The Conviction On Sept. 22, 2016, the Hanoi People’s Court held a first-instance trial  for Vu Van Binh,
Vietnamese Public Angered Over Proposed Plan to Clear Natural Forests to Build Reservoir
Vietnamese Public Angered over Proposed Plan to Clear Natural Forests to Build Reservoir
The Binh Thuan provincial authorities’ decision to clear a 600-hectare natural forest to build a reservoir in My Thanh Commune, Ham Thuan Nam District, has drawn opposition from the Vietnamese public. Officials say that the Ka Pet Reservoir project will provide agricultural irrigation, improve water downstream regulation, and serve other civilian and production uses.
The project, which will cost 874 billion dong, has been approved by the National Assembly. Local authorities say that once the construction is completed in 2025, the reservoir will provide water for farming purposes and the livelihoods of around 120,000 people.
However, when VnExpress, a state news agency, published a report assessing the environmental impact of this construction project, it worried and angered many Vietnamese ecological advocates and the general public. The natural forests expected to be cleared are known for their rich biodiversity, and the construction project could have long-lasting detrimental effects on the regional ecosystem.
According to an environmental impact assessment quoted by VnExpress, the forest area needed to be cleared for the reservoir project includes 137 hectares of special-use forests (accounting for 22% of the forestry area), 0.51 hectares of protection forests (0.08%), 440 hectares of production forests (72%), and around 40 hectares of lands not covered by forests (6%).
One cultural aspect is that this forest has been associated with the lives of Vietnam’s Cham and Raglai ethnic minorities for hundreds of years. History researchers and environmental advocates in Vietnam have said that the destruction of regional forests could affect two crucial relics of the Cham community in southern Binh Thuan, the tombs of Po Cei Khar Mah Bingu and Po Haniim Per, which are associated with the pilgrimage tradition of the Cham community in the Pajai region (Binh Thuan Province).
The forest is managed by the Nui Ong Nature Reserve and Song Mong-Ka Pet Protection Forest Management Board, according to VnExpress. Viet Quoc, a VnExpress journalist, interviewed Nguyen Van Quang, head of the Deo Nam Forest Management Station, who has spent 12 years as a ranger in My Thanh forest, which is set to be bulldozed. Quang said he was “very sad” to know that the forest would be cut down, but he had no choice but to follow the policy.
On Sept. 5, Trieu Van Luc, deputy director of the Department of Forestry of the Ministry of Agriculture, said that the ministry had sent a working group to Binh Thuan to inspect the project. The group also includes multiple agencies of the agricultural ministry, Luc added.
Binh Thuan Man Dies at a Vietnamese Police Station Due to Suspected Police Torture
A man from southern central Binh Thuan Province died on Sept. 3 after being detained and questioned by the local police for just a few hours.
Bui Van Hai, 28, was summoned by the Duc Linh District Police Department in Binh Thuan at around 6 p.m. on the same day of his death during an investigation into a dog theft case. Bui Manh Hung, Hai’s brother, told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that he drove his brother to Duc Linh police station and handed him over to two police officers. According to Hung, Hai looked healthy before the questioning session.
At 11:45 p.m., Hung learned that someone had died at the police station, and his corpse had been taken to Duc Linh District Hospital. Hung went to the hospital and discovered that the dead person was his younger brother. The hospital told him that two people wearing face masks took Hai to the hospital at around 9 p.m. on Sept. 3. Hung said he was the first person in his family to see his brother’s body at the hospital. No police officers were present there when he arrived.
In the live streams and photos that Hai’s family shared on social media, the 28-year-old man’s body had a lot of bruises. The family also bought a freezer to store Hai’s body while waiting for the autopsy results and the authorities’ answer regarding his mysterious death.
Vietnam’s state media quoted information from the Duc Linh District Police Department which said that after being questioned on Sept. 3 about the theft case, Hai showed signs of fatigue and difficulty breathing. The police took him to Nam Binh Thuan Regional General Hospital for examination. He died after the assessment and treatment at the hospital, according to the report of Binh Thuan Provincial Police. The Duc Linh District Police said that Hai admitted to the theft he was accused of.
However, Hung told RFA that his brother died before being brought to the hospital, according to the death certificate issued to the family by Nam Binh Thuan Hospital on Sept. 5. He also rejected all accusations from Vietnamese state media that his brother was a dog thief. Hung confirmed that his younger brother was at home sleeping during the alleged theft.
Vietnamese Prisoner of Conscience Le Trong Hung Initiates Hunger Strike in Prison
Vietnamese prisoner of conscience Le Trong Hung, 44, a former National Assembly candidate and member of an advocacy group called Chan Hung Vietnam TV (CHTV), declared he will go on a hunger strike from Sept. 3 to Sept. 11. Hung said the purpose of the hunger strike is to demand a meeting with members of the National Assembly who he voted for in May 2021 while in prison so that they can directly hear concerns and requests from a Vietnamese citizen, according to his wife Do Le Na.
Na wrote that the second purpose of the hunger strike is to ask prison authorities in Vietnam to ensure human rights for prisoners in general, and political prisoners in particular, by giving them the right to medical examinations and treatment and the right to exchange letters with their families.
Hung is serving his five-year prison term at Prison No. 6 in Nghe An Province. He was arrested in March 2021 after applying to run as a candidate for the 14th National Assembly election in May that year.
Na told RFA in an interview that she learned about her husband’s plan to go on a hunger strike during a monthly visit to him last month. After returning to Hanoi, she sent letters to Le Thi Nga, chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee, Luu Binh Nhuong, a deputy of the National Assembly's People's Committee, and several other National Assembly delegates to present Hung’s concerns.
Na also expressed concerns about Hung’s situation in prison because for more than half a year, she and their children have not received any letters from Hung, even though he said during the visit that he still writes regularly to her and the children.
Prisoner of Conscience Nguyen Bac Truyen Arrives in Germany Following Release from Prison
On Sept. 8, Vietnamese prisoner of conscience Nguyen Bac Truyen and his wife, Bui Kim Phuong, arrived in Germany after Truyen was released from An Diem Prison, Quang Nam Province, just days before the visit of U.S. President Joe Biden to Vietnam.
Truyen, 55, is a legal expert who leads the Vietnamese Political and Religious Prisoners Friendship Association and advocates for the religious freedom of the followers of the Hoa Hao Buddhist sect. Hoa Hao Buddhist adherents continuously face government suppression of their freedom of religion and beliefs.
Truyen was arrested on November 17, 2006, and sentenced to three years and six months for “distributing anti-State propaganda.” He was released in May 2010. On July 30, 2017, he was arrested again and sentenced to 11 years of imprisonment on “subversion” charges.
A spokesperson for the German Foreign Ministry confirmed the news to Thoibao.de, a German-based Vietnamese language newspaper, and said that the country welcomes the release of the human rights activist. “This is an important humanitarian move by the Hanoi government,” the spokesperson said. Thoibao.de’s sources claimed that German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock raised the issue of Truyen’s release with her Vietnamese counterpart Bui Thanh Son during their talks in Berlin last September.
According to RFA, Vietnam’s state media was utterly silent on Truyen’s release and did not explain why he was freed before his prison sentence concluded.
Phuong posted a photo of the couple standing together in front of a wall covered with graffiti, which appears to be the Berlin Wall, on her personal Facebook page. In her posting, Phuong wrote, “My husband and I arrived safely in the capital, Berlin, the Federal Republic of Germany, on the night of Sept. 8, 2023 (Berlin time).”
Vietnamese Civil Society Leader Dang Dinh Bach Assaulted in Prison after Denouncing a Knife-Wielding Cellmate
Prisoner of conscience Dang Dinh Bach was assaulted in prison after he called home to report a severe incident in Prison No. 6 in Nghe An Province. Previously, on Aug. 31, Bach told his wife, Tran Phuong Thao, that he and other political prisoners were intimidated by a group of knife-wielding cellmates.
Thao said that Bach was assaulted after he called home and informed her about the incident on Aug. 31. He told her of the assault during their recent meeting on Sept. 5. The correctional officers also asked Bach not to record in writing what happened, Thao relayed in a text message with RFA on the same day.
“On Aug. 31, after calling home, [Bach] was fatally beaten in the head from behind,” Thao said. “On Sept. 1, he filed a complaint, and someone came to record the incident,” Bach told his wife that he had a bruise on the back of his neck and developed a headache following the assault. However, the staff refused to let him see a doctor to examine the injury.
Civil Rights Groups Urge U.S. President Joe Biden to Raise Human Rights Issues During His Vietnam Visit
A trip of U.S. President Joe Biden to Vietnam on Sept. 10 is expected to result in a diplomatic upgrade, talks on climate, trade, and human rights, as well as potential backlash from Beijing, Nikkei Asia reported, quoting information from Vietnam experts and government officials familiar with the meeting. The two former war enemies are considering the upgrade of their diplomatic relations from the current “comprehensive partnership” into a “comprehensive strategic partnership.”
However, many Vietnamese human rights activists and social critics believe that the Biden visit offers little room for improving Vietnam’s abysmal rights record. Many campaigners in Vietnam also point out that while Biden has often criticized Beijing's human rights record, he has largely stayed quiet on Vietnam, which frequently implements the Chinese model of social control and suppression of opposition voices.
Nguyen Vu Binh, 54, a political activist who served almost five years in jail in the early 2000s, told AFP that he believed “the Communist Party has certainly been successful in curbing the voice of people” like himself. Meanwhile, Vietnamese lawyer Le Cong Dinh said he didn’t expect any serious push for Vietnam to change from the U.S. and the EU. “These countries look at Vietnam as a strategic partner for their security and trade policies in Southeast Asia [...] human rights protection is no longer a top priority in the relationship, especially during Russia's war in Ukraine,” Dinh said.
In a letter dated Sept. 9 to U.S. President Joe Biden, one day before his upcoming visit to Vietnam, Human Rights Watch urged him to raise the cases of Vietnamese human rights and democracy activists who are imprisoned due to their advocacy, to urge Vietnamese leaders to repeal or amend vague provisions in the penal code and other laws used to prosecute activists, to call on the government to repeal or amend the law on Cyber Security and the associated Decree 53/2022 to bring them in line with international human rights standards, and to publicly urge Vietnam’s leaders to allow all independent religious organizations to conduct religious activities freely and allow them to govern themselves.
On the same day, eight Vietnamese civil society organizations also sent an open letter to the U.S. president urgently calling for him to request the halt of the executions of wrongful Vietnamese convicts, inducing Nguyen Van Chuong, Ho Duy Hai, and Le Van Manh. The letter also emphasizes their deep commitment to justice, equality, and human rights principles while underscoring the need to reform Vietnam's justice system.
Vietnam Communist Party Chief Nguyen Phu Trong Receives Chinese Communist Official Ahead of Biden Visit
Vietnam’s State media reported that Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong met with Liu Jianchao, the head of the International Liaison Commission of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Hanoi on Sept. 5, five days before the official visit of U.S. President Joe Biden on Sept. 10.
The meeting between Trong and Liu was said to celebrate the 15th anniversary of establishing the comprehensive strategic cooperation partnership between Vietnam and China.
According to state media, Trong welcomed Liu’s visit and appreciated the Chinese people's help for Vietnam's revolutionary cause and socialist construction. He also suggested that the two parties continue to coordinate closely and continue to use the annual meeting mechanism between their leaders effectively.
Liu agreed with Trong's remarks and said that the CPC will continue closely coordinating with its Vietnamese counterpart to implement the agreements between the two countries.
Earlier the same day, Le Hoai Trung, the head of Vietnam's Party Central Committee Commission for External Relations, also held talks with Liu. The two sides discussed the progress of Vietnam-China relations since Trong's visit to China in October 2022 and the directions for future exchanges and cooperation.
The meeting between Trong and Liu was perceived as Hanoi’s sustained commitment to its ideological comradeship with Beijing. The two sides also agreed to continue cooperating closely and to implement the agreements reached between their leaders.
Vietnam Admits Government Accountability in the Dak Lak Attacks
On Sept. 6, Vice Minister of Public Security Tran Quoc To called the attacks on two government headquarters in Dak Lak on June 11 an “unfortunate” event, according to a report by the state news agency Tien Phong (Pioneer). It also acknowledged that frustration over Vietnam’s growing wealth gap and poor land management by local officials were partly to blame.
The admission of government accountability by a senior police official for such an incident is rare in Vietnam. On June 11, two groups of about 40 armed with guns and knives attacked the Ea Tieu and Ea Ktur commune headquarters in Dak Lak Province, leaving nine people dead, including four police officers and two commune officials.
However, the vice public security minister, who is also the brother of late President Tran Dai Quang, stressed that “negligence was not the only issue at play” and told the National Assembly Committee reviewing an investigation of the attacks that they were an “inevitable consequence of relentless opposition and sabotage” of the government. The Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security called the Dak Lak attacks a “terrorist act” directed by a foreign-based terrorist organization.
Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam
RFA/ Zachary Abuza/ Sept. 9
“The elevated status is a symbolic gesture that recognizes the developed state of U.S.-Vietnam ties, almost 30 years after they normalized diplomatic relations and a half century since the end of the Vietnam War.
But it doesn't reflect a fundamental change in Vietnamese policy. Indeed, it should be seen as a manifestation of what Hanoi calls its omnidirectional and independent foreign policy. The overall growth of the relationship will remain hemmed in by the fact that the communist leaders who run Vietnam share the same world view as those who control China.”
The Diplomat/ Jonathan D. London/ Sept. 9
“While it has been more than 20 years since the U.S. and Vietnam normalized diplomatic ties, the elevation of the relationship to that of a strategic partnership – or even, as some reports have stated, a comprehensive strategic partnership – is a momentous development, not only for Vietnam and the U.S. but for the entire region and world.
For Vietnam, deepening ties with the U.S. will bolster its efforts to realize its vast economic potential while also shoring up its defensive capabilities in the face of Beijing’s fixation on regional dominance. For the U.S., deepening ties with Vietnam expands possibilities for trade – including in strategic sectors such as microchips production – while adding expanding opportunities for security cooperation with a formidable regional middle power.”
The National Interest/ Thi Mai Anh Nguyen/ Sept. 9
“Although Vietnam and the United States share significant concerns about China’s hegemonic maritime ambitions in the South China Sea, Vietnam remains highly skeptical about U.S. intentions regarding democracy, human rights, and religion, constraining the possibility of an alliance. In fact, according to the Vietnamese Communist Party propagandists, “Vietnam is still a major target of the hostile forces and reactionaries’ ‘peaceful evolution strategy,’” and “[g]iven the duplicity of several Western administrations, there remain plots and activities that take advantage of cooperative relationships to carry out the ‘peaceful evolution strategy’ in Vietnam, notably support of several administrations for individuals and organizations hostile towards Vietnam. These organizations still capitalize on American standards on ‘democracy,’ ‘human rights,’ ‘freedom of speech,’ ‘freedom of religion,’ etc., to slander Vietnam about violation of democracy and human rights, and use it as a driver to bolster the domestic forces politically and spiritually.””
Mekong Eye/ Le Quynh/ Sept. 4
“Spanning approximately 1,000 hectares and with an annual capacity of 5.4 million tons, the Long Son complex will rival Hoa Phat, Vietnam’s largest iron and steel project, in terms of both capacity and investment, if it comes to fruition.
However, widespread concern among the 3,000 Lo Dieu residents over the loss of ancestral land, the disruption to their livelihoods and the negative impacts on aquatic and groundwater resources, beg the question of whether the coastal province truly needs a big industrial project.
A preliminary environmental impact assessment has been carried out for the Long Son iron and steel project and its construction is awaiting approval from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Ministry of Planning and Investment.”