Tan Son Nhat Airport Security Allegedly Assaults Vietnamese-American Family After Refusing Them Entry

Tan Son Nhat Airport Security Allegedly Assaults Vietnamese-American Family After Refusing Them Entry
Graphic: The Vietnamese Magazine.

Key events:

  • Vietnamese-American Family Allegedly Assaulted by Airport Security 
  • Human Rights Groups Urge Thai Authorities Not to Extradite Montagnard Activist Y Quynh Bdap
  • EU Advisory Group Raises Concerns Over Politburo-Issued Directive 24

Vietnamese-American Family Allegedly Assaulted by Airport Security 

Security agents allegedly assaulted a Vietnamese-American family at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City after they refused to leave Vietnam immediately after being denied entry.

Nguyen Thi Bich Hanh, a former literature teacher, told Radio Free Asia (RFA) about the ordeal she and her children experienced when they arrived in Vietnam on June 7. Hanh, who married freedom of expression activist Thai Van Tu and later settled in the United States, is known for helping Vietnamese students gain a multifaceted and impartial education about  Vietnamese Communist leaders. She said that she and her children were taken to a closed room in the airport, where security officers took turns mistreating them.

According to Hanh, airport police requested they board a plane to South Korea to return to the U.S. after they were refused entry. However, she denied the order because one of her sons had severe asthma and was in an emergency situation, and he needed immediate treatment. Tan Son Nhat police authorities called in a doctor, but Hanh said the doctor did nothing to treat her son. Eventually, Hanh had to treat her son with asthma medicine and a ventilator they brought with them from the U.S.

The security officers at Tan Son Nhat International Airport reportedly locked Hanh and her children in a closed room where they could not communicate with their family or anyone outside. Hanh said most of the officers who interrogated them were in plain clothes, so she did not know their names or positions. After two days in custody, the police released them following pressure from the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, and they were made to board a flight to South Korea. The former teacher said she had returned to Vietnam to visit her ailing 89-year-old mother in Nghe An Province.

After RFA reporters contacted Tan Son Nhat Airport authorities to verify Hanh's allegations, a security staff member said on a phone that the information was “incorrect.” According to the person who answered the call, if a person is denied entry to Vietnam, he or she will be deported back to the country where they previously transited before arriving there. The airport staff added that if that person’s name is on a list of dissidents, “immigration security will look into it, but there will be no beatings or arrests.”

Human Rights Groups Urge Thai Authorities Not to Extradite Montagnard Activist Y Quynh Bdap

Several human rights groups, including New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) and lawmakers in Thailand, on June 13 called on Thai authorities not to repatriate Vietnamese activist Y Quynh Bdap, who co-founded an organization that advocates for the religious freedom of indigenous Montagnards living in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Bdap, 32, who holds a UN-confirmed refugee status, was detained by the police after he had a meeting with Canadian Embassy officials regarding his asylum there.

The reason for the detention has not been announced. Still, HRW wrote in a press release that the Vietnamese government had requested Thai authorities to extradite Y Quynh Bdap after he was tried in absentia and received a 10-year prison sentence on “terrorism” charges following an armed attack in Dak Lak Province in June 2023. The co-founder of the Montagnards Stand for Justice has denied the allegations and said that he only focused on peaceful activities and reporting on human rights violations in Vietnam. 

The Associated Press reported receiving a video produced by Bdap from Kannavee Suebsang, a Thai lawmaker who actively engages in human rights work. In the video, the activist said he had “absolutely nothing to do with that violent incident.” Although the Vietnamese authorities have not announced the actual cause of the violent riots that occurred in Dak Lak, many observers and activists believe it resulted from the government’s suppression of religious freedom and seizures of the lands of the indigenous communities.

HRW has raised concerns over the possible extradition of Bdap to Vietnam, where he could face a lengthy prison term and possibly torture. “Returning the Vietnamese activist Y Quynh Bdap to Vietnam would place him in grave danger,” said Elaine Pearson, Asia director at HRW. “Thai authorities should recognize Y Quynh Bdap’s refugee status, release him, and ensure he’s not put in harm’s way.”

Pearson added that the Thai government should not heed Hanoi’s request to return the Montagnard activist to Vietnam, given the fact that Thailand’s Act on Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearances came into effect in February 2023.

EU Advisory Group Raises Concerns Over Politburo-Issued Directive 24

The European Union Domestic Advisory Group (EU DAG) has expressed concern about the Vietnamese Politburo-issued Directive 24 and the country’s increasing repression of critics and nonprofit organizations.

The EU DAG said in a statement released on June 6 that Directive 24 is a confidential document that provides guidelines on the restrictions of civil society and surveillance of citizens and “goes against the Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) commitments under the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA).”

At the same time, the statement condemns the arrests of civil society leaders, including Hoang Thi Minh Hong, Dang Dinh Bach, and Bach Hung Duong. Vietnam has recently prosecuted two labor reformists, Nguyen Van Binh and Vu Minh Tien, further hampering the country’s ratification of ILO Convention 87, allowing its workers to form unions and independent associations. “The EU DAG condemns these serious, systematic violations of the EVFTA,” said the statement.

Domestic advisory groups have been established in the EU and Vietnam as part of the EVFTA. These groups, consisting of civil society actors, are tasked with monitoring both sides' actions regarding environmental protection, labor rights, and sustainability commitments.

Quick take:

President To Lam Urges Leaders of Recognized Religious Groups to Promote “National Unity Spirit”: On June 13, President To Lam met key leaders of recognized religious organizations and urged them to promote “patriotism and the spirit of great national unity.” Lam, Vietnam’s former top security official named president last month, added that these religious groups are an essential communication channel that helps promote party guidelines and policies to the general public. All religious organizations in Vietnam are under the surveillance of the Government Committee on Religious Affairs, an agency of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Congresswoman Michelle Steel Calls on State Department to List Vietnam as a Country of Particular Concern: The California lawmaker has urged Secretary of State Antony Blinken to designate Vietnam as a Country of Particular Concern in terms of religious freedom after the regime disrupted the spiritual pilgrimage of Buddhist monk Thich Minh Tue and detained him and several of his followers. Steel compared religious persecution in Vietnam to that in China, adding that the government's treatment of Thich MinhTue and his adherents “is indefensible and wrong.”

Social Media User Fined for “Posting False Information” about Thich Minh Tue’s Journey: State media reported on June 13 that a 49-year-old female social media activist from Vinh Linh District, Quang Tri Province, had received a fine of five million dong (about $200 USD) under a cybersecurity decree for publishing “falsehoods and misinformation.” The police have not publicized the content of her postings. However, two local party cadres in Quang Tri previously chased Thich Minh Tue and his followers away after the pilgrims sought refuge at a cemetery in the province to rest following their arduous journey.

Vietnam Insight:

Vietnam’s Paradox: Domestic Tumult, Diplomatic Consistency

United States Institute of Peace/ Andrew Wells-Dang/ June 13

“The era of relative openness began to shift with the issuance of Politburo Resolution 04 in 2016, which framed civil society as part of the perceived negative trends of “self-evolution” or “self-transformation” within the party. Even the term “civil society” became suspect.

State approval of NGO projects, previously an administrative obligation, was increasingly hard to obtain. In Cold War-style language, civil society was associated with “hostile and reactionary forces,” or as part of a Western-backed plot, instead of seen as the positive efforts of citizens to contribute to national development. In reality, Vietnamese civil society has never posed any challenge to the Communist Party’s dominance.”

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