Civil Society Groups Propose Recommendations for Vietnam Ahead of Periodic Human Rights Review Representatives of four non-governmental organizations on Feb.
A Member of Suppressed Buddhist Group Ân Đàn Đại Đạo Finishes His Prison Term
A Member of Ân Đàn Đại Đạo, a Suppressed Buddhist Sect, Completes 12-Year Prison Term
Le Duc Dong, 41, a member of a Buddhist sect called Ân Đàn Đại Đạo, completed his 12-year prison sentence on Feb. 5 and returned to his family in Phu Dien Commune, Phu Vang District, Thua Thien-Hue Province, a relative of Dong told RFA. He arrived at his home one day later, on Feb. 6, from An Diem Prison in Quang Nam Province. The relative said Dong’s health was normal.
In March 2012, Dong was arrested along with 21 other members of this religious group on charges of “organizing activities aimed at overthrowing the people's government” under Article 79 of Vietnam’s 1999 Penal Code.
In a trial in February 2013, a Phu Yen court sentenced Phan Van Thu - the group’s founder - to life, while 22 other practitioners, including Le Duc Dong, were given various prison terms between 10 and 17 years. The convicted are subject to another five years of probation upon completing their sentences.
Ân Đàn Đại Đạo, founded in 1969 in the former Republic of Vietnam, is an independent Buddhist sect located in Vietnam’s south-central Phu Yen Province. After the Communist victory in 1975, Thu was sent to a concentration camp along with other officials working in the former republic. Today, the Vietnamese government calls this group a “reactionary organization” that seeks to “establish a separate state” in the country.
The conviction and imprisonment of Dong and Thu, along with other members of Ân Đàn Đại Đạo, signifies the Vietnamese government’s intolerance of independent religious groups and the precarious situation of prisoners of conscience in the country. Thu, the sect founder, died in Gia Trung Prison, Gia Lai Province, in November 2022 due to his severe and untreated illnesses. Doan Dinh Nam, another sect member, previously died in October 2019 due to health deterioration.
Vietnamese Activist Nguyen Thuy Hanh Begins to Receive Cancer Treatment
On Feb. 5, Vietnamese activist Nguyen Thuy Hanh received her fifth radiation treatment at K Hospital, according to her husband, Huynh Ngoc Chenh. After receiving her radiation treatment, Hanh returned to the Central Institute of Forensic Psychiatry, where she was subject to involuntary mandatory mental health treatment.
While Hanh had depression in the past, there was no medical evidence given to her family, showing why she was put in psychiatric treatment. Vietnam had put dissidents in these institutions as a form of punishment, and the case of Le Anh Hung was one of them. Le Anh Hung spent most of his four-year detention before his trial in 2022 in a psychiatric institution while he was not diagnosed with any mental disease.
Chenh wrote on his Facebook account that Hanh had undergone five radiotherapy and one chemotherapy session since she was diagnosed with cervical cancer last January. After each treatment, especially chemotherapy, he said, Hanh felt tired, dizzy, nauseous, and unable to eat or drink anything.
After Tet, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, Hanh will continue another 20 radiation and four more chemotherapy sessions over a period of three months to complete her treatment plan. Hanh told Chenh to deliver her messages to those concerned about her health and to tell them that she is ready to fight the disease and will accept even the worst results. “I would like to thank everyone who has cared about me and wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year,” Hanh said.
Civil Society Leader Dang Dinh Bach Initiates Hunger Strike in Protest Against Harsh Prison Conditions
Vietnamese civil society leader Dang Dinh Bach has announced that he initiated a hunger strike at Nghe An Prison No. 6 beginning Feb. 2 to protest harsh living conditions and to persuade his cellmate, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, to cease his own hunger strike. Previously, Thuc, who received a 16-year sentence for allegedly plotting to “overthrow the government,” went on a hunger strike to raise alarms about his declining health and the prison’s discrimination of political prisoners.
Bach, a former community lawyer, informed his wife, Tran Phuong Thao, about his hunger strike plan when she visited him on Feb. 1. According to Thao, Bach explained he decided to start his hunger strike because the Nghe An Prison does not comply with the law and does not ensure the rights of prisoners. The former lawyer also told his wife that in Dec. 2023, he had sent his family two letters, but they had not received them. Bach added that the prison authorities only allowed him to exchange health information during his call home. Meanwhile, the prison canteen refused to sell him and other political prisoners food.
Bach and Thuc also experienced abuses committed by both correctional officers and fellow prison inmates for speaking out to demand better living conditions for political prisoners. Last August, a group of people wielding knives stormed the detention area for prisoners of conscience and threatened four prisoners there, including Thuc and Bach. Bach also said that prison guards hit him in the head, causing serious injuries, but said that the prison denied his accusations.
Meanwhile, Thao, Bach’s wife, has faced financial difficulties as Hanoi's Civil Judgment Enforcement Department requested her to pay taxes worth 1.4 billion dong that her husband allegedly evaded. Thao said she is unemployed while struggling to raise their three-year-old son. The department also pressured the manager of her residential building, asking them not to give her the household registration book, which she needs to send their child to school.
Vietnam Arrests Facebook User on Charges of “Distributing Anti-State Propaganda”
An Giang Provincial Public Security on Feb. 2, arrested and indicted Tran Van Khanh, 62, a resident of Ca Mau Province, for his alleged involvement in “distributing anti-state propaganda” according to Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code. The An Giang People's Procuracy approved the police's decision to detain him.
The Security Investigation Agency of An Giang Provincial Police Department, who investigated Khanh, claimed that since 2021, Khanh used his Facebook account to connect with many other social network accounts at home and abroad. Hen then used his Facebook account to comment, share, and distribute many articles and stories deemed to contain reactionary content.
The authorities said Khanh posted and shared such content to defame the Communist Party, the state, and its officials and party members. It also accused him of distorting history, inciting subversion, causing division between people having different religious and ethnic backgrounds, and advocating for regime change in Vietnam. The police, however, did not publicize the content it deemed anti-state and reactionary.
Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam
Fulcrum/ Ian Storey/ Feb. 5
“There are some indications that Vietnam may be considering buying U.S. jets. In 2021 it ordered 12 Beechcraft T-6 Texan training aircraft, a possible first step towards acquiring more sophisticated aircraft. Interestingly, Vietnamese pilots have undertaken English-language courses in the U.S. and at home. Media reports suggest Hanoi may be eyeing second-hand F-16 Fighting Falcon jets (newer U.S. planes, such as the F-35, are way out of Vietnam’s budget).
But that would be a very big step for Vietnam to take. Since the early days of the Cold War, the Vietnamese defence establishment has developed deep levels of trust with its Russian counterpart. But trust between the Vietnamese and U.S. defence establishments is embryonic at best.”