Project88 Reports Vietnam Covers Up Officials Involved in Trafficking Ring

Project88 Reports Vietnam Covers Up Officials Involved in Trafficking Ring
Graphic: The Vietnamese Magazine.

Key events:

  • Project88: Vietnam Covers Up Officials Involved in Trafficking Cases
  • President Vladimir Putin Visits Vietnam, Shares Vision for Developing “Reliable Security Architecture”
  • Members of a Banned Organization Receive Combined 24 Years in Prison on ‘Subversion’ Charges

Project88: Vietnam Covers Up Officials Involved in Trafficking Cases

Project88, a human rights group that works to promote freedom of speech in Vietnam, released a new report on June 20, which says that Hanoi has intentionally and intensively covered up criminal proceedings that involve government officials who have been implicated in human trafficking cases.

The advocacy group said that they had obtained relevant confidential documents and directives issued by the Vietnamese authorities that provided instructions to give misleading information to the U.S. State Department regarding the country’s efforts to combat human trafficking activities and its intention to make legal reforms. Vietnam has allegedly falsified its report on tackling human trafficking to improve its ranking in the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.

In the 2022 TIP report, the State Department downgraded Vietnam to Tier 3, its lowest level, since Vietnamese diplomats and officials involved in trafficking rings were not held accountable for their misconduct. At the same time, the report underscored Hanoi’s political motivation in lobbying the U.S. to lift its ranking to Tier 2 in 2023. For example, Vietnam supported Washington’s candidacy for Director General of the International Organization for Migration. In other words, the elevation is a result of Hanoi’s lobbying attempt and does not reflect its genuine efforts to tackle human trafficking. 

Notably, an internal letter that Maj. Gen. Dang Hong Duc wrote, a public security official, shows that the Ministry of Public Security has worked with public prosecutors and judges to cover up the criminal proceedings of officials involved in trafficking cases in Hanoi’s submission of its anti-trafficking report to the State Department. In the letter, Maj. Gen. Duc raises an alarm that Washington could use the TIP report as leverage to intervene and influence the country’s decision-making in issues that benefit the U.S., such as trade and energy.

Vladimir Putin Visits Vietnam, Shares Vision for Developing “Reliable Security Architecture”

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with senior Vietnamese leaders in Hanoi on June 20, including the newly appointed President To Lam, during a state visit hailed by state media as a crucial milestone in deepening the comprehensive strategic partnership between both countries “across all fields.” To Lam received Putin at the Presidential Palace, where a ceremonial welcome with 21 cannon salutes was fired before they reviewed the honor guard and held official talks.

In a joint press conference, To Lam emphasized the help offered by the former Soviet Union in helping Hanoi sustain its wars of resistance against France and the United States. He added that “Vietnam consistently considers Russia as one of its important partners,” and the country wishes to promote the bilateral partnership “that generations of leaders and people of the two countries have worked hard to cultivate.”

For his part, the Russian leader said he wanted to build a “reliable security architecture” in the Asia-Pacific region and suggested potential energy cooperation between Vietnamese and Russian companies. Both countries signed at least a dozen deals. They announced a joint declaration centering on cooperation in education, science and technology, oil and gas exploration, atomic energy, and other deals that were not publicly disclosed.

Putin's trip, which signaled a pivot of Russian diplomacy to Asia in defiance of the West, came as the Russian leader was becoming increasingly isolated due to sanctions for his war of aggression in Ukraine. Before arriving in Vietnam, he traveled to North Korea and signed a military partnership deal with its leader, Kim Jong Un, seeking to bolster relations between Moscow and Pyongyang.

Before his arrival, the Russian president published an op-ed in Nhan Dan Newspaper, the mouthpiece of the Vietnamese Communist Party, where he praised Vietnam for “demonstrating a balanced stance on the Ukraine crisis” and “promoting the search for a practical path to resolve the crisis through peaceful means.” The Southeast Asian country has continuously abstained from condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine and once voted against a resolution to remove Russia from the UN Human Rights Council.

For the Vietnamese leadership, the reception of Putin, who received an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his war crimes committed in Ukraine, demonstrated its continued adherence to the foreign policy of non-alignment, dubbed “bamboo diplomacy.”

According to Nguyen Khac Giang, an analyst at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, relations with Moscow still matter to Hanoi because “it is the biggest supplier of military equipment to the Southeast Asian nation, and Russian oil exploration technologies help maintain Vietnam’s sovereignty claims in the contested South China Sea.”

Members of a Banned Organization Receive Combined 24 Years in Prison on ‘Subversion’ Charges

A court in Tien Giang Province on June 19 sentenced two members of a banned exiled group to a combined 24 years of imprisonment for their alleged engagement in “activities aimed at overthrowing the people's government.” Nguyen Duc Thanh, 56, a resident of Chau Thanh District, received 16 years in prison, while Nhut Kim Binh, 47, who lives in Tan Phuoc District, was sentenced to eight years.

The indictment states that between 2019 and 2023, Thanh applied to join the “Provisional National Government of Vietnam,” a group designated as a “terrorist organization” by the Ministry of Public Security. It added that after becoming a member, Thanh regularly used the Facebook account “Thanh Nguyen,” which he later changed to “Tran Nhan,” to communicate with other members through an app called Free Conference Call to “discuss methods of operations against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”

According to the Tien Giang Security Agency investigation, Thanh also used his Facebook account to post and share information and documents containing “anti-state” content. Meanwhile, Binh was accused of spreading the exiled group’s manifesto, “The Third Constitution of the Republic of Vietnam,” to recruit new members. The Tien Giang Provincial Police said they found 13 articles and 32 pages of documents publicly posted by Thanh on Facebook that allegedly aimed at opposing the state.

Quick take:

HRMI Report Shows Vietnam’s Lack of Respect for Civil and Political Rights: The recent report of Human Rights Measurement Initiative (HRMI), a New Zealand-based rights tracker, shows Vietnam only scores 4.6 and 2.3 out of 10 regarding “Safety from the State” and “Empowerment,” respectively. According to the report, Vietnamese people are still highly subject to arbitrary arrest, the death penalty, torture, and ill-treatment. Meanwhile, the state has severely restricted the civil rights of its citizens, including the right to religious freedom and assembly and association.

More Human Rights Groups Urge Thai Authorities to Free Y Quynh Bdap: Four rights advocacy groups, FORUM-ASIA, CIVICUS, Asia Democracy Network, and Front Line Defenders, in a joint letter, have raised concerns over the recent arrest of Montagnard activist Y Quynh Bdap and urged Thai authorities to protect him from possible extradition to Vietnam. Bdap, 32, an asylum seeker living in Thailand, was arrested on June 11 at the request of Hanoi following his conviction on “terrorism” charges handed down by a Vietnamese court.

Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Kritenbrink Visits Vietnam:  U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink traveled to Vietnam between June 21 and 22, just one day before Russian leader Vladimir Putin left Hanoi on his official state visit. During his trip, Kritenbrink met with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son, saying he respected Vietnam’s decision to “safeguard its sovereignty and advance its interests.” The bilateral trade between both countries totaled $111 billion in 2023, dwarfing that of $3.6 billion between Hanoi and Moscow.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Mendicant Monk Thích Minh Tuệ Offers an Embarrassing Contrast to Vietnam Elites

Radio Free Asia/ Zachary Abuza/ June 19

“[Nguyen Phu] Trong has blamed everyone but himself as he continues to shape the party in the months ahead of the 14th Congress in early 2026. As he calls on others to account for the damage they have done to the party, he should hold himself to the same standard.

Rather than implementing institutional reforms, Trong is targeting an ascetic monk who has garnered a mass following by simply standing in stark contrast with the national leadership that, despite their pledged socialist ethos, has lost touch with their values and become mired in corruption.”

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