Thai Court Schedules Extradition Hearing for Montagnard Activist Y Quynh Bdap

Thai Court Schedules Extradition Hearing for Montagnard Activist Y Quynh Bdap
Graphic: The Vietnamese Magazine.

Key events:

  • Thai Court Sets Extradition Hearing for Montagnard Activist Y Quynh Bdap
  • State Department Upgrades Vietnam’s Trafficking in Persons Status as Tier 2
  • Political Prisoner Truong Van Dung Shackled in Solitary Confinement for 'Defamation of Others' Dignity'

Thai Court Announces Extradition Hearing Date for Montagnard Activist Y Quynh Bdap

Thai authorities have scheduled an extradition trial for Montagnard activist Y Quynh Bdap, 32, on July 15, 2024, VOA News reported. Bdap was arrested in Thailand on June 11, 2024, over immigration offenses. Thailand has reportedly detained Bdap at the request of the Vietnamese government. In 2018, Bdap fled to Thailand to escape persecution by the Vietnamese authorities for his advocacy of religious freedom. Recently, the Canadian Embassy in Bangkok interviewed him on his asylum application.

Many human rights organizations have repeatedly urged Thailand not to extradite the Montagnard activist to Vietnam, expressing concerns that it could endanger his safety. They referred to the repatriation of Bdap as a “swap mart,” in which authoritarian regimes in the region do each other’s favor by returning their wanted dissidents. A court in Dak Lak Province in January this year convicted Bdap of “committing terrorism” in absentia. It sentenced him to 10 years in prison following a riot in the region on June 11, 2023, which resulted in several casualties.

Bdap, the co-founder of Montagnards Stand for Justice (MSFJ), an advocacy for indigenous rights in Vietnam, denied the allegations and said in a video that his organization only worked peacefully to improve the human rights situation in Vietnam. Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, told VOA News that Vietnam has relentlessly repressed the nonviolent movements of the ethnic minorities and religious communities in the Central Highlands who demand the government respect their freedom of religion and object to the arbitrary seizures of their ancestral lands.

Maj. Gen. Khemmarin Hassiri, an adviser to Thailand’s deputy police chief, confirmed the trial date and revealed that Thailand and Vietnam are negotiating a formal extradition treaty. These talks are expected to continue during an upcoming visit of Thai officials to Vietnam next month. The potential treaty has raised concerns for Christopher MacLeod, a Canadian lawyer working to prevent Bdap's extradition, who believes it could exacerbate transnational repression by streamlining the process for both countries to exchange dissidents.

State Department Ranks Vietnam’s Trafficking in Persons Status as Tier 2

The U.S. State Department classified Vietnam as Tier 2 in the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report released on June 25. Tier 2 is dedicated to countries that fall short of the minimum standard to combat human trafficking but are “making significant efforts to do so.”

Despite the ranking, the report criticizes the Vietnamese government for its lack of proactive measures to assist trafficking victims. It highlights that the country has failed to screen, identify, or provide specialized services to victims of labor exploitation, including sex trafficking victims and returnees from online scam operations.

The State Department lifted Vietnam from Tier 3 in the TIP report to Tier 2 last year due to the country’s increased prosecutions of human rights traffickers and a decreased number of trafficked victims. However, the Vietnamese government has not disclosed the details of the investigation, prosecutions, or convictions of state officials found involved in human trafficking rings. For example, authorities in Vietnam closed an investigation related to one of its diplomats who organized the labor transfer of female workers to Saudi Arabia in 2021.

On June 20, human rights advocate Project88 alleged in a report that the Vietnamese authorities had issued confidential directives and guidelines to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to give misleading information to the State Department regarding the country’s efforts in tackling human trafficking crimes. The report also reflected Hanoi’s lobbying the U.S. to lift its ranking from Tier 3, the lowest level, to Tier 2 in 2023. The decision was made despite Vietnam’s failure to hold state officials found complicit in trafficking rings accountable for their misconduct.

Political Prisoner Truong Van Dung Shackled in Solitary Confinement for ‘Defamation of Others’ Dignity’

Political prisoner Truong Van Dung, who is serving a six-year prison sentence on allegations of “distributing anti-state propaganda,” received a disciplinary punishment in prison for two months, between June 20 and August 20, for the second time for allegedly “defaming the honor and dignity of others,” according to a notice dated June 21 sent to Dung’s family. Dung, 66, who is being held at Gia Trung Prison in Gia Lai Province, has been shackled and kept in a solitary cell for seven days as a punishment, his wife, Nghiem Thi Hop, said.

The prison’s notice declared that Dung had “insulted the honor and dignity of others as stipulated in Clause 2, Article 1 of the Regulation on Detention.” However, Hop told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that she believed her husband “had done nothing wrong” and that he was disciplined because he protested the wrongdoing of other correctional officers. She added that after the disciplinary order was lifted, Dung would only be allowed one visitation every two months instead of one every month.

Moreover, Hop told RFA that earlier this year, her husband was also held in solitary confinement for a month as a punishment for the same violation of prison regulations; he was not shackled at that time. She added that she sent Dung a gift bag by mail in the middle of this month, but the package was returned on June 24 because the prison refused to send it to him. Truong Van Dung was convicted under Article 117 of the Penal Code, which is frequently used to target human rights defenders and journalists in Vietnam.

Quick takes: 

Russia Wants to Help Vietnam Develop Nuclear Power Plants: According to Reuters, Alexei Likhachev, head of the Russian state-run nuclear company Rosatom, told RIA agency (a Rusian state-owned domestic news agency) that Moscow had offered to help Vietnam develop nuclear power plants during President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Hanoi. Likhachev said that he had made the offer to Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh about possible ways to cooperate in constructing both high-power and low-power nuclear plants. The country has no nuclear plants and still relies on hydropower and coal-fired energy plants to generate electricity for its consumption.

Civil Society Groups Call on Public to Send Letters to Dang Dinh Bach: The Vietnam Climate Defenders Coalition, which consists of environmental nonprofit organizations, has initiated a campaign calling on the international community to write letters to climate activist Dang Dinh Bach and raise his case with the Vietnamese government. The campaign started on June 24, marking the third anniversary of Bach’s arrest. In the joint letter, the coalition expressed concerns over the harsh prison conditions in which Bach is being held. It added that the activist would start a five-day hunger strike beginning June 24 to demand justice, the rule of law, and the protection of human dignity.

Political Prisoner Truong Minh Duc Faces Worsening Health in Nghe An Prison: Prisoner of conscience Truong Minh Duc, who was sentenced to 12 years in 2019 on “subversion” charges, recently had a health examination and found that he had high blood pressure and cardiomyopathy, his wife, Nguyen Kim Thanh, told Project88. The prison doctors said that the extremely hot weather in Nghe An Prison No. 6 had worsened Duc’s heart conditions. Also, according to Duc, two young men who received life imprisonment for their accused involvement in the Dak Lak armed attack last year were recently moved to his cell.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

To Lam’s ambitious ascent in Vietnam

East Asia Forum/ David Brown/ June 21

“As the CPV’s Central Committee completed a weeklong meeting on 17 May 2024, To Lam was announced as Vo Van Thuong’s successor as state president. Credible rumours have it that Lam argued he should remain minister of public security — Vietnam’s top law enforcement officer — while serving concurrently as state president, but he was overruled.

The question is whether, having been elevated to the high-profile but relatively toothless job of state president, Lam is still a formidable contender for the CPV’s top job of general secretary. Much obviously depends on whether Lam can continue to command the loyalties of senior officials at the Ministry of Public Security until the CPV’s 14th Congress convenes in January 2026.

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