Vietnam Executes Wrongful Death-Row Inmate Le Van Manh; Another Civil Society Leader Arrested

Vietnam Executes Wrongful Death-Row Inmate Le Van Manh; Another Civil Society Leader Arrested

Vietnam Executed Le Van Manh, Another Wrongful Death-Row Prisoner, with a Lethal Injection

The People’s Court of Thanh Hoa Province executed Le Van Manh, another Vietnamese wrongful death-row prisoner, with a lethal injection. He was executed on Sept. 22 at the Hoa Binh Provincial Police’s execution facility in Cao Phong District, Hoa Binh Province. According to the death certificate Manh’s family received from the authorities, he was confirmed dead at 8:45 a.m. Manh was buried at Cho Nhang Cemetery, Thanh Hoa Province.

The family, which lives in Yen Dinh District, Thanh Hoa Province, earlier received the notification of his execution in an official notice dated September 18, 2023. The notice, signed by Chief Justice Nguyen Thi Nga, did not specify when Manh’s death penalty would occur. This was the second notice that his family had received in the last eight years.

Le Van Manh was first detained on April 20, 2005, on robbery charges. According to his indictment, 42 Manh was additionally accused of raping and killing a 14-year-old girl in Yen Thinh Village, Thanh Hoa, in March 2005. A first-instance court in Thanh Hoa tried Manh on July 29, 2005, on the combined charges of “homicide,” “rape,” and “robbery” and sentenced him to death.

Manh had gone through a total of seven trials, including one trial of cassation. During these trials, Manh repeatedly pleaded not guilty, claiming that his cellmates forced him to write a confession letter to send home. The evidence used to convict Manh was his own testimony and the “confession letter” that he sent to his family in detention. The death row inmate said he was tortured to make him confess to crimes he did not commit.

Manh continued to plead his innocence through several letters and petitions sent to his family and various governmental leaders, including then-Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang.

In a joint statement released on Sept. 20, the European Union delegation in Vietnam and the diplomatic missions of Canada, Norway, and the United Kingdom called on the Vietnamese authorities to halt the execution of Le Van Manh. The statement added that these diplomatic missions “strongly oppose the use of capital punishment at all times and in all circumstances, which is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and can never be justified, and advocate for Vietnam to adopt a moratorium on all executions.”

Less than two weeks following President Biden's visit to Vietnam on September 10, 2023, the execution of Le Van Manh took place. Before the visit, eight Civil Society Organizations from Vietnam had collectively penned a letter to President Biden, urging him to advocate for a stay in the execution of three individuals: Le Van Manh, Nguyen Van Chuong, and Ho Duy Hai, all wrongfully sentenced to death. Tragically, Manh's execution proceeded shortly after Biden's visit, during which Biden emphasized the importance of safeguarding human rights, both within Vietnam and across the globe.

Vietnam Arrests Another Climate Activist Following Biden’s Visit

Vietnam has detained Ngo Thi To Nhien, the managing director of the Vietnam Initiative for Energy Transition (VIET), an independent think tank in Hanoi that works on clean energy transition, Associated Press reported, quoting information from The 88 Project, an advocate for freedom of expression in Vietnam. The 88 Project confirmed that the Hanoi police detained Nhien, an energy expert with more than 20 years of experience working on energy and environmental economics, on Sept. 15.

The freedom of expression group added that the police raided and searched the think tank's offices and interrogated its staff members on about Sept. 15.

According to the introduction published on VIET website, the think tank aims to act “as a bridge between research and policy, with a mission to accelerate the transition of the Vietnamese energy system in a sustainable and reliable manner.” The nonprofit think tank also prides itself on the individual independence of its scholars, as it commits to “work towards effective and efficient international support for the energy transition in Vietnam, in line with national law and international agreements of which Vietnam is a member.”

It was unclear why Nhien was arrested and what she was charged with. Nhien is the sixth civil society leader working on environmental protection and clean energy transition arrested in Vietnam in the past two years. Previously, Hanoi arrested Nguy Thi Khanh and Hoang Thi Minh Hong, two other influential climate activists, and charged them with “tax evasion.” Khanh was released in May this year while Hong was still under investigation.

Reuters reported that Vietnamese authorities have made no announcement about the detention of Nhien, and no local media has reported it. The government did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

At the time of her detention, Nhien was cooperating with the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Vietnam office on implementing the Just Energy Transition Partnership, a $15.5 billion environmental deal funded by G7 and other countries to help Vietnam reduce its coal production and consumption, according to Reuters.

The detention of Nhien occurred only a few days after U.S. President Joe Biden paid a formal visit to Vietnam, elevating bilateral relations between former war foes into a “comprehensive strategic partnership,” the highest rung in Vietnam’s rigid diplomatic hierarchy. Both countries also inked new business, education, and technology deals. However, many human rights advocates criticized the Biden administration for disregarding the issue of human rights while holding talks with Hanoi.

Vietnam Activists Seek Refuge in The U.S. Under the Agreement Negotiated Between Hanoi and Washington

According to several U.S. officials, Reuters reported that two Vietnamese activists who were detained on politically motivated charges are relocating to the United States under an agreement negotiated ahead of President Biden's recent visit to Hanoi. One of the officials told Reuters that a human rights lawyer who campaigned for accountability for police brutality, a Catholic parishioner evicted from his home, and their families were relocating to the U.S. from Vietnam.

The activists and their families are expected to seek resettlement under the “Priority 1” refugee program in the United States. Rights activists have criticized the Biden administration for its diplomacy with Vietnam as the country is intensifying its crackdown on activism, dissent, and civil society.

Vietnam’s Communist government also agreed to release two imprisoned Vietnamese activists before Biden’s visit, a U.S. official said. One of the officials told Reuters that it also signed a private agreement to make progress on religious freedom, the operations of nongovernmental organizations (NGO), prison conditions, and labor laws.

These Vietnamese prisoners included a legal scholar focused on religion, who was allowed to go to Germany. Another individual sentenced for tax evasion related to his NGO was released in Vietnam. Their names were not disclosed due to security and privacy reasons. Rights advocates also question the effectiveness of the Biden administration’s approach to diplomacy with Vietnam. They argue that the administration is putting too much emphasis on economic cooperation and security ties and not enough on human rights.

Former Political Prisoner Le Quy Loc Says He Was Brutally Assaulted by Prison Guards and Interrogators

Former political prisoner of conscience Le Quy Loc, who recently finished his five-year prison term on Sept. 9, said that prison guards and police investigators brutally beat him for demanding prisoners’ rights as stipulated by Vietnam’s law.

Loc, 47, was arrested by Ho Chi Minh City Police on Sept. 3, 2018, after participating in a protest against the proposals on Vietnam’s Special Economic Zones and Cybersecurity Law three months earlier. In 2020, he was sentenced to five years in prison and two years of probation, along with seven members of the constitution group, a grassroots advocacy group, on charges of “disturbing security” under Article 118 of the Penal Code.

Loc told RFA in a Sept. 18 interview that he was beaten while being held at Phan Dang Luu Detention Center No. 4 of the Security Investigation Agency, Ho Chi Minh City Police, and in the An Phuoc Prison, Binh Duong Province. Loc said he previously initiated a hunger strike at the Phan Dang Luu Detention Center to protest the fact that detainees did not have access to daily newspapers and that their food rations were reduced.

The prisoner of conscience was later put in an interrogation room, where an interrogator, Lt. Col. Le Van Nguon, allegedly beat and cursed him. According to Loc, the interrogator told him and other activists that they were “a bunch of reactionaries” and that he “will beat the shit out of you and then just send your family a piece of paper [death notification.]” The police then put a notebook on his back and used a hammer to hit it, causing Loc to vomit blood.

While in An Phuoc Prison, Loc was also mistreated after campaigning for prisoners' rights to play sports, according to Article 27 and Article 50 of the Law on Execution of Criminal Sentences. The prison guards punished Loc by sending him to the jailing area for severe offenders. Prison guards and several criminal prisoners also beat him. Loc said his health had notably weakened during two and a half years at the An Phuoc Prison.

Vietnamese Teacher Dang Dang Phuoc’s Appeals Trial Scheduled for Sept. 26

The High People’s Court of Danang on Sept. 26 is scheduled to hold an appeal hearing for Dang Dang Phuoc, a music teacher and social critic after Phuoc appealed his first-instance conviction for “distributing anti-State propaganda.” Phuoc, 60, a music teacher at Dak Lak Pedagogical College, was sentenced to eight years in prison and four years of probation on June 6 for “distributing anti-State propaganda” under Article 117 of the Penal Code.

Le Thi Ha, Phuoc's wife, told RFA that she was informed about her husband’s appeals hearing on Sept. 17. Ha added that the trial would begin at 7:30 a.m. on Sept. 26. Ha added that she was able to visit her husband at the detention center of the Dak Lak Provincial Police following the conclusion of his first-instance trial three months ago and found that Phuoc still appeared mentally strong despite receiving a heavy sentence.

In the first instance trial, which lasted less than a day, the Dak Lak music teacher was convicted of “writing or downloading from the Internet articles that contained unobjective and untrue content, which seeks to slander, insult, defame the reputation and honor of the state and the people’s government.” The indictment of Phuong claimed that his sharings and postings on social media had sown confusion among the people and endangered social order and safety.”

Vietnamese Businesswoman and Media Influencer Nguyen Phuong Hang Jailed for 3 Years

The People's Court of Ho Chi Minh City on Sept. 21 held a trial for Nguyen Phuong Hang, a Vietnamese businesswoman and media influencer, and four other individuals, Dang Anh Quan, Nguyen Thi Mai Nhi, Le Thi Thu Ha, and Huynh Cong Tan. They were charged with “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 Vietnam’s Penal Code.

According to the indictment, Hang, 52, director of the Binh Duong Province-based Dai Nam Co., was accused of using 12 social network channels to livestream and publish content that defamed the reputation of many Vietnamese celebrities.

Dang Anh Quan, a lawyer, allegedly joined many of Hang’s live streamings and endorsed her comments. Meanwhile, Nguyen Thi Mai Nhi, Le Thi Thu Ha, and Huynh Cong Tan allegedly managed Hang’s social media accounts and uploaded the perceived defamatory content online under her direction.

The Ho Chi Minh City Court announced its verdicts on the evening of Sept. 21. Nguyen Phuong Hang was sentenced to three years in prison, lawyer Quan was sentenced to two and a half years in prison, and Nhi, Ha and Tan - the staff of Dai Nam Co. – each received one and a half years in prison.

Freedom of religion in Vietnam: What happened last week?

Vietnam Orders People’s Committees Across the Nation to Eliminate a Christian Sect

The Vietnamese Home Affairs Ministry has ordered Peoples’ Committees nationwide to abolish The World Mission Society of the Church of God. This Christian sect originated in South Korea by taking resolute measures to dissolve and revoke the permits of groups practicing the religion and prevent them from creating new groups, according to state media.

The World Mission Society of the Church of God, also called the Church of God the Mother, has already been deemed illegal by the Vietnamese government. The police also cracked down on religious services held by this sect in Vietnam and urged local citizens not to join them. However, this religious group has been actively recruiting new members and expanding rapidly in Vietnam.

The doctrine of this sect departs significantly from that of mainstream Christian theology. Its adherents believe that its deceased leader, Ahn Sahng-hong, was the second coming of Jesus Christ and deifies evangelist Jang Gil-ja by calling her God the Mother. Traditional Christian churches regard the group as a cult. Under the new order imposed by the government, Vietnamese provinces are not allowed to approve this sect’s requests to register nonprofit organizations, companies, representative offices, shops, clubs, or extracurricular programs.

Vietnamese Man Declared Dead After Spending Two Days in Police Custody

A Vietnamese man in Quang Nam Province was found dead in a local police station after being detained for further investigation of his alleged illegal drug trafficking. Nguyen Minh Su, the deceased man, is said to have hanged himself while in the police detention center of Tien Phuoc District, Quang Nam Province, according to the police statement.

Lt. Col. Le Thanh Phat, head police officer of the Tien Phuoc District Police Department, confirmed to state media on Sept. 23 that Su, 40, was found dead in police custody, and initial investigation results suggested that he “committed suicide with a piece of a mosquito net.”

Su’s family told state media that he was arrested around noon on Sept. 19. On the afternoon of Sept. 21, the family went to the detention center to visit him but were informed by the police that Su had hanged himself and had been taken to the emergency room at Quang Nam General Hospital. However, he died at the hospital on Sept. 22. Local authorities have conducted an autopsy, but the results have not yet been announced.

According to Nguyen Thi My Linh, the deceased man's wife, she found a large wound on his head following his death. Photos of Su’s body circulated on social media also showed a severe head injury. Therefore, she said the family had not taken the body home for burial but left it at the Quang Nam General Hospital. At the same time, it waits for the forensic agency to announce the official results.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

The US is racing to source chips from Vietnam — but engineers are scant

Rest of World/ Lam Le/ Sept. 15

“Vietnam’s semiconductor activity dates back decades, but has been stymied due to lack of funds and technical expertise, experts told Rest of World. It is dominated by about 40 foreign players, most notably U.S. tech giant Intel, which has its largest chip assembly and testing facility in Ho Chi Minh City. This has already placed Vietnam as the third-largest exporter of chips to the U.S., behind only Malaysia and Taiwan, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Most semiconductor makers moving to Vietnam are concentrated in chip design — the least capital-intensive part of the supply chain — to take advantage of the country’s lower wages. Local players are few and far between, with military-run telecoms company Viettel and tech giant FPT leading the pack.”

Vietnamese Perceptions in a Changing Sino-US Relationship

Fulcrum/ Sharon Seah, Indira Zahra Aridati/ Sept. 15

“Cross-border threats such as the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as geopolitical and geo-economic tensions, are all significant drivers that have influenced Vietnam’s perception of China. Points of contention revolve around maritime and territorial disputes, in particular in the South China Sea, where Vietnam is a major claimant. This is corroborated in the survey findings, which show that despite variations year-on-year, Vietnam consistently ranked among the top three ASEAN countries with the highest levels of distrust (respondents who chose “no confidence” or “little confidence”) in China to “do the right thing” in the wider interests of the global community. As illustrated in Figure 1, Vietnamese levels of distrust in China also rank higher than the regional ASEAN average throughout all years of the survey period.”

Biden should press climate activist rights in Vietnam

Asia Times/ Phil Robertson/ Sept. 9

“Civil society is essential to ensuring transparency and accountability in such programs by providing independent monitoring of the impact of the energy transition from a social and environmental perspective and supporting communities that advocate for their rights.

Vietnamese government repression does not augur well for the effective implementation of the JETP deal or long-term US relations with Vietnam.

President Biden should speak out about the vital role environmental activists in Vietnam play when it comes to phasing out coal. He should publicly press the government to immediately release all four climate-change activists currently in prison and drop the charges against those awaiting trial.”

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