Influential Facebook Users Face Police Intimidation for Criticizing Conglomerate Vingroup

Influential Facebook Users Face Police Intimidation for Criticizing Conglomerate Vingroup

Influential Facebook User Reportedly Summoned by Police for Criticizing Vingroup Conglomerate

Human rights lawyer Dang Dinh Manh on Feb. 20 wrote on social media that Ngo Oanh Phuong, an influential Facebook user, had been banned from traveling abroad and that she had been summoned by the Ho Chi Minh City Police Department for posting information critical of the conglomerate Vingroup.

According to Manh, Phuong, a businesswoman with thousands of followers on her Facebook account, often engages in charity work and raises concerns on different social issues. Phuong learned she was prohibited from traveling outside Vietnam in early October last year when she boarded a flight at Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh City.

Later, the Security Investigation Agency of Ho Chi Minh City Police summoned Phuong twice for questioning, on Jan. 19 and Jan. 30, stating that they had received a defamation complaint filed against her by Vingroup. Manh added that he could not access Phuong’s Facebook account, which she used as a platform to publish opinions and commentaries criticizing the business model of Vingroup - a crony conglomerate owned by Vietnam’s richest man, Pham Nhat Vuong.

Previously, in Dec. 2023, Tran Mai Son, a social media commentator known by his pen name “Sonnie Tran,” was allegedly detained by the Ho Chi Minh Police Department for days for questioning about his criticisms of the company. The account “Sonnie Tran” has over 3,000 followers on Facebook.

Son, an ardent critic of VinFast, the automobile subsidiary of Vingroup, frequently inquires about the company’s finances and suggests that it uses shell companies to hide debt and inflate its sales figures. Anonymous sources told VOA News that following the detention, the police confiscated all of Son’s electronic devices, interrogated him for 35 hours over four separate days, and threatened to charge him with Article 331 for “abusing democratic freedoms.”

In 2021, VinFast reported Tran Van Hoang, a customer and a local YouTuber, to the police after he posted a video complaining about the quality of his VinFast vehicle on his YouTube account. The company said Hoang’s complaints were made up to hurt its reputation, and its lawyers had “sufficient grounds to prove it is not just a normal complaint.” The Vietnam-owned automaker added that if a similar incident occurred when operating in the United States, they “will also submit a request to the authorities in accordance with local law.”

Police Continue to Harass The Families of Political Prisoners

The families of two Vietnamese political prisoners, Bui Van Thuan and Bui Tuan Lam, said that law enforcement authorities have constantly harassed them in recent months, putting a strain on their everyday lives and their livelihoods.

According to Trinh Thi Nhung, wife of prisoner of conscience Bui Van Thuan, police in Nghi Son Village, Thanh Hoa Province, summoned her to a police station on Feb. 16 to question her about an unidentified Facebook profile using her name and setting her photo as the profile picture. The police claimed that this Facebook account had posted an “unverified story,” which contained information that potentially violated Article 331 of Vietnam’s Penal Code, which concerns “abusing democratic freedoms.”

Bui Van Thuan, a former school teacher in Thanh Hoa Province, received an eight-year sentence in November 2022 on charges of “distributing anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Penal Code.

Nhung said the summons notice she received from the police department did not clearly state the purpose of the questioning and that she only learned about the incident when she met with a security officer named Hoang Anh. Nhung wrote on social media that she was not the owner of that Facebook account, adding that she declined to sign a confession prepared by the provincial police because the Facebook posting “had nothing to do” with her.

The wife of Bui Van Thuan also said that starting on Feb. 15, several men began to monitor her house day and night and followed her every time she went out.

In a separate case, Le Thanh Lam, wife of political prisoner Bui Tuan Lam, also known as “Spring Onion Bae,” wrote on her Facebook account that police in Da Nang had fined her and seized the foods that she sold to make a living, claiming that these goods did not have proper invoices declaring their origins. After her husband was arrested and imprisoned, Thanh Lam, a mother of three, started to sell local snacks and condiments on social media to earn extra income.

However, on Feb. 2, a market inspection team of the Da Nang Police Department approached Lam when she delivered goods to a customer, confiscating all her products worth about 2 million dong ($82). On Feb. 19, the inspection department summoned Lam, fining her another 1.5 million dong for “selling undocumented goods.”

Thanh Lam believed the police had selectively targeted her because her husband, Bui Tuan Lam, is a political prisoner. She said that after she was forcefully taken to a police station for trying to attend the public trial of her husband in May 2023, a Da Nang public security officer pointed his finger at her face, telling her that he would not leave her and her daughters alone, implying that the police would continue to intimidate and harass them due to their peaceful resistance.

Former Police Chief Do Huu Ca Indicted on Fraud Charges

Vietnam’s state media reported on Feb. 20 that Do Huu Ca, the former police chief of Hai Phong, has been officially indicted on a charge of “committing fraud to appropriate assets” for accepting bribes worth around 35 billion dong ($1,4 million) from two individuals to help them evade “tax evasion” allegations. However, after receiving the bribe, Ca allegedly appropriated the money and refused to assist these individuals.

On Feb. 18, 2023, the Security Investigation Agency of the Quang Ninh Provincial Police detained Do Huu Ca on allegations of “fraudulent appropriation of property.”

Ca, 65, was among those officials arrested and indicted on fraud and bribery charges as Vietnam attempted to crack down on corruption within its political system. The former police chief gained notoriety for leading a forced eviction of a fish farm belonging to a farmer named Doan Van Vuon in Tien Lang District, Hai Phong, in 2012.

The eviction resulted in a tense shootout between the local farmers and the police, in which four policemen and two civilians were wounded. Vuon and his three relatives were arrested and sentenced to between two and five years in prison. Several local officials in Tien Lang District were disciplined and demoted due to their involvement in the eviction. Ca, then police chief, escaped consequences. The incident shed light on land rights issues in Vietnam, where the Communist government owns all lands and private ownership of land is not authorized.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to The Vietnamese Magazine.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.