against the persecution of his people, testifying to the US Congress. Because of his preaching, he remains a target in Vietnamese state media to this day.
The Vietnamese government claims Fulro still exists, and accuses exiled former members like Hin Nie of trying to wage insurrection in Vietnam. In 2021, the VOV news agency said he was behind a "reactionary organisation disguised as a religious sect based in the Central Highlands, which aimed to incite local people to sabotage the united Vietnamese state."
Hin Nie says this is nonsense.”
South China Sea: Could Philippines and Vietnam bond over assertive Beijing?
“As the two countries seek to strengthen ties amid China’s growing assertiveness, they must tackle strategic challenges that have historically impeded their relationship, particularly after the appointment of former president Rodrigo Duterte, who advocated for Manila to form closer ties with Beijing during his 2016-2022 term, moving away from Washington.
A violent clash between Vietnamese fishermen and the Philippine navy in 2017 did not help relations, and the progress made in previous talks appeared to falter amid the Philippines’ radical change in foreign policy under Duterte.”
Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam
Fulcrum/ Phan Xuan Dung/ Aug. 24
“On 1 August, shortly after the Manila Times articles were published, a group of Filipinos tore up a Vietnamese national flag in front of the Vietnamese embassy in Manila to protest the alleged militarisation. In response, Vietnam requested the Philippines “to strictly handle the case” and prevent such behaviour from reoccurring. Hanoi also suggested that similar incidents “could affect the development of the strategic partnership between the two countries”.
China or China-sponsored groups are likely behind this attempt to undermine Vietnam-Philippine growing strategic partnership on the South China Sea. Influencing international public opinion is part of China’s official ‘three warfares’ (san zhong zhanfa) — seeking to influence public opinion as well as psychological and legal warfare — against other South China Sea claimants. It is in China’s interest to keep ASEAN countries divided on the South China Sea, thereby preventing them from forming a united front against Beijing.”
Rest Of World/ Sen Nguyen/ Aug. 18
“Vietnam’s authorities have been tightening control over media in recent months, scrutinizing influential outlets and launching a probe into TikTok for violating local laws by “spreading fake news and causing social instability.” The growing pressure on Netflix, the most popular streaming service in Vietnam, is part of this shift.
Netflix was explicitly named in a recent draft report by the Vietnamese Ministry of Information and Communications, which said the company had been monitored and recommended for fines following content problems ‘violating sovereignty, affecting security, etc.’ Watchdog agencies will keep an eye on international streaming companies, ‘especially Netflix,’ in the latter half of this year, said the report.”
Mekong Eye/ Thu Quynh Nguyen/ July 31
“Coral reefs are considered to be one of Vietnam’s national treasures, as the country boasts one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems with 355 species, according to data from the World Resources Institute.
Yet across the country, vital coral reserves are depleting at such an alarming rate that frenzied attempts to salvage what remains are likely to be insufficient to restore the ecosystems.
To save the reefs, since June 2022, Nha Trang authorities closed Hon Mun to tourism, conducted impact assessments, installed surveillance cameras and launched a coral recovery program. Prior to these policy changes, coral cover in several sites in Nha Trang Bay had already plummeted by as much as 98%.”