Vietnam Arrests Outspoken Parliamentary Official Luu Binh Nhuong Due to Alleged Extortion Charges

Vietnam Arrests Outspoken Parliamentary Official Luu Binh Nhuong Due to Alleged Extortion Charges

Vietnam Arrests Outspoken Parliamentary Official Luu Binh Nhuong

On Nov. 15, authorities in Vietnam arrested Luu Binh Nhuong, a prominent parliamentary official, on the accusation of being involved in an extortion scheme, state media reported, citing information from the Ministry of Public Security. Nhuong’s alleged activity violated Article 170 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.

Nhuong, 60, whose hometown is in Thai Binh Province, was a member of the National Assembly between 2016 and 2021. He is currently a deputy chair of the People’s Aspirations Committee of the National Assembly. In recent years, Nhuong has been popularly known as a strong critic of government officials and the public security forces, expressing his dissatisfaction with Vietnam’s criminal justice system and widespread corruption in the state sector.

According to the information provided by the police, the prosecution and detention of Nhuong resulted from an expanded investigation into the case of Pham Minh Cuong, 37, a former felon living in Thai Thuy District, Thai Binh Province. Cuong was accused of running illegal criminal networks on several sand sites in the province.

The police announcement did not elaborate on the role of Luu Binh Nhuong in the extortion case mentioned above.

Many independent observers and analysts believe that the arrest of Nhuong was politically motivated since he won the hearts of many Vietnamese people for speaking out about social issues and miscarriages of justice in the country. On Sept. 27, 2023, the parliamentary official received the parents of death-row prisoner Nguyen Van Chuong at the Civil Reception Office of Vietnam’s National Assembly following the execution announcement. He also sent a text message to Vietnamese President Vo Van Thuong, requesting a halt to Chuong’s execution.

The detention of Luu Binh Nhuong coincided with a visit to Vietnam by Surya Deva, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to development. When asked by Reuters about Nhuong’s arrest, Deva said he had not been informed about the incident, adding: “The government should not use the law as a device to target certain people because of their political or religious views.”

UN Expert Commends Vietnam’s Economic Development, Raising Issues over Environment, Vulnerable Groups

UN Special Rapporteur on the right to development Surya Deva concluded his 10-day visit to Vietnam on Nov. 15, saying that he recognized Vietnam’s efforts to achieve economic development and reduce poverty. Still, he said that the country should do more to facilitate the civil participation of people in economic, political, social, and cultural development, according to the preliminary observations and recommendations report.

In the report, Surya Deva highlighted that Vietnam has made considerable improvements in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in several areas, such as poverty reduction, access to clean water, and sanitation. He also noted Vietnam’s progress in enhancing its legal protection framework for vulnerable groups; for example, he said that Vietnam’s 2019 Labor Law prohibits and penalizes sexual harassment in the workplace.

At the same time, the UN special rapporteur pointed out three ongoing challenges regarding bureaucratic processes, civil participation, and the planet. He urged the government of Vietnam to improve existing approval processes for developmental projects while raising concerns about the country’s increasingly limited space for civic participation and Vietnam’s vulnerability to climate change. 

Deva also commented about acquiring lands for development projects in Vietnam, leading to the eviction of individuals and communities who have lived off these lands for generations. Regarding the representation of women, people with disabilities, and indigenous peoples in Vietnam’s political system, the special rapporteur noted that women with disabilities and ethnic minorities continue to be underrepresented at all levels of the government. At the same time, he said the Vietnamese government does not accept the concept of indigenous peoples, resulting in ethnic monitories being “unable to avail important rights to self-determination and free, prior and informed consent.”

According to the UN Commission on Human Rights, Surya Deva’s detailed report on his visit and recommendations will be presented to the Human Rights Council in September 2024.

Vietnamese sentences 18 people to death, including three foreigners, in a significant drug trafficking trial

A court in Ho Chi Minh City on Nov. 11 sentenced 18 people, including two South Koreans and one Chinese, to death in Vietnam for drug smuggling and trafficking charges. The Communist country has some of the strictest drug laws in the world and is known for its secrecy surrounding executions.

Kim Soon-sik, 63, a former South Korean police officer, and his compatriot Kang Seon-hok, 30, were sentenced to death following a four-day trial. Chinese citizen Li Tianguan, 58, and alleged Vietnamese ringleader Le Ho Vu, 36, also received death sentences.

The group was convicted of illegally storing, trafficking, and trading over 216 kilograms of drugs between May and June 2020, according to the state police via Agence France-Presse (AFP). More than 168 kilograms of various drugs transported from Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City were seized. Some of this was consumed domestically, while some were transported to South Korea. 

Vietnam routinely hands out death sentences for drug convictions and is a leading executioner globally. The country is close to the “Golden Triangle” region known for its notorious drug trafficking. Anyone caught with more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine can face the death penalty. In 2021, Amnesty International reported that hundreds of people continued to be sentenced to death annually in Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh City announces construction of new schools in disputed Loc Hung Garden

Ho Chi Minh City authorities have increased the compensation offer for Loc Hung Garden residents, who were evicted from their homes nearly five years ago, to settle the long-standing land disputes in the area.

The residents were evicted from the Loc Hung Garden settlement after the city government sent bulldozers to demolish their homes, crops, and gardens, claiming that they had been built on the land illegally. Many displaced residents were members of the Catholic Church, political dissidents, and veterans of the former Republic of Vietnam Army. 

The authorities have offered to pay residents 11.2 million dong ($460) per square meter of land, an increase from the original 7 million dong. If residents agree to the new compensation amount, they will receive the money in December, according to the Tan Binh District authorities. The local authorities have announced that three schools will be built on the land once the compensation is settled.

However, Loc Hung Garden residents have criticized the Ho Chi Minh City government for handling the land dispute, arguing that they have sufficient evidence to prove their land ownership. They alleged that the authorities intentionally refused to issue land-use rights certificates so they could take the land. Several residents in Loc Hung Garden told The 88 Project they received hand-delivered notices from the police; those were eviction notices issued without legal basis.

Freedom of Religion in Vietnam: What happened last week?

Ethnic minorities advocacy group to denounce Hanoi regime’s religious suppression in the UN

Activists campaigning for the religious rights of Vietnamese ethnic minorities from the U.S.-based Boat People SOS (BPSOS) organization will present testimony to the United Nations this month detailing widespread discrimination against ethnic minorities in Vietnam, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported. BPSOS’ goal is to hold the Vietnamese government accountable for its crackdown on religious freedom and to give ethnic minorities a voice on the international stage.

BPSOS Executive Director Nguyen Dinh Thang told RFA that Vietnam has not fulfilled its responsibility under the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, which it joined in 1982. He also noted that Vietnam had been implementing repressive policies targeting ethnic groups such as the Montagnards, the Hmong, and the Khmer Krom.

Thang added that his organization plans to denounce the government’s religious, economic, and cultural repression policies targeting ethnic groups and minorities before the UN. “The Vietnamese side never reports these things, but the United Nations has received hundreds of reports of violations, coming directly from people, most of whom come from the indigenous communities I just mentioned,” he said.

Many indigenous citizens and religious activists from Vietnam’s Central Highlands have fled to Thailand to avoid government persecution. According to some indigenous refugees, the loss of local language is an issue of concern for ethnic minorities. 

“We Montagnards have our own language in the Central Highlands, and the Rhade language has been used since French colonization. But currently, there are no schools for the Montagnards. As a result, many Montagnards cannot speak Rhade now,” said Y Quynh Bdap, a Rhade citizen from Dak Lak Province, who is now living in Thailand as a refugee.

Son La Provincial People’s Committee Holds Conference on Fighting Against the Establishment of a “Hmong State” 

On Nov. 13, Vietnam’s State media reported that the Son La Provincial People’s Committee held a meeting on the fight against the establishment of a “Hmong State” in the province. The forum was hosted by the Steering Committee of Project No. 90, a project initiated by the provincial committee tasked with cracking down on unauthorized religious activities in the province.

According to the meeting minutes via state media, the steering committee on preventing and fighting against the establishment of a “Hmong State” in Son La Province has “effectively” eliminated seditious attempts by the religion. The campaign to “eliminate an illegal Hmong State” is scheduled to be implemented between 2022 and 2025.

The steering committee stated that there are currently more than 100 people in Son La who are believed to be “individuals involved in propaganda activities to establish a ‘Hmong State.’” The provincial committee said that it has relentlessly fought to persuade local ethnic Hmong people against joining unauthorized religious sects, such as the Ba Co Do religion, and has cracked down on efforts to promote “sedition”. 

In the meeting, the Son La Provincial Police Department announced that it had eliminated the Ba Co Do religion in the locality, organized six conferences to propagate against joining “false” religions, and mobilized around 700 citizens to be aware of “bad elements” in the province.

President Vo Van Thuong Attends APEC Leaders’ Week Amid Criticisms of Vietnam’s Human Rights Abuses

Vietnam’s state media reported that President Vo Van Thuong arrived in San Francisco on Nov. 14 to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Week and other bilateral activities. 

President Thuong will join other APEC leaders to discuss critical issues affecting the regional and world economy and outline directions for cooperation in trade, investment, science-technology, innovation, and other areas. He is also scheduled to attend the APEC CEO Summit, dialogues between APEC Economic Leaders and partners, and a high-level meeting of the Indo-Pacific economic framework.

On the same day, Thuong held a meeting with representatives of the Vietnamese community in the United States, emphasizing the policy of diversification and multi-lateralization in international relations of the party and state, state media reported. Thuong noted that Vietnam’s foreign directives have “contributed to raising Vietnam’s role, position, and reputation in the international arena.”

But Thuong’s arrival in the United States as part of his APEC meeting has drawn criticisms from California state senator Janet Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American lawmaker who fled to the United States with her family after the fall of Saigon in 1975. In a letter to President Joe Biden on Nov. 13, Nguyen expressed her “deep concerns over ongoing human and religious rights violations by the country’s communist government.”

Nguyen wrote in her letter that since the United States hosted the APEC Summit this year, “we have a golden opportunity to shed light on abuses committed by Vietnam against its own people and to advance basic human rights protections such as the freedom of speech, religion, and assembly.” The Californian lawmaker further highlighted the cases of political prisoners in Vietnam, including Le Trong Hung, a journalist and independent candidate for Vietnam’s National Assembly, and Y Krech Bya, a Christian evangelist and activist.

Vietnamese Army Joins Military Exercise Hosted by China

The Vietnamese Army on Nov. 13 joined the military exercise “Peace and Friendship 2023” (Aman Youyi) hosted by China. The training occurred amid rising tensions over territorial disputes in the South China Sea, which Vietnam refers to as the East Sea.

The Chinese Ministry of National Defense said that the armed forces of China, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam attended the opening ceremony on Nov. 13, which focused on “fighting terrorism and defending citizens.” The exercise was held at the Zhanjiang General Training Ground in Guangdong Province. It will last until Nov. 22.

According to Xinhua News Agency, the multinational military joint exercise between China and other Southeast Asian nations will “deepen military mutual trust” while “maintaining peace and stability in the region.”

The Vietnamese media reported that Rear Admiral Nguyen Viet Khanh, deputy chief of staff of the Vietnamese Navy, attended the joint military exercise, leading Missile Guard Ship 016 - Quang Trung of Brigade 162, Region 4 of the Vietnamese Navy. 

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Khanh was quoted by state media as saying: "The 2023 Peace and Friendship Exercise is an opportunity for the militaries of participating countries to promote military exchanges and cooperation, enhance mutual trust and understanding, and improve anti-terrorism capacity and the maintenance of maritime security in the region.”

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Vietnam’s youth join Chinese trend of ‘lying flat’ as pay stagnates amid booming economy

South China Morning Post/ Lam Le/ Nov. 12

“With a large, young and cheap labour pool, Vietnam is Southeast Asia’s fastest-growing major economy, tagged by global firms like Dell, Apple and Microsoft as the next big thing in the region – and a safe space to shift parts of their supply chain away from China.

But the economic gains are not being felt among many of the young and poorly paid Vietnamese employed outside tech and manufacturing sectors.

A Vietnamese version of “lying flat”–coined by frustrated mainland Chinese youth who had taken to doing the bare minimum to get by in life – is emerging, prompting Vietnam’s young people to question the purpose of their work in an economy that increasingly places the spoils of growth out of reach for the young.”

Questioning Development Banks’ Commitments to Just Transition

Southeast Asia Globe/ Tanya Lee Roberts Davis/ Nov. 13

“The high-level political declaration announcing the JETP in Vietnam affirmed the importance of consultation with diverse stakeholders, including NGOs and civil society, to achieve a ‘broad social consensus’ on the country’s energy-transition pathway. But the disabling environment for civil society and community-based groups in Vietnam means it is impossible to engage meaningfully in any consultative processes, free of the fear that another of their representatives may be next in line to be arbitrarily detained, charged and imprisoned. The ADB and the World Bank Group also have clear provisions guaranteeing access to information, transparency and public participation enshrined in policy, none of which is possible in the current context in Vietnam.”

Vietnam committed to net zero emissions by 2050. So why is it arresting climate change activists?

San Francisco Chronicle/ Mercy Barends/ Nov. 13

“The arrests, prosecution and imprisonment of these environmental human rights defenders show how Vietnam’s vague laws are being weaponized to silence those who are advocating for a clean energy transition. The arrests are part of a broader and systematic crackdown by the Vietnamese government against activists and dissenters. They represent a clear violation of the freedom of expression and assembly as well as an affront to the rule of law, creating a climate of fear that discourages any criticism of government policies.

What’s even more striking is that the persecution of environmental advocates seems to fly in the face of the Vietnamese government’s own recognition of the need for climate action. The country has committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and has also pledged not to develop any new coal power plants after 2030.”

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