Communist Party Chief Nguyen Phu Trong Receives Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Vows to Expand Bilateral Relations

Communist Party Chief Nguyen Phu Trong Receives Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Vows to Expand Bilateral Relations

Vietnam Authorities Closely Monitor Venerable Thich Tue Sy’s Funeral 

The U.S. State Department spokesperson, Matthew Miller, on Nov. 27 released a press statement on the recent passing of The  Most Venerable Thich Tue Sy, one of Vietnam’s most prominent monks. Tue Sy, 81, passed away at Phat An Pagoda in Vietnam’s Dong Nai Province. He was the leader of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), which was banned by the Vietnamese government in 1981 when it declined to join the state-established Vietnam Buddhist Church.

Matthew Miller, the State Department spokesperson, called Tue Sy “a tireless champion for freedom of religion or belief and related human rights,” which resulted in his decade-long imprisonment in Vietnam. Tue Sy is also a writer, translator, researcher, and Buddhist philosopher. “Our thoughts are with his UBCV community in Vietnam and worldwide,” said the statement.

Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported that Dong Nai provincial authorities attempted to take down banners at Tue Sy’s funeral, held on Nov. 25, as plainclothes security forces filmed monks and other guests, one of the organization’s leaders told RFA. The authorities asked that church members remove the funeral banners that read in Vietnamese: “Funeral of late Most Venerable Thich Tue Sy – Chief Secretary and Supreme Patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam.”

But the pagoda’s monks rejected the authorities’ request, keeping the funeral banners over the Phat An Pagoda. According to Thich Vinh Phuoc, one of the UBCV monks, the funeral “went well and smoothly, with the attendance of many Buddhist monks and followers from inside and outside the country.” But he added that the authorities filmed the cars of monks and delegations who arrived at Tue Sy’s funeral.

Vietnam Police Files Special Wanted Notice for a Man Allegedly “Publishing Anti-State Propaganda”

Vietnam’s state media on Nov. 28 reported that the Security Investigation Agency of Tien Giang Provincial Police had issued a special wanted notice for Le Quoc Anh, 32, a resident of Tien Giang, to investigate his alleged“making, storing, disseminating, and propagating of anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Penal Code. The notice was issued on Aug. 25, but the police only published it three months later. 

The police agency announced that they decided to issue the wanted notice for Anh after he allegedly fled the province after he was prosecuted for those charges. It was unclear why Le Quoc Anh was charged with Article 117. Attorney Nguyen Van Mieng, a human rights lawyer in the United States, wrote on his Facebook account that the Tien Giang Police’s decision to issue a wanted notice for Le Quoc Anh was very ambiguous. 

According to Mieng, Anh is a typical comic book enthusiast who studied graphic design and worked at a local company in My Tho City, Tien Giang. On March 8, 2023, after he went to work as usual, the district police went to his home and issued a police summons for unclear reasons. Since Anh was already at work, the police reportedly came to the company to detain him and then took him to an unknown location.

Earlier in 2023, Anh’s parents contacted Mieng and hired him as their lawyer after they lost contact with their son. On March 23, Mieng personally went to the Security Investigation Agency to register to defend Le Quoc Anh, but no one received him. When a policeman guarding the agency gate called his superiors, those in charge at the investigation agency answered that they had not arrested anyone with that name. But on the same day, Anh’s father called Mieng, informing him that his son was released. Attorney Mieng was unable to continue with the case due to personal reasons.

On July 5, the authorities officially charged Le Quoc Anh with Article 117. Since he was released, his whereabouts remain unknown. Attorney Mieng suspected something had happened to Anh during the criminal investigation. He further speculated that the Wanted Notice issued by the Tien Giang Provincial Police Department was used to cover up the truth about Le Quoc Anh’s situation.

Dang Dinh Bach’s Family Visit Cut Short Following Complaints About Assault in Prison

Prison authorities of Prison No. 6, Nghe An Province, reportedly cut short the visit of prisoner of conscience Dang Dinh Bach's visitation with his wife, Tran Phuong Thao, on Nov. 28 after Bach told her that the prison administration had not resolved his complaint that his cellmates had assaulted him.

According to Thao, their conversation was interrupted when she came to visit him on Nov. 15. Bach told her that he had previously sent two complaint letters, on Aug. 26 and Sept. 16, respectively, to the People's Procuracy of Nghe An to report the assaults he endured in prison, but the incidents had not been resolved. Although Bach had not finished speaking, the phone was disconnected, and three supervisory officers asked them to stop the visit immediately.

Thao said that as prison officials dragged her husband out of the visiting room, he shouted that an inmate named Nguyen Doan Anh had allegedly kicked him in the back of his head, resulting in a bruise. Previously, Bach told his wife that a group of inmates at Prison No. 6 also stormed into the living quarters of political prisoners, threatening to take their lives. However, the prison administration denied his allegations.

Dang Dinh Bach has rejected food rations from the prison since Sept. 4 and only used food sent by his family. Bach also had to soak dried food for a long time before he could eat it because the prison did not provide him with boiling water. The prison guards also confiscated Bach’s items, such as his reading lamp, watch, essential oils to treat his asthma, razor, and a diary. The family is also not allowed to send him some items, even though they are not prohibited.

Retired Government Officer Arrested on Charge of “Abusing Democratic Freedom”

The Quang Binh Provincial Police Department on Nov. 27 detained Nguyen Thu Hang, 61, a retired officer living in Dong Hoi City, for three months on charges of "abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the legitimate interests of the state and the legitimate rights of other organizations and individuals" under Article 331 of the Penal Code. The Quang Binh police previously prosecuted Hang on Sept. 13.

According to the investigation agency, Hang had allegedly used her personal Facebook account, "Nguyen Thu Hang," to livestream and insult a local judge who presided over a previous land dispute trial involving her. Hang allegedly used her social media platform to defame the judge since she disagreed with his final decision.

The retired government officer was also accused of using her personal Facebook account to publish video clips of her speaking at the headquarters of the People's Committee of Nam Ly Ward in Quang Binh, the Provincial Department of Education and Training in Dong Hoi City, and the Quang Binh Provincial Inspectorate headquarters. The local police have not disclosed the content of these videos or said which individuals were defamed in Hang’s live streamings.

Vietnam National Assembly Passed New Laws, Seeking to Tighten National Security

Last week, the Vietnam National Assembly passed two new contentious legal provisions, the Law on Identification and the Law on Forces Protecting Grassroots Security and Order, triggering increasing concerns over the state’s infringement on the privacy of Vietnamese citizens. 

On Nov. 27, the National Assembly passed the revised Law on Identification, with 87.25% of its members voting yes. This law will require specific biometric data to be collected and stored on Vietnam’s national identity (ID) cards. The biometric data will include a person’s facial image, fingerprints, iris, DNA, voice, and occupation. However, the police also can collect voluntary DNA and voice information from citizens and those subject to administrative penalties, according to the provisions.

On Nov. 28, Vietnam’s state legislature also passed the Law on Forces Protecting Grassroots Security and Order, which seeks to merge three semi-professional security forces, including district security guards, irregular commune police, and civil defense officers. Around 78% of Vietnamese lawmakers voted in favor of the new law, while around 12%voted against it.

According to this legal provision, the new grassroots security force coordinates with multi-level police departments to “protect social and national security and order.” The law doesn’t require those wishing to join this force to undergo specialized training and education. Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security drafted and proposed the grassroots security force law to the National Assembly following an armed attack on a district police headquarters in Dak Lak Province last June, which resulted in the deaths of several policemen. 

However, many lawmakers opposed the passing of this law, raising concerns about the financial burden of this new force’s operations costs in the state budget. It is estimated that the total budget needed to fund the operation of these groups is more than 150 million USD per year. On average, a Vietnamese province or city would need about 2.4 million USD yearly from taxpayer money to finance this force.

Thai Authorities Arrest Montagnard Vietnamese Taking Refuge Near Bangkok 

Thai authorities on Nov. 24 arrested 11 Montagnard Vietnamese refugees who were living near Bangkok, prompting fear among the Montagnard refugee community, RFA reported, citing information from Y Quynh Buondap, a Montagnard currently taking refuge in Thailand. He is a rights activist with Montagnards Stand For Justice (MSFJ), an advocacy group working to promote the rights of ethnic minorities in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. 

Many refugees are worried about their future and the possibility of being deported back to Vietnam despite having refugee status granted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Bangkok. Y Quynh Buondap said the police told him those people were living illegally here and that Thailand did not accommodate people coming illegally. “Then the arrestees were detained at Bang Yai police station,” he added.

The UNHCR and law firms did not take any action to help the arrested Montagnards, according to Buondap. An attorney working at a law office in Bangkok confirmed the arrest of the 11 Montagnards and said they were convicted of illegal entry and residence. The attorney also noted that each refugee had to pay a fee of USD 142 and would be sent to the Immigration Detention Center (IDC) in Bangkok.

The attorney's organization sought funds to help the arrested Montagnards and their families. According to Y Quynh Buondap, 17 Montagnard people have been arrested in Thailand recently. Nine of these refugees had already been granted refugee status by the United Nations. The Montagnards are the largest ethnic minority Vietnamese group taking refuge in Thailand to avoid Hanoi’s crackdown on religious freedom. There are around 2,000 Montagnard refugees in Thailand, followed by Hmong and Khmer groups with hundreds of people each.

Japan and Vietnam Elevate Bilateral Relations During Vo Van Thuong’s Visit

 Japan and Vietnam on Nov. 27 agreed to strengthen bilateral ties into a "comprehensive strategic partnership," the highest rung in Vietnam’s diplomatic hierarchy, in the face of China's growing influence in the region. The diplomatic relations upgrade was announced during the four-day trip of Vietnamese President Vo Van Thuong to Tokyo, marking the two countries’ 50th anniversary of establishing diplomatic ties.

This announcement means that Japan has now gained the status of Vietnam's top-tier partner, along with the United States, China, South Korea, and India.

Against the backdrop of this upgrade, both countries vowed to broaden security cooperation, work on defense equipment and technology transfers, and start discussing a new Japanese aid program for the militaries of like-minded developing countries in the region. Tokyo has been rapidly growing closer ties with Vietnam as it saw this key Southeast Asian country has significant regional security and economic roles, facing China’s rise and rivalry with the United States and other Western nations.

During his Japan trip, Vo Van Thuong also visited the Imperial Palace for a meeting and a lunch hosted by Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako. He also spoke at the Lower House, the more powerful of Japan's two parliamentary chambers, and visited a hydrogen energy facility in Fukuoka in southern Japan.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi Visited Vietnam

Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) Chief Nguyen Phu Trong received Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Hanoi on Nov. 1 - the beginning of Wang Yi’s two-day visit to Vietnam. Vietnam’s state media reported that Nguyen Phu Trong expressed his appreciation for positive developments in the bilateral relations between the two governments and Communist parties in recent years while hoping to expand cooperation between the two strategic partners.

Trong affirmed that the VCP held high regard for Vietnam-China relations, adding that the diplomatic agencies of the two Communist parties and countries should comprehensively promote bilateral cooperation in all fields.

According to the state media, Vietnamese and Chinese officials agreed to settle maritime disputes under international laws while strengthening cooperation in multiple sectors, including science and technology, environment, transport, agriculture, and healthcare. Both countries also hope to increase Chinese investment in areas using advanced and environmentally friendly technology.

The Chinese foreign minister arrived in Vietnam to co-host the 15th Vietnam-China Steering Committee for Bilateral Cooperation session. On the same day, Yi also met with Vietnamese President Vo Van Thuong and Deputy Prime Minister Tran Luu Quang, who co-chaired the steering committee. Yi’s trip to Hanoi is said to pave the way for a possible visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Vietnam this December. Xi’s anticipated visit follows Hanoi’s earlier upgrading in diplomatic relations with Washington on Sept. 11 and Tokyo on Nov. 27.

Vietnam Finalizes Environmental Plan to Secure Environmental Loans Ahead of COP28

Reuters reported that Vietnam is finalizing a plan with G7 governments and multilateral lenders to unlock billions of dollars in loans to reduce coal use. The plan, known as the Resource Mobilization Plan, is expected to be agreed upon before the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai. Vietnam’s government portal announced that Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh would attend the COP28 from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3.

A previous draft of Vietnam’s environmental plan, reviewed by Reuters, included over 400 projects that could receive funding, including 272 on energy infrastructure such as power grid upgrades and wind and solar farms. However, there is no guarantee that Vietnam will take advantage of the loans on offer, and the Communist government has been hesitant to take foreign loans.

Vietnam plans to expand its capacity of coal-fired power plants to over 30 GW by 2030, from about 21 GW in 2020. However, it has committed to stopping the development of coal-fired power plants after 2030.

Foreign investors have long urged Vietnam to enhance its commitments to reforms. They have expressed concerns about its plan to reduce coal use only after boosting its installed capacity until 2030. However, the government has listed offshore wind regulations as "potential" actions to be finalized in 2025, which means the sector's 2030 targets will likely be missed. At the same time, Hanoi has drawn criticisms from human rights and environmental advocacy groups for its arrests and imprisonment of climate activists in recent years.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Vietnam Is Jailing Environmentalists Who Helped It Secure Billions

The New York Times/ Sui-Lee Wee/ Nov. 28

“Activists and academics say that Vietnam appears to be emboldened by its growing importance to the West and has taken the opportunity to clamp down, knowing there will be few repercussions. The country has presented itself as an increasingly important geopolitical player, and one of the few Southeast Asian nations that has publicly pushed back against China. President Biden visited Vietnam in September, elevating ties to a new strategic relationship that he said would “be a force for prosperity and security in one of the most consequential regions in the world.””

Analysts: Vietnam's Island Expansion Aims to Counter China

VOA News/ An Hai/ Nov. 28

“Recent Vietnamese expansion work in the Spratly Islands, which began in 2021, was most noticeable at Barque Canada Reef, according to a report last week by the Washington-based Center for Strategic International Studies' Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI).

The report said Vietnam created 0.84 square kilometers of land in the past year.

Vietnam's reclamation work on Barque Canada Reef, known as Bai Thuyen Chai in Vietnamese, is progressing rapidly, already making it the largest Vietnam occupied feature in Spratly Islands, according to the South China Sea Probing Initiative (SCSPI), a Chinese think tank.”

Rethinking History and News Media in South Vietnam

US Vietnam Review, University of Oregon/ Nguyen Quoc Tan Trung/ Nov. 20

“The Vietnam War is known as the first “television war’. An excerpt from the National Archives History Office, authored by Madie Ward, will serve as a useful first point of reference for understanding how journalism, and its new medium – television, completely changed the way the public accessed and ‘felt’ the war. Ward explained that, in World War II, morale was high and the camera crews of the day naturally stayed in non-combat areas to show the upbeat side of the war. Their stories were broadcast as motion pictures shown in theaters as special events, and no one in their right mind would have wanted to spoil these events with defeatist news. By contrast, the Vietnam War started at a time of easier and greater news coverage.”

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