Civil Society Groups Propose Recommendations for Vietnam Ahead of Periodic Human Rights Review Representatives of four non-governmental organizations on Feb.
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Lists Vietnam Among Top Five Jailers of Media Workers
CPJ: Vietnam Among Worst Jailers of Journalists Worldwide
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Jan. 18 released the 2023 census on jailed journalists worldwide. According to CPJ’s documentation, Vietnam ranked fifth worst jailer of journalists, with a total of 19 journalists in prison, only behind China, Myanmar, Belarus, and Russia. The new census revealed that the number of imprisoned journalists worldwide had reached a “near record high,” with 320 reporters behind bars as of Dec. 1, 2023.
According to the report, imprisoned journalists from Vietnam are often mistreated in prison and “typically faced physical and sexual abuse, overcrowding, food and water shortages, and inadequate medical care.”
The CPJ highlights the situation of Vietnamese journalist and prisoner of conscience Huynh Thuc Vy, who is serving two years and nine months for allegedly defacing Vietnam’s national flag. Vy’s family also told CPJ that she had developed an acute heart condition in prison that required a specific medication. However, the prison would not provide that, and her family could not afford to buy and get the needed medications regularly delivered to the prison, which was more than 120 miles from their home.
The report also mentions the case of political prisoner Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, who is serving a 16-year prison sentence and another five years of house arrest for organizing “activities aimed at overthrowing the government.” Thuc faced discrimination in prison and initiated frequent hunger strikes as a protest against poor living conditions and unfair food rationing.
Meanwhile, CPJ raised the case of five journalists from the independent press group Bao Sach (Clean Newspaper), who were banned from working as journalists as punishment after completing their sentences for “abusing democratic freedoms.”
Vietnam Court Announces Life Sentences for Alleged Indigenous Assaillants in Dak Lak Attacks
After a five-day trial, the Dak Lak Provincial Court on Jan. 20 announced the sentences for 100 indigenous suspects involved in the coordinated attacks on two local government headquarters in Ea Ktur and Ea Tieu Communes of Cu Kuin District, Dak Lak Province, which occurred in the early morning of June 11, 2023. The trial concluded with the judicial panel sentencing 10 individuals deemed as “leaders” of the attacks to life, while others accused of “conducting terrorism” received prison terms ranging between three and a half and 20 years.
The court also sentenced Le Van Nghia, who was convicted of “organizing illegal immigration,” to two years in prison. Y Cing Bya, an accused Montagnard, received nine months in jail for “concealing criminals.” The individuals convicted of “terrorism” are required to compensate the victims of the attacks financially and for damages to the property of the People’s Committee of Ea Ktur and Ea Tieu communes.
Vietnam’s state media quoted information from the court claiming that the assailants were subject to alleged incitement and manipulation by overseas “reactionary organizations,” including two groups based in Thailand and the United States. It added that these ethnic minority individuals were easily provoked and lured into committing the crimes because they “have low education levels and limited knowledge of the law.”
However, the court’s hackneyed accusations failed to paint the overall picture of simmering disputes between ethnic minorities and the Vietnamese authorities in the Central Highlands over issues such as religious persecution and land disputes.
At the same time, the Dak Lak authorities’ classification of the accused assailants in Dak Lak as “terrorists” has raised more questions than answers since they haven’t explained why the attacks in Dak Lak were mainly aimed at the police and provincial authorities rather than targeting civilian facilities.
Homeless Man in Vietnam Arrested for Burning National Flag to Cook Dinner
A homeless Vietnamese man in Ba Ria - Vung Tau Province has been arrested for allegedly burning Vietnam’s red banner and yellow star national flag to cook dinner. Pham Cong Hung Nhan, 43, could face up to three years in jail on charges of “insulting the national flag” in accordance with Article 351 of the Penal Code. State media reported that Nhan allegedly tossed the national flag into his wood-burning stove as fuel to cook dinner on Dec. 9, 2023, and then used his cell phone to film and upload the footage on Facebook.
The crime of insulting or burning the national flag is punishable by up to three years in prison and public services that the local government orders as a form of correction.
Vietnamese police claimed that Nhan, shunned by his family and earning a living by collecting recyclable trash to sell, burned the flag out of frustration after he reportedly lost a sack of recyclables when he went to buy coffee. In anger, he pulled down a flag in front of the house where he lost the bag and took it to his shelter. Later that evening, Nhan tossed the flag into his cooking stove while he made dinner.
News reports on state media also said Nhan has a history of online activity that disrespected Vietnam’s symbols and leaders. His Facebook account, Hung Van Pham Cong, which has more than 4,000 followers, allegedly contains content praising the flag of the former Republic of Vietnam, criticizing the current Communist regime in Vietnam, and defaced photos of prominent figures such as Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong and Ho Chi Minh - who is deemed to be Vietnam’s founding father by the party.
Tom Lantos Human Rights Committee Welcomes the Release of Reporter Nguyen Van Hoa
The Tom Lantos Human Rights Committee of the U.S. Congress wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on Jan. 17 that they welcomed the release of activist Nguyen Van Hoa from his seven-year sentence, adding that Hoa “should have never been in prison.” The rights committee also urged the Vietnamese government to “ensure his health during the handover process to local authorities and remove all restrictions on his release.”
Nguyen Van Hoa, a former reporter for Radio Free Asia (RFA), was released earlier this year after serving his prison sentence for “distributing anti-state propaganda.” The Ha Tinh-born reporter played a crucial role in filming protests that erupted outside the Formosa Plastics Group, a steel plant in Ky Anh District, Ha Tinh Province in 2017. The Formosa Co. previously released untreated toxic wastewater into coastal waters, leading to severe pollution.
Hoa told VOA News that he is now serving another three years of house arrest, adding that he welcomes and acknowledges the committee’s statement of his imprisonment. “More than anyone else, I understand how unfair the seven-year sentence is to myself and my family,” he said.
Pope Francis Meets Vietnam’s Communist Party Delegation Following Upgraded Relationship Between the Holy See and Hanoi
Reuters reported that Pope Francis recently met with a delegation from Vietnam's Communist Party, expressing his interest in visiting the Southeast Asian nation. This meeting followed a private audience between the Pope and Vietnamese President Vo Van Thuong in July last year, where both sides agreed to allow a Resident Papal Representative to return to Hanoi for the first time since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.
The Vatican's foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, told reporters that the meeting was “very positive,” adding that he would visit Vietnam in April. However, Gallagher noted that while Vietnam's Constitution guarantees religious freedom, the practice remains “a work in progress.” He also expressed confidence that relations between the Vatican and Vietnam would improve further and that Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin would likely visit Vietnam separately later this year.
Vietnam is home to nearly seven million Catholics, about 6.6% of the country’s 95 million. Vietnam broke off relations with the Vatican after the Communists took over the reunited country at the end of the war. The Communist authorities at the time viewed the Catholic Church in Vietnam as having been too close historically to France, the former colonial power. However, in recent years, Hanoi has sought to upgrade ties with its former foes as part of “bamboo diplomacy,” diversifying its diplomatic relationships away from traditional partners such as Russia and China.
Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam
East Asia Forum/ Nguyen Khac Giang/ Jan. 9
“Beyond economic and political issues, the Mekong region faces transnational challenges that include badly managed hydropower development and the impact of climate change and rapid environmental deterioration. Mekong countries have pledged to transition to greener practices, but their actions must go beyond mere words. This will require a unified stand to deal with China on hydropower dams and greater involvement of non-state actors and the general public. Recent crackdowns on environmental civil society actors in Vietnam and Cambodia are not a positive sign.”