Land Activist and Family Arrive in the U.S. Following Exchange Deal Between Hanoi and Washington

Land Activist and Family Arrive in the U.S. Following Exchange Deal Between Hanoi and Washington

A Land Rights Activist and His Family Arrive in the U.S. as Political Refugees

Huynh Ngoc Truong, a land rights activist in the central Vietnamese city of Da Nang, recently arrived in the United States seeking political refugee status following an exchange agreement inked between Washington and Hanoi before the visit of U.S. President Joe Biden to Vietnam last September.

Previously, on Sept. 18, Reuters reported, citing information from several U.S. officials, that two Vietnamese activists, whom the Biden administration believes were wrongly detained by the Communist government, are relocating to the United States under an agreement negotiated ahead of President Biden’s visit to Hanoi. The officials did not name these two activists due to privacy and safety concerns, but they revealed that one was human rights lawyer Vo An Don and the other was a convicted religious activist - Huynh Ngoc Truong.

Truong is a parishioner of Con Dau Parish, located in Da Nang, which is a major land dispute hotspot between the city authorities and parishioners. Truong told the Vietnamese language service of Voice of America (VOA News) that the Da Nang government had confiscated parish land to “construct an ecological urban area.” “But in reality,” he said, “the government divided the land into plots for sale.” In November 2018, the Da Nang authorities forcibly demolished his house for the construction of the Hoa Xuan Ecological Urban Area project.

Truong added that he had been under a travel ban from the Da Nang Police Department since 2019. He told VOA News that it was not until after President Biden came to Vietnam to upgrade the two countries' bilateral relations that the police issued him a passport and allowed him to leave the country.

Activist Nguyen Thuy Hanh Diagnosed with Cervical Cancer, Her Husband Says

A hospital in Hanoi had diagnosed Vietnamese activist Nguyen Thuy Hanh with mid-stage cervical cancer as she was undergoing forced mental health treatment at a mental psychiatric institution, according to her husband, Huynh Ngoc Chenh. Chenh said that he only learned about Hanh’s cancer on Jan. 16, a week after the diagnosis.

Chenh published the news of his wife’s worrying health situation on his Facebook account, saying that Hanh asked him to keep her cancer diagnosis a secret because she did not want to attract too much public attention. “Hanh wants her friends and the online community to pay attention to other political prisoners facing more difficult health challenges,” Chenh wrote.

In 2020, the Hanoi Police Department arrested and detained Hanh, who founded a fund that provides a financial lifeline for families of political prisoners in Vietnam, with “anti-state” allegations. They later transferred her to the Central Institute of Forensic Psychiatry, where she is held indefinitely. Before her detention, Hanh had dealt with depression and chronic stress for years, and the physical isolation and hardship she suffered in the police detention center have only worsened her illnesses. She once attempted suicide in custody.

Every day, the Institute of Forensic Psychiatry takes Hanh to the K Hospital in Hanoi for examination and radiotherapy. Due to the overloaded capacity of the hospital, Hanh still has not received radiotherapy, although a week has passed since her diagnosis, Chenh wrote. He expressed his concerns that “the longer it takes, the bigger the tumor grows. Currently, Hanh’s health is getting worse.”

Chenh also wants human rights organizations that care about Nguyen Thuy Hanh to urge Vietnam to provide Hanh with the most rapid and effective treatment possible.

Political Prisoner Truong Van Dung Disciplined for "Insulting Correctional Officers"

The correctional authorities of Gia Trung Prison in Gia Lai Province have disciplined prisoner of conscience Truong Van Dung for allegedly insulting prison personnel. Dung’s wife, Nghiem Thi Hop, told Radio Free Asia (RFA) about his punishment. Dung is serving a six-year prison sentence on accusations of “distributing anti-state propaganda,” a violation of Article 117 in Vietnam’s Penal Code.

According to Gia Trung Prison, Dung will not be allowed visitations or to receive supplies and handwritten mail from his family for a month, starting from Jan. 16. Hop said she was worried about Dung as the Lunar New Year, a national holiday in Vietnam, was approaching. The prison added that after the punishment concludes on Feb. 17, Dung can only see his family once every two months, instead of once a month, until he is “progressively rehabilitated.”

On Jan. 3, Dung’s family sent some gifts to him in prison, including a poster prepared by the Viet Tan Party, which is deemed a “terrorist organization” by the Vietnamese government. The organization named Dung the recipient of its 2023 Le Dinh Luong Human Rights Award. When the parcel containing the poster arrived a week later, the warden examined it and then refused to let Dung receive it. A tense argument broke out between him and the correctional officers, leading to disciplinary action.

According to a notice from Gia Trung Prison dated Jan. 17, Truong Van Dung was disciplined for “insulting the honor and dignity of others,” but they did not elaborate on what he said. On Nov. 9, 2023, Dung was transferred from An Diem Prison in Quang Nam Province to Gia Trung Prison in Gia Lai Province, hundreds of miles from his home in Hanoi. The Vietnamese authorities often send human rights activists to prisons far from their homes to make it difficult for family members to visit them often.

Political Prisoner Nguyen Nhu Phuong Assaulted in Ba Ria - Vung Tau Police Detention Center

Prisoner of conscience Nguyen Nhu Phuong told his family that he coughed up blood and had suffered pain after being assaulted by the correctional officers of the Ba Ria - Vung Tau Provincial Police Detention Camp in Long Dien District, according to Phuong’s mother, Nguyen Thi Thu Ha. In 2022, two Vietnamese courts sentenced Phuong to a sentence of six years and three months on combined charges of “distributing anti-state propaganda” and “storing and using narcotics.”

Ha told RFA that the assaults began on Nov. 20, 2023, after she visited the detention camp and gave her son two shirts. However, Phuong said he did not receive them even though the shirts were shown in the gift receipt record. After that, he went to meet the correctional officers to ask them about these items, but the officer reportedly cursed and beat him. 

Phuong told Ha that a correctional officer named Nhat used a glass bottle to hit him in the face, and then several other officers rushed in to beat him and lock him in an isolated room. Ha added that her son was also punished by not being allowed family visits in December 2023. When she called Nhat to question the beating of her son, the officer allegedly admitted that the beating happened, but it was because Phuong "spoke rudely" to him and asked her to forgive the beating.

Ha told RFA that on Jan. 8, she went directly to the Ba Ria - Vung Tau Provincial Police Detention Camp to inquire about the incident. A detention supervisor named Luan apologized to her and asked her not to make a big deal of this incident. The officer named Nhat and the provincial detention camp did not immediately respond to RFA reporters' request to verify the incident.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

“Feigning Death Reporters'well-being Catch Crows”? Vietnam’s Succession Conundrum

Fulcrum/ Nguyen Khac Giang/ Jan. 24

“In the Vietnamese context, information on top party leaders’ health and other potential weaknesses is closely kept. Correspondingly, public curiosity and speculation about their well-being are understandable. Given the ubiquity of social media nowadays, however, the state’s (and party’s) reluctance to confirm or deny such rumour at critical junctures exacerbates the spread of fake news and disinformation. These moments, which have rattled Vietnamese and foreign observers, businesses, and diplomatic circles, underscore how succession uncertainty has become a significant risk factor in Vietnam.”

Vietnam’s Paradox: Commemorating the Battle of the Paracels

The Diplomat/ Christelle Nguyen/ Jan. 19

“For years, Vietnam has remained silent about the war and has even suppressed large-scale efforts to commemorate the lost troops, who fought on behalf of South Vietnam. Now, the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) has no choice but to commemorate the long-forgotten Paracel Maritime Battle in 1974, albeit cautiously and selectively.

On one hand, Hanoi needs historical evidence of China’s encroachment to assert its territorial claim in the increasingly tense South China Sea today. A unified Vietnam led by the CPV inherited the territorial claims of South Vietnam (also known as the Republic of Vietnam) over the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos. On the other hand, it faces a dilemma recognizing the South Vietnamese government, which was its enemy during and even beyond the Vietnam War.”

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