Vietnam Labels Two Foreign-Based Montagnard Dissident Groups ‘Terrorist Organizations’

Vietnam Labels Two Foreign-Based Montagnard Dissident Groups ‘Terrorist Organizations’

The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) Names Two Overseas Montagnards Dissident Groups as ‘Terrorist Organizations’

Vietnam's national police have listed two foreign-based dissident groups that advocate for the rights of the Montagnards as terrorist organizations, claiming they are responsible for the planning of an attack in Dak Lak Province in June 2023, which resulted in nine deaths, including several police officers.

According to the police statement published on March 6, these groups are the Montagnard Support Group Inc (MSGI), headquartered in North Carolina, and Montagnard Stand for Justice (MSFJ), established in Thailand.

The MPS accused these two groups of luring, recruiting, and training ethnic minority people in Vietnam to carry out terrorist activities, incite protests, kill officials and civilians, sabotage state assets, and try to establish independent states. It also designated several Montagnard human rights campaigners as ringleaders of the Dak Lak attack, although these activists rejected these accusations and said that they only used nonviolent means to advocate for the land rights and religious freedom of the indigenous people.

The designation of the MSGI and MSFJ as “terrorist organizations” allows the Vietnamese police to arrest and prosecute any individuals who join or receive funding from them under the charge of committing terrorism.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a human rights organization specializing in religious freedom, issued a statement rejecting the terrorist designations and saying that both MSGI and MSFJ are advocacy groups that defend the rights of the Montagnard ethnic minority. Mervyn Thomas, CSW’s founder, said that the Vietnamese government “is endangering the lives of human rights defenders by naming them and sharing their addresses on state media” and called on the Vietnamese government to “recognize human rights groups as legitimate voices in any healthy civil society.”

Wife of Political Prisoner Fined for Calling Judges ‘Idiots’

Nguyen Thi Chau, wife of political prisoner Nguyen Ngoc Anh, was hit with a fine of 7.5 million dong ($304) for posting a photo of her husband on her Facebook account of him standing trial with the caption “Idiots judge the innocent." Nguyen Ngoc Anh, an aquaculture engineer, is serving a six-year sentence for criticizing the Vietnamese government.

On March 6, the Cyber ​​Security and High-Tech Crime Prevention Bureau of Ben Tre Provincial Police fined Chau under Article 101 of the government-issued Decree No. 15 for “distributing false information that infringes on the legitimate rights and interests of agencies, organizations, and individuals.” She argued that she was simply sharing information about her husband and believed the caption did not specifically refer to the judges who convicted him.

Previously, Vietnamese police utilized a provision of the 2018 Cybersecurity Law to fine two Facebook users accused of defaming the police force by writing “insulting comments” about the police on social media.

Chau believes the police issued the fine to prevent her from sharing information about her husband on social media. She said the fine violates her freedom of expression, a right enshrined in Vietnam’s constitution and international conventions that Vietnam has signed.

Communications Ministry Proposes Heavier Punishment for Misconduct in Cyberspace

On March 6, Le Quang Tu Do, director of the Department of Radio, Television, and Electronic Information under the Ministry of Information and Communications, said his ministry has proposed the government raise the fine and other punishment for acts of misconduct committed by Vietnamese celebrities in cyberspace.

Tu Do said that the current fine between five and 10 million dong is insufficient to deter artists and other online influencers from publishing statements considered “distorted” or “false” on social media. He added that the ministry has submitted to the Vietnamese government a new decree to replace Decree 72/2013/ND-CP, including regulations on cyberspace activities. The new decree is expected to be released this year.

Experts on Vietnam and other Internet freedom advocates have criticized Decree 72, saying that this legal document seeks to control all online activities in Vietnam. If the new decree is passed, the Vietnamese authorities will use it to increase their repression of free speech and Internet users' activities in the country.

Human Rights Watch Raises Alarm over Vietnam’s New Wave of Repression

The New York-based rights advocate Human Rights Watch (HRW) on March 5 issued a statement highlighting Vietnam’s new wave of arrests of democracy activists and online critics in recent weeks, just days after the country announced their candidacy for another term on the UN Human Rights Council.

According to HRW, Vietnam currently holds at least 163 political prisoners, and it continues to arrest and detain critics during the first two months of 2024.

Recently, Vietnamese authorities arrested three prominent critics and activists, Nguyen Chi Tuyen, Nguyen Vu Binh, and Hoang Viet Khanh, and charged them under Article 117 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes “distributing anti-state propaganda.”

Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director at Human Rights Watch, said that these arrests exposed the genuine state of Vietnam’s human rights record, despite its attempt to run again for a seat at the UN Human Rights Council when its current term ends in 2025. Robertson further said these three recently arrested activists “are not guilty” as they only exercised their fundamental right to freedom of speech.

The statement also urges Vietnam “to end its crackdown against bloggers, rights campaigners, and activists, and immediately release those held for exercising their basic civil and political rights.”

Han Duc Long, Wrongfully Convicted Murderer, Has Yet to Receive Financial Compensation 

Han Duc Long, who was unjustly jailed on false murder charges, has yet to receive his financial compensation after being acquitted in December 2016. Long, 65, a resident of Tan Yen District, Bac Giang Province, and his family now have to live in an old and rundown house, state-owned Tuoi Tre Online reported on March 2.

Long was convicted of being the perpetrator in the rape and murder of a girl in Tan Huyen District, Bac Giang Province, in June 2005. He was sentenced to death in four different trials and spent 11 years in prison before an appellate court in Hanoi found that Long was not guilty and cleared him of all his charges in 2011. In May 2017, his family filed a financial compensation claim for his wrongful imprisonment of more than 20 billion dong to the High People's Court in Hanoi.

However, according to Tuoi Tre Online, Han Duc Long has yet to receive the compensation he requested, although it has been seven years since he was released and received a public apology. After his arrest, Long’s family endured economic hardship and discrimination from their neighbors. Nguyen Thi Mai, his wife, said she had to sell all their livestock and borrow money from her relatives to pay for legal procedures.

During a discussion with court representatives in August 2023, Long said the Hanoi People’s High Court would only pay him a total compensation of around 1 billion dong for his 11 years of wrongful imprisonment. He did not agree with the court’s suggested amount since it was too low, adding that his biggest desire was to receive enough compensation to pay his debts, cure his diseases, and renovate their house.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Vietnam is lying to its friends. A secret document proves it.

The Washington Post/ Editorial Board/ March 6

“One of the most significant orders in the document attempts to keep civil society groups in Vietnam from getting involved in legislation and policymaking. Vietnam has previously dealt harshly with dissidents and bloggers who sought to hold the government to account for toxic spills. The new directive warns sternly against allowing the appearance of “‘civil society’ alliances and networks, ‘independent trade unions,’ … [and] creating the premise for the formation of domestic political opposition groups.” The document warns against allowing political organizations to mobilize people for “color revolutions” and “street revolutions” against the state.”

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