Human Rights Attorney Vo An Don and Family Arrive in the U.S.; Activist Tran Bang’s Health Deteriorated in Prison

Human Rights Attorney Vo An Don and Family Arrive in the U.S.; Activist Tran Bang’s Health Deteriorated in Prison

Human Rights Lawyer Vo An Don and Family Arrive in Arkansas after a Year-Long Exit Ban is Lifted by Vietnam

Human rights lawyer Vo An Don and his family successfully arrived in Arkansas on the evening of Oct. 26, marking the end of a year-long exit ban imposed by the Vietnamese government. Vo An Don, who had his legal license revoked by the Vietnamese government nearly six years ago, expressed his joy at having reached the United States after a long and challenging journey.

Speaking with VOA Vietnamese during his transit at Dulles International Airport in Virginia on the same day, Don shared his excitement, stating, "My family and I are very excited to set foot in the United States. Here, the people are very nice and sent someone to welcome my family very warmly."

As previously reported, in September 2022, the 45-year-old lawyer and his family were granted political asylum by the U.S. government. However, the Vietnamese authorities prevented their departure from the country, citing "security reasons." This restriction was imposed on the evening of Sept. 27, 2023, just as Don and his family finalized their exit procedures at Tan Son Nhat International Airport, preparing to depart for the United States.

According to Don, over the past year, U.S. diplomatic personnel in Vietnam have been actively working to lobby the Vietnamese government for the lifting of the exit ban. This achievement was realized only when President Biden visited Hanoi in September 2023.

Don revealed that his case was discussed between the U.S. government and the Vietnamese government during President Joe Biden's visit to Hanoi as mentioned above.

In an email to VOA on Oct. 26, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department remarked, "The U.S. government welcomes the lifting of the exit ban on human rights lawyer Vo An Don, which allows him to move freely."

Don expressed his gratitude, saying, "Thank you to the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Consulate General in Vietnam for their strong intervention to allow my family to leave for the United States"

However, he voiced his dissatisfaction with the situation, asserting that the Vietnamese police used the excuse of national security reasons to ban him from leaving for the United States last year.

Vietnamese Activist Tran Van Bang's Health Deteriorates Under Harsh Detention Conditions at Bo La Detention Center

Human rights activist Tran Van Bang, also known as Tran Bang, has reportedly experienced a severe decline in health due to the harsh conditions of his detention at the Bo La Detention Center in Phu Giao District, Binh Duong Province.

Tran Bang, 62, was arrested on March 1, 2022, on charges of spreading "anti-state propaganda" under Article 117 of the Penal Code. In mid-May this year, he received a sentence of eight years in prison and three years of probation for his advocacy of democracy and human rights.

After an unsuccessful appeal in late August, he was transferred to Bo La Prison on Sept. 27, where he faced challenging conditions.

Two days after his transfer to Bo La, Tran Bang's family visited him to provide essential supplies and support. According to a family member's text message to Radio Free Asia (RFA) on Oct. 26, Bang described his living conditions, stating that he was held in a crowded room with 90 other individuals. The tight space, where each person had only 60 cm of width, made it difficult for him to sleep. Moreover, the need to keep the windows open throughout the night in the overcrowded room led to exposure to cold temperatures, resulting in a severe sore throat and sinusitis.

During a subsequent visit on Oct. 17, his family noticed a significant deterioration in Tran Bang's health. They observed that he had lost approximately 10 pounds and appeared visibly older. 

Despite Bang's deteriorating health and multiple ailments, the prison authorities did not provide any medical treatment.

Efforts to verify the family's claims by contacting Bo La Prison were unsuccessful.

Tran Bang, a veteran of the border war with China in the early 1980s, is a dedicated human rights activist known for his efforts to protest China's encroachment on Vietnam's territorial waters in the East Sea. He is one of seven activists and freelance journalists convicted of disseminating "anti-state propaganda" in the early part of the year. The remaining individuals include Nguyen Lan Thang, a blogger for RFA, and music lecturer Dang Dang Phuoc.

Before his trial and appeal, various international organizations, including Human Rights Watch, called for his immediate release, arguing that he was exercising his right to freedom of speech as stipulated in the Vietnamese Constitution and international human rights conventions that Vietnam has signed.

German Prosecutors Launch Investigation into ND SatCom for Alleged Support of Myanmar Army with Vietnamese CollaborationGerman

The Ravensburg prosecutor's office in Germany has launched a criminal investigation into German company ND SatCom following accusations of providing communication equipment to the Myanmar Army with the alleged involvement of a Vietnamese enterprise. This inquiry is ongoing as the German government continues to embargo Myanmar's military regime for its actions against the Rohingya ethnic group and the suppression of opposition forces.

Reports from German media outlets ZDF Frontal and Der Spiegel reveal that this investigation follows a complaint by lawyer Holger Rothbauer of German Solidarity for Democracy in Myanmar, based on findings by the non-governmental organization Justice for Myanmar (JFM). ND SatCom allegedly has provided extensive support to the Myanmar military's satellite communication operations since 2016, including 5G satellite hardware and software for their Meikhtila system.

Evidence provided by JFM suggests that over 40 deliveries, including satellite modems and software, may have evaded sanctions. A shipment of satellite modems, possibly involving Com & Com, a joint venture between Myanmar's Terabit Wave and Vietnam's OSB Investment and Technology Joint Stock Co., reached the Myanmar Army's procurement department in October 2021.

The allegations may violate prior EU sanctions and current embargoes. When contacted by VOA Vietnamese, ND SatCom, OSB, Terabit Wave, and Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond.

Justice for Myanmar's spokesperson, Yadanar Maung, highlighted Vietnam's role in supporting the Myanmar military and called for an end to such support.

JFM also shared documents and bills of lading, suggesting that equipment deliveries worth $46,400 entered Myanmar via Vietnam. The EU has maintained arms sales embargoes on Myanmar since the 1990s, with tighter restrictions imposed in 2019 after the Rohingya crisis.

Terabit Wave and OSB, through their joint venture Com & Com, specialize in military satellite services, and they have a history of cooperation with ND SatCom for maintaining equipment used by the Myanmar military.

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh Receives Lower Confidence Votes Compared to National Assembly Chairman

The results of a confidence vote recently released by the National Assembly of Vietnam indicate that Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh received significantly fewer high-confidence votes than National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue. Additionally, several members of Chinh's cabinet garnered low confidence votes.

During the 6th session of the 15th National Assembly, over 470 Vietnamese National Assembly delegates assessed their level of trust in the 44 positions they elected, spanning from National Assembly leaders to state leaders and government officials.

The nature of this "vote of confidence" is to gauge the degree of trust in these leaders, not to establish whether they are trusted or not. Consequently, there are three confidence levels for National Assembly deputies to consider for each individual: 'high confidence,' 'confidence,' or 'low confidence.'

Notably, President Vo Van Thuong, elected to replace Nguyen Xuan Phuc earlier in the year, was not part of the confidence assessment this time.

According to the results released on Oct. 25, Minister of Defense Phan Van Giang, National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue, and Vice Chairman of the National Assembly Tran Quang Phuong ranked among the top three individuals with the highest number of high-confidence votes, receiving 448, 437, and 426 votes, respectively.

Following closely were National Assembly Vice Chairman Tran Thanh Man with 414 high-confidence votes and Vice President Vo Thi Anh Xuan with 410 votes.

However, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh received just 373 high-confidence votes, which is significantly lower than Giang and Hue and even lower than his deputy, Deputy Prime Minister Le Minh Khai, who garnered 384 high-confidence votes.

While the National Assembly leadership received only a few low-confidence votes, ranging from a few to around 10, government officials encountered more low-confidence votes.

The official with the "lowest" number of confidence votes was Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Kim Son, with 72 votes. Preceding Son in terms of low-confidence votes was Minister of Science and Technology Huynh Thanh Dat with 71 votes, Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism Nguyen Van Hung with 62 votes, Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Hong Dien with 61 votes, and Health Minister Dao Hong Lan with 54 votes.

Nonetheless, these numbers remain small compared to the total of 472 votes for each position. Importantly, none of the 44 leaders who were rated had a confidence level lower than 50% of the total votes.

This confidence vote occurred when the 15th National Assembly, elected in 2021, was midway through its 5-year term. President Vo Van Thuong, along with Deputy Prime Ministers Tran Hong Ha and Tran Luu Quang, who were elected earlier in the year, were not eligible for a confidence vote this time.

The National Assembly has not clarified how these trust results will impact leaders, such as whether highly trusted leaders will be rewarded or those with lower trust will face consequences.

Family Receives Last Letter from Wrongfully Convicted Death Row Inmate Le Van Manh Asserting His Innocence

The family of Le Van Manh, who was executed at the end of September, recently received the last letter he wrote in which he maintained that he was innocent and expressed hope that his family would continue to advocate for his innocence.

The opening words of Manh's letter to his family, shared by his younger brother, Le Van Cuong, read, "Mom and Dad, today the government will execute me, and I wrote a few lines to my parents." The family received the letter from Cau Cao Prison in Thanh Hoa, where Manh was executed, after persistent requests for the personal belongings of executed death row inmates.

Le Van Manh was executed by lethal injection on Sept. 22 on the orders of the People's Court of Thanh Hoa Province. His family was informed of the execution after it had taken place, and the authorities buried him at Cho Nhang Cemetery in Thanh Hoa City, where he previously resided.

Four days after the execution, the prison returned Manh's personal belongings, including clothing and blankets, to his family. However, it took nearly a month, until Oct. 23, for them to hand over the letter and a recording of Manh's final spoken words, which the family had repeatedly asked for.

Le Van Cuong said, "The content and writing, in my opinion, are truly my brother's. In the letter, (Manh) asked about his parents and hoped that (after) his death, they would continue to petition for his innocence."

Le Van Manh was sentenced to death by Thanh Hoa People's Court in July 2005 for a murder conviction and was detained until his execution. Throughout seven trials and in letters to his family, he consistently professed his innocence. His family relentlessly pursued petitions and engaged with public agencies for almost 19 years, asserting his innocence. International organizations also called on the Vietnamese government not to execute Manh, believing he had been wrongfully convicted.

"I have committed no crime, so I have nothing to be ashamed of in my conscience," Manh wrote in the letter, in which he regarded death as "as light as a feather." 

United Nations special rapporteur Morris Tidball-Binz expressed shock and disappointment over the execution of Le Van Manh, despite calls from Western countries and international organizations to halt the execution. 

Lawyers representing Manh's family submitted a petition to President Vo Van Thuong last month, citing serious procedural errors and violations, including issues related to the handling of incriminating evidence in the case.

Five international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, condemned Manh's execution, asserting that there was no evidence or material proof of his guilt and that his confession was made under duress and torture.

Manh was executed a little over a week after U.S. President Joe Biden's visit to Vietnam, where civil society organizations had urged him to request Vietnamese leaders to halt the execution of Manh and two other death row inmates, Ho Duy Hai and Nguyen Van Chuong, all of whom are believed to have been unjustly convicted.

Besides his final letter to his family, Manh's last words were also recorded on a CD. However, most of the content was deleted before reaching the family. Le Van Cuong - Manh's younger brother - described the recording as only 18 seconds long, with unclear sentences and rustling, and he expressed concerns regarding the content's integrity.

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