• Prison sentences imposed on farmers for protesting land grab

    VNRN – Three land activists from Duong Noi [Dương Nội], a village in suburban Hanoi mostly known for its long-standing land disputes, on Friday appeared before the Ha Dong People’s Court. While they were on trial, dozens of their supporters were barred from approaching the courtroom; many were temporarily arrested, including their family members.

    Mrs. Can Thi Theu [Cấn Thị Thêu], 52, and her husband, Trinh Ba Khiem [Trịnh Bá Khiêm], 56, were given 15 and 18 months of imprisionment respectively for “resisting persons in the performance of their official duties” under Article 257 of the Penal Code. The third accused, Mr. Le Van Thanh [Lê Văn Thanh], was sentenced to 12 months in prison.

    The three were arrested after a land grab on April 25. Mrs. Can Thi Theu was reportedly shooting a video footage of the eviction where her husband and other farmers got beaten by police forces. The police then tried to stop her by allegedly giving her anaesthetic before taking her away. The video clip, spread subsequently on Facebook, showed a violent conflict between the farmers of Duong Noi and foreces of police and social order defenders.

    Three days before, two other farmers, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Ngan [Nguyễn Thị Ngân] and Mrs. Nguyen Thi Toan [Nguyễn Thị Toàn], also got arrested and charged with “resisting persons in the performance of their official duties.” Each was sentenced to six months in prison on September 15.

    Dozens of Duong Noi farmers in red T-shirt, carrying slogans urging the release of the accused, tried to attend the courtroom and were brutally suppressed. Even Trinh Ba Phuong [Trịnh Bá Phương] and Trinh Ba Tu [Trịnh Bá Tư], the two sons of Mrs. Can Thi Theu and Mr. Trinh Ba Khiem, were not allowed to be present at the court. Around twenty people, including Phuong and Tu, were taken to a local police station and confined there until late at night.

    Duong Noi is a village located in Ha Dong district, some 14 kilometres southwest of Hanoi. Land disputes erupted in the village years ago when local farmers refused to transfer their lands to a developer, Nam Cuong Group. Thousands of police and social order defenders, however, were deployed on the land grab of April 25. The land-lost victims alleged that authorities even hired thugs to join the effort, and by arresting the most resistant farmer, Mrs. Can Thi Theu, they showed their determination in evicting people of their lands.

  • Freedom House joins Vietnamese CSOs, calls for activists’ release

    (VNRN) – Freedom House, a leading global human rights research and advocacy NGO, has joined with nine Vietnamese civil society organizations to call for the release of three activists imprisoned to lengthy terms on technical traffic violations, charges that have been called “bogus.” Other activists, however, conclude that Bui Thi Minh Hang, Nguyen Van Minh, and Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh were arrested for their outspoken support for land-grab victims and political rights.

    Freedom House, based in the U.S., has been active since 1941 when it was co-founded by Eleanor Roosevelt. Joining Freedom House are several Vietnam-based organizations: Civil Society ForumUnited Workers-Farmers Organization of VietnamAssociation of Political & Religious Prisoners of VietnamBrotherhood for DemocracyNo-U FC of SaigonHoa Hao Buddhist Church West BranchVietnam Path MovementAggrieved Citizens Struggle Alliance Movement and VOICE.

    Their joint statement follows.

    Call for Release of Vietnamese Human Rights Defenders
    10 September 2014

    On 26 August 2014, three activists in Vietnam were sentenced to long prison terms for “disturbing the public order.” Ms. Bui Thi Minh Hang (DOB: 1964), an outspoken and long-time advocate for land-lost peasants and religious groups in Vietnam, along with Mr. Nguyen Van Minh (DOB: 1980) and Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh (DOB: 1986) who are both religious workers of the Hoa Hao Buddhist Church, were arrested on 11 February 2014.

    The 3 activists were among the 21 individuals who were beaten and detained while attempting to visit a fellow activist, human rights lawyer Nguyen Bac Truyen who defends victims of forced evictions. As known human rights defenders, these activists were targets of regular government harassment and surveillance. Ms. Bui has been arrested and detained several times without trial, most recently resulting in a five-month detention in November 2011.

    Following the 10-hour trial on 26 August, Ms. Bui Thi Minh Hang was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment, while Mr. Nguyen Van Minh and Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh were sentenced to 2.5 and 2 years imprisonment, respectively. During the trial, 51 human rights defenders were arrested outside the court, some were beaten, and many were physically blocked from supporting the defendants in the area outside of the court. None of these individuals were allowed into the courtroom itself and the witnesses on behalf of the Defendants were prevented from taking part in the trial.

    The procedures and results of the trial are emblematic of the on-going crackdown on human rights defenders that is taking place in Vietnam. We urge that the international community together with independent civil society members in Vietnam come together to call for the release of these peaceful activists and to demand that the Vietnamese government, as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, uphold its international human rights obligations, including to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

    SIGNED:

    Freedom House
    Civil Society Forum
    United Workers-Farmers Organization of Vietnam
    Association of Political & Religious Prisoners of Vietnam
    Brotherhood for Democracy
    No-U FC of Saigon
    Hoa Hao Buddhist Church West Branch
    Vietnam Path Movement
    Aggrieved Citizens Struggle Alliance Movement
    VOICE

     

  • Bloggers launch right to know campaign on Facebook

    (VNRN) – In a massive show of force, Vietnamese bloggers and activists took to Facebook simultaneously on Vietnam’s National Day and launched a campaign for the people’s right to know, holding signs saying “I want to know” and asking for information that the government has been holding secret.

    “Freedom of expression is closely linked to the right to access information,” the bloggers wrote in a statement published at the same time by bloggers on Facebook on Sep. 2. They assert that “every person has the right to receive information from the government such as national policies, activities by government offices and/or the ruling party in all areas: education, environment, health, social security, … or national sovereignty.”

    The statement raised specific questions on relations between the governments of Vietnam and China, espcially the contents of the 1990 agreement made between Vietnam and China in Chengdu when the two communist countries re-established normal relations, soured since the 1979 border war. The agreement has been kept secret, leading to leaks and rumors including one claiming Vietnam would join China as an autonomous region.

    The question was repeated on numerous Facebook pages including of prominent bloggers such as Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, popularly known as blogger Mẹ Nấm or Mother Mushroom), Nguyen Tien Trung (Nguyễn Tiến Trung), Rev. Phan Van Loi (Phan Văn Lợi).

    Other questions were raised as well. “I want to know whose pockets the enormous profits from land grabs go to,” asked Trinh Ba Phuong (Trịnh Bá Phương), whose parents Trinh Ba Khiem and Can Thi Theu are being prosecuted in the Duong Noi land protest. He continued, “I want to know how many farmers will die of hunger after losing their means of production.”

    “I want to know when prisoners of consience will be released,” asked Ton Van Anh, who joined with a similar picture from Poland. “I want to know why so many people die in police custody,” wrote one comment on Facebook.

    So far, there has been no reaction from the government — something the bloggers have predicted. On their statement, they wrote, “Avoiding that basic right is something that only happens in a anti-democratic dictatorship.”

  • Harsh sentence slapped on prominent activist

    (VNRN) – A prominent activist and two companions on Aug. 26 received prison sentences in southern Dong Thap province of more than two years each for “disrupting public order” by “obstructing traffic.”

    Bui Thi Minh Hang (Bùi Thị Minh Hằng), 50, a well-known human rights activist, was sentenced to three years while the other defendants Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh (Nguyễn Thị Thúy Quỳnh) and Hoa Hao Buddhist Nguyen Van Minh (Nguyễn Văn Minh) were each sentenced to 2 and 2 1/2 years in prison, respectively.

    Hang, Quynh and Minh had been arrested and held since February while in a convoy of motorbikes visiting another Hoa Hao activist, Nguyen Bac Truyen (Nguyễn Bắc Truyển), a lawyer and former political prisoner.

    “The use of public disorder laws by Vietnamese authorities to imprison government critics for peacefully expressing their political views is alarming,” the U.S. embassy in Hanoi said in a statement issued the same day the sentence was given.

    Several supporters who travelled to attend the trial at Dong Thap Provincial People’s Court in the Mekong Delta were detained and then forced back to Ho Chi Minh City by bus after the one-day trial ended.

    Amnesty International also expressed concern over the verdict and urged the government to “rein in its police and stop attacks on peaceful activists.”

    Human Rights Watch called the charges against the three “bogus.” Its deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said the three had been “railroaded into prison for simply exercising their right to associate and assemble … and for daring to use their voices to show solidarity with others facing persecution.”

  • Police arrest people attending activist’s trial

    (VNRN) – At least five forty people were arrested and others confined to their hotel rooms Aug. 25 in southern Dong Thap province when they tried to attend the trial of a human rights activist to take place the next day.

    Days before the trial which is said to be open to the public, local police were deployed in large number in an effort to prevent activists and supporters of the defendants from coming to Dong Thap. Many activists in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City were confined to their homes, while those that made it to the province now face police raid and detention.

    They were attempting to attend the trial of Bui Thi Minh Hang (Bùi Thị Minh Hằng), 50, Nguyen Van Minh (Nguyễn Văn Minh), 34, and Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh (Nguyễn Thị Thúy Quỳnh), 29, charged with “inciting public disorder.”

    Near midnight Aug. 25, police and security forces launched a sudden raid, known as an “administrative check,” at the hotel where Hang’s daughter and son-in-law were staying.  Both their ID cards were confiscated by local police. Hang’s daughter Quynh Anh (Quỳnh Anh) said she believed the confiscation was meant to prevent them from entering the courtroom.

    At the same time, three groups of activists were locked in their hotels in Dong Thap, many of them are members of the Vietnam Path Movement, No-U Hanoi, No-U Saigon. Five members of the Vietnamese Association of Women for Human Rights were confined to their without food and water. One of them, Nguyen Thi Anh Ngan (Nguyễn Thị Ánh Ngân) had her seven-month old child with her.

    Sources said police were now deploying to their fullest to arrest and stop Bui Hang’s supporters from going to the court. It is expected that jamming devices will be installed in the court area to block phone signals and Internet connection.

    On February 11, 2014, Bui Hang and two Hoa Hao Buddhists named Nguyen Van Minh and Nguyen Thi Quynh were arrested by the Dong Thap police in a fabricated case of “disturbing public order” on their way to visit former political prisoner and lawyer Nguyen Bac Truyen.  They were arbitrarily and unlawfully detained for five months before they were prosecuted in July 2014.

    Bui Hang’s son, Tran Bui Trung (Trần Bùi Trung), embarked on an advocacy campaign in the United States on August 4 for the release of his mother and her two companions.

  • Vietnam prosecutes activist under ‘bogus’ charges: HRW

    (HRW) – Vietnamese authorities should drop politically motivated charges against three activists and immediately release them, Human Rights Watch said today.

    On August 26, 2014, the People’s Court of Dong Thap province is scheduled to hear the case of Bui Thi Minh Hang (Bùi Thị Minh Hằng), Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh (Nguyễn Thị Thúy Quỳnh), and Nguyen Van Minh (Nguyễn Văn Minh), who were arrested in February 2014 and charged with “causing public disorder” by creating “serious obstruction to traffic.” Under article 245 of Vietnam’s penal code, they face up to seven years in prison if convicted.

    “The Vietnamese government is now resorting to bogus traffic offenses to criminally prosecute activists,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “The authorities should recognize this case is not worth the international ridicule it will cause and drop the charges immediately.”

    On February 11, a group of 21 bloggers and Hoa Hao Buddhist activists rode motorbikes from Ho Chi Minh City to Lap Vo district in Dong Thap province to visit former political prisoner Nguyen Bac Truyen (Nguyễn Bắc Truyển) and his fiancé, Bui Thi Kim Phuong (Bùi Thị Kim Phương), an independent Hoa Hao Buddhist practitioner, whom police had harassed, detained and interrogated the previous day. As the group neared their destination, police stopped them for an alleged traffic violation, and then stood by while unidentified thugs in civilian clothes beat up several group members. The police then arrested all the activists, but only charged prominent blogger Bui Thi Minh Hang, 50, rights activist Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh, 28, and independent Hoa Hao Buddhist practitioner Nguyen Van Minh, 34.

    The activists have suffered loss of freedom and various due process violations while in detention. Immediately after being detained, Bui Thi Minh Hang and Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh went on a two-week hunger strike to protest the circumstances of their arrest. The authorities initially obstructed efforts by their defense lawyer, Ha Huy Son, to see their case files. On July 22, Ha Huy Son filed a motion against the Dong Thap province police for failing to provide him the findings of their criminal investigation as required by law. On March 22, authorities harassed and intimidated family members of Bui Thi Minh Hang, including her son Tran Bui Trung and her daughter Dang Thi Quynh Anh, when they tried to rally support for their mother in Hanoi.

    Bui Thi Minh Hang is a prominent activist who played a leading role in the protests against Chinese territorial claims on the Spratly and Paracel islands in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City between June and August 2011. On November 27, 2011, police arrested Bui Thi Minh Hang outside Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City for allegedly “causing public disorder” because of her silent protest against the arrests of other peaceful protesters. The next day the police ordered her detained without trial and sent her to Thanh Ha Education Center in Vinh Phuc province for 24 months of administrative detention.

    After a domestic and international outcry, the authorities released Bui Thi Minh Hang in April 2012. After her release, she immediately resumed her human rights campaigning. She wrote and published online a memoir describing her experience in the Thanh Ha Education center. She has protested at her home in the city of Vung Tau by affixing statements denouncing police and government abuses on the gate of her house and providing free copies to passersby. She also distributed a “Manual for the Implementation of Human Rights” (Cam nang thuc thi quyen lam nguoi) for people demanding their rights through peaceful activism. She also has repeatedly attempted to attend the trials of fellow human rights activists.

    Bui Thi Minh Hang and her family members have long faced intimidation, harassment, and intrusive surveillance by the police. State newspapers and television channels have repeatedly attacked her in their reports. Police have failed to act when anonymous attackers assaulted her and her son, and unidentified persons have thrown rotten food into her front yard at night.

    “The more the government tries to silence Bui Thi Minh Hang, the more vocal she becomes in her advocacy for basic rights and freedoms,” Robertson said. “The government should start listening to what she and other activists are saying instead of locking them up behind bars.”

    Nguyen Van Minh is an independent Hoa Hao Buddhist activist who has campaigned for freedom of religion and conscience. His wife, Bui Thi Diem Thuy, is also a religious activist whose father, Bui Van Trung, and brother, Bui Van Tham, are currently serving prison terms on politically motivated charges under article 257 of the criminal code for “resisting persons in the performance of their official duties.” Human Rights Watch believes they are being persecuted because they follow and support an independent Hoa Hao Buddhist group instead of joining the state-sanctioned one.

    Little is known about the third detainee, Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh.

    Vietnam’s election to the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2013 has not resulted in any significant improvements in the country’s human rights record.

    “Vietnam got a seat on the UN Human Rights Council but this hasn’t ended the repression of human rights activists in the country,” Robertson said. “Bilateral donors and UN agencies should press Vietnam to abide by its international obligations and stop imprisoning people whose only crime is calling for human rights and democratic reform.”

    Picture top: Bui Thi Minh Hang (left) with Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh, before their arrest. Photo by Danlambao.com.

  • Young man dies after encounter with motorcycle police

    (VNRN) – A young man died Aug. 19 from injuries suffered after police on motorcycle ran his motorbike into a median in Gia Lai province in the Central Highlands.

    Le Hoai Thuong (Lê Hoài Thương), 20, was one of three young men riding on a motorbike in the evening of Aug. 18 when two policemen on a motorcycle noticed that at least one of the three was not wearing a helmet.

    The police gave chase, and the young men sped away. The police motorcycle overtook the motorbike, squeezed the young men over, ran them off the road, hit them with a baton and kicked the motorbike causing the group to crash into the median.

    Thuong, who was in front, fell and hit his head. Witnesses say the two police then left the scene. Bystander carried Thuong to the hospital, where he died the next day of multiple concussions to the skull.

    Hundreds of the locals gathered at the hospital in sympathy with Thuong’s family. Police commanders told the Tuoi Tre newspaper that Thuong fell into the median on his own trying to evade the police.

    The two unnamed officers have been placed on leave.

  • Bui Hang’s son advocates for mother’s release

    (VNRN) Over two consecutive days this week the son of human rights activist Bui Thi Minh Hang (Bùi Thị Minh Hằng) met with officials from the US Department of State and Freedom House to present his mother’s case and speak about the situation of prisoners of conscience in Vietnam. Tran Bui Trung (Trần Bùi Trung), who appears on Facebook as Bo Trung, was accompanied by the Vietnam Path Movement member and human rights lawyer Vi K. Tran.

    Trung fully expected that by going to the U.S. to advocate for his mother, he would risk harassment upon his return. “ “Based on what the Vietnam government has done to all others upon their return to the country after attending international human rights conferences and other campaigns for release of prisoners of conscience in Vietnam, I believe I cannot avoid being held temporarily at the airport upon my return,” Trung said.

    However, he added, “I have decided and prepared myself for it before I left Vietnam already. Thus, I’m not worrying much.”

    Hang, 50, was arrested with two Hoa Hao Buddhism adherents on Feb 11 in Dong Thap province, in the Mekong delta, on their way to visit Nguyen Bac Truyen, a lawyer and former political prisoner. They were charged with disrupting public order for allegedly riding their motorbikes side by side on a country road. They have been under custody since.

    Trung and Tran met on Aug 12 with Freedom House in D.C. Tran provided a brief evaluation on the fight to protect human rights in Vietnam in recent years. Tran also emphasized on the rising number of non-registered civil society organizations which are considered by the Vietnam government as dissident and the opposition force to the current communist regime.

    Freedom House’s William Ford and Bee Shan asked many questions about Bui Thi Minh Hang’s case, including the circumstances and reasons behind her arrest. They were surprised to learn that Hang was arrested, jailed, and kept from visiting relatives just for an allegation of disrupting public order. They expressed concerns about Hang’s health, especially after multiple hunger strikes.

    Freedom House’s representatives also expressed their concerns about activities of independent civil social groups in Vietnam. They were fully aware that these civil groups just had three joint meetings starting from June until now.

    Freedom House stated that they, along with a few other international human right organizations, would issue a joint statement on the case of Bui Thi Minh Hang, requesting the Vietnam government to comply with international human rights standards and the Convention on Human Rights to which Vietnam is a signatory. They also expressed their desire for Vietnam to uphold its own legal standard in Hang’s upcoming trial according to the Vietnam’s Code of Criminal Procedures.

    The next day, Trung and Tran met with officials from US Department of State. These officials again assured that the United States always placed human rights at issue when they engage in dialogues with Vietnam on trades and other matters.

    Trung also urged the United States to continue to address all other prisoners of conscience cases in Vietnam with the Vietnamese government.

  • FULL TEXT: Vietnam’s rights record deteriorates, does not warrant lethal weapons sale – letter to U.S. Senators

    (VNRN) – A coalition of 10 independent civil society organizations on Aug 11 sent a joint letter to U.S. Senators John McCain and Sheldon Whitehouse, telling them that Vietnam’s deteriorating human rights record does not warrant the sales of lethal weapons to the communist government.

    The two senators on their visit to Hanoi had suggested that the U.S. should accelerate the resumption of lethal weapons sales. The senators cited Vietnam’s accession to the U.N. Convention Against Torture as a sign of improvement in human rights.

    The Vietnamese independent civil society organizations, however, pointed out that in practice, all facets of human rights have worsened in the last year, including torture. In their joint letter to McCain and Whitehouse, the groups pointed out that there have been “numbers of deaths resulting from police brutality.” Rights to freedom of speech, of religion, and of ethnic minorities have also been suppressed.

    The letter included a list of 25 prisoners of conscience that the groups said Vietnam should “immediately and unconditionally” release, ranging from such long-imprisoned figures as bloggers Nguyen Van Hai (Dieu Cay) and Ta Phong Tan to recently arrested Nguyen Huu Vinh (Ba Sam).

    The full text of the letter follows.

    * * * * *

    JOINT LETTER BY VIETNAM’S INDEPENDENT CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS

    To: Senator John McCain
    Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
    August 8, 2014

    Dear Senators John McCain and Sheldon Whitehouse:
    Re: Negative Repercussions of a Lift of the Lethal Weapons Ban in Vietnam

    First of all, we would like to extend a heartfelt welcome to you upon your visit to Vietnam. Since Vietnam and the US formally normalized diplomatic relations, your names have always been at the forefront of every effort to promote and strengthen cooperation between the two countries. It is with certainty that due to the close partnership with the US, Vietnam has been benefitting both economically and socially. Therefore, we would like to express our gratitude for your dedication towards the advancement of the US – Vietnam relations.

    It comes to our knowledge that in recent months there has been increased consideration among the US Congress towards easing and lifting the ban on the sale and transfer of lethal weapons to the Vietnam Government. While this new development would promise much-appreciated military cooperation between the two nations, which would contribute to the strengthening of Vietnam’s defense force amid growing aggressiveness in the South China Sea, we deem it necessary to put forward our concerns in terms of the risks related to the removal of the arms sales ban.

    Although Vietnam has stepped up efforts on the international stage to demonstrate its celebration for human rights by joining the UN Convention against Torture and winning a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, its human rights record at home remains poor, if not deteriorating. In the last 12 months, the Vietnamese government has continued to employ vague national security laws, such as Article 79, 88 and 258 of its Penal Code, to arrest and imprison more bloggers, journalists, legal advocates, human rights and ethnic minority rights activists. Along with silencing dissident voices, there are increasing numbers of deaths resulting from police brutality, frequent crackdowns on non-state religious associations, and continued harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders. It is clear that Vietnam still maintains a big gap between its ceremonious pledges of human rights commitment in the international arena and its implementation at the national level.

    Although there have been recent releases of some political prisoners, which we welcome and appreciate this demonstration of the government’s intention to improve on human rights, however, we must note that the ongoing improvement, if any, could be inconsistent as the government remains largely ambiguous and elusive in its plan to address perpetuating human rights issues. Thus, a backward step in human rights could be possible once the government achieves its political goals. In such a scenario, we believe it would be against the US Congress’s goodwill to have the lethal weapons turned against the Vietnamese citizens.
    With regard to our aforementioned concerns, we would urge the US Congress, ahead of any possible arms sales, to request Vietnam to put forth a clear agenda of concrete and measurable actions in addressing urgent human rights issues. Those actions must include, first and foremost, repeal of vague national security laws, respect for human rights defenders and the immediate and unconditional release of all the Vietnamese prisoners of consciences, including these 25 people as listed in the attached document.

    Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.
    Yours sincerely,

    We the undersigned:

    Civil Society Forum
    The United Workers-Farmers Organization of Vietnam
    The Association of Political & Religious Prisoners of Vietnam
    The Brotherhood for Democracy
    Bau Bi Tuong Than Association
    No-U FC of Hanoi
    No-U FC of Saigon
    A group of followers of Hoa Hao Buddhist Church West branch
    The Vietnam Path Movement
    Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment (VOICE)

    LIST OF 25 PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE

    1. Bui Thi Minh Hang
    DOB: 1964
    Years Sentenced: Pending
    Location: Lap Vo Detention Center, Dong Thap Prison
    Criminal Charge(s): Causing public disorder (§ 245 VCC)
    Details: Bui Thi Minh Hang is an outspoken advocate on behalf of peasants whose lands were confiscated to make room for development projects. She was among a group of 21 people on mopeds that were attacked by Dong Thap police on 12 Feb 2014, about 140 km of Ho Chi Minh City. The group was on their way to visit Nguyen Bac Truyen, a lawyer and former political prisoner in Dong Thap.
    Compelling Reason for Release: Health deteriorating due to hunger strike in May 2014 which lasted 2 weeks

    2. Dinh Nguyen Kha
    DOB: 1988
    Years Sentenced: 4 years imprisonment; 3 years house-arrest
    Location: Xuyen Moc Prison, Ba Ria Vung Tau Province
    Criminal Charge(s): Spreading propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (§88 VCC)
    Details: Dinh Nguyen Kha was arrested in 2012 for handing out leaflets that “distort the Party and the State’s policies related to religion and land, and exhibit a twisted viewpoint regarding the Spratly and Paracel islands and the border land between Vietnam and China.” The state media accused him of “calling and agitating people to protest against the Communist Party of Vietnam and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”

    3. Do Nam Trung
    DOB: 1981
    Years Sentenced: Pending
    Location: Dong Nai Prison, Dong Nai Province
    Criminal Charge(s): Causing public disorder (§ 245 VCC)
    Details: Do Nam Trung is a member of the Brotherhood for Democracy. He has been accused of provoking a violent riot in a Dong Nai Province’s industrial park in May 2014 along with Le Thi Phuong Anh and Pham Minh Vu.

    4. Doan Huy Chuong
    DOB: 1985
    Years Sentenced: 7 years imprisonment
    Location: Xuan Loc Prison, Binh Duong Province (K2)
    Criminal Charge(s): Disrupting security (§89 VCC).
    Details: Doan Huy Chuong is a labor activist who organized a strike in a shoe factory in Tra Vinh Province and distributed anti- government leaflets. Arrested on 11 February 2010, tried on 26 June 2010 in Tra Vinh Province; sentence upheld at appellate trial in Tra Vinh Province on 18 March 2011. As President of the United Workers and Farmers Association (UWFA), Doan Huy Chuong was previously arrested in Nov. 2006 and later sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.
    Compelling Reason for Release: Suffers from internal injuries as a result of being tortured in prison

    5. Duong Thi Tron
    DOB: 1947
    Years Sentenced: 9 years imprisonment
    Location: Xuan Loc Prison, Binh Duong Province (K5)
    Criminal Charge(s): Causing public disorder (§245 VCC) and resisting officers performing their duties (§ 257 VCC)
    Details: Hoa Hao Buddhist Church-Original Branch (HHBC-O) is independent to the state-controlled Hoa Hao Buddhist Commission and does not accept any interference by the Vietnamese authorities. Tron is an active member of HHBC-O (Dong Thap) and í the wife of its chairman, Nguyen Van Tho.
    Compelling Reason for Release: She is suffering from low blood pressure and old age. She does not have access to medication.

    6. Le Quoc Quan
    DOB: 1971
    Years Sentenced: 2.5 years imprisonment
    Location: An Diem Prison, Quang Nam Province
    Criminal Charge(s): Tax evasion (§161 VCC)
    Details: Le Quoc Quan is a human rights lawyer, democracy activist and prominent Catholic blogger. He was arrested by the Vietnamese government on charges of tax evasion on 27 December 2012, convicted on 2 October 2013, and sentenced to 30 months in prison and fined 100,000 USD. The arrest was condemned by international human rights organizations and the US government.
    Compelling Reason for Release: Deteriorating health as a result of three hunger strikes

    7. Le Thi Phuong Anh
    DOB: 1984
    Years Sentenced: Pending
    Location: Dong Nai Prison, Dong Nai Province
    Criminal Charge(s): Causing public disorder (§ 245 VCC)
    Details: Le Thi Phuong Anh is a human rights and democracy activist. She has been accused of provoking a violent riot in a Dong Nai Province’s industrial park in May 2014 along with Do Nam Trung and Pham Minh Vu

    8. Mai Thi Dung
    DOB: 1969
    Years Sentenced: 11 years imprisonment
    Location: Thanh Xuan Prison, Hanoi
    Criminal Charge(s): Causing public disorder (§245 VCC)
    Details: Mai Thi Dung is a religious worker of the Hoa Hao Buddhist Church – Original Branch. She was arrested and charged under Article 245 for resisting and defending a religious gathering that was being interrupted by the authorities.
    Compelling Reason for Release: Suffers from internal injuries as a result of being tortured in prison and is currently undergoing medical complications due to kidney stones

    9. Ngo Hao
    DOB: 1943
    Years Sentenced: 15 years imprisonment; 5 years house-arrest
    Location: Xuan Phuoc Prison, Phu Yen Province
    Criminal Charge(s): Conducting activities to overthrow the people’s government (§79 VCC)
    Details: Ngo Hao is a democracy activist. He was arrested for writing and spreading articles criticizing the government’s policies.
    Compelling Reason for Release: Suffering from old age; forced to work in prison and currently does not have strength to stand on his own.

    10. Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung
    DOB: 1982
    Years Sentenced: 9 years imprisonment
    Location: Xuyen Moc Prison, Ba Ria Vung Tau Province
    Criminal Charge(s): Disrupting security (§89 VCC).
    Details: Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung is a member of “Victims of Injustice”—a group that advocates on behalf of victims of land confiscation.

    11. Nguyen Huu Vinh (Ba Sam)
    DOB: 1956
    Years Sentenced: Pending
    Location: Hanoi
    Criminal Charge(s): Abusing democratic freedoms (§258 VCC)
    Details: Nguyen Huu Vinh – a liberal blogger – is well known for his regular posts which have opposing opinions. He is also known for delivering news about China’s hostile and provocative moves against Vietnam’s territorial sovereignty, a topic the government of Vietnam deemed sensitive to the relations between the two countries and therefore, often ignored.

    12. Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy
    DOB: 1980
    Years Sentenced: Pending
    Location: Hanoi
    Criminal Charge(s): Abusing democratic freedoms (§258 VCC)
    Details: Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy is an employee of Nguyen Huu Vinh’s business. She was accused of helping Vinh “publish online articles with bad contents and misleading information to lower the prestige and create public distrust of government offices, social organizations and citizens”

    13. Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh
    DOB: 1986
    Years Sentenced: Pending
    Location: Lap Vo Detention Center, Dong Thap Prison
    Criminal Charge(s): Causing public disorder (§ 245 VCC)
    Details: Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh is a religious worker in the Hoa Hao Buddhist Church – Original Branch. She was arrested along with Bui Thi Minh Hang on their way to visit Nguyen Bac Truyen.

    14. Nguyen Van Hai (Dieu Cay)
    DOB: 1952
    Years Sentenced: 12 years imprisonment; 5 years house-arrest
    Location: Prison No.6, Nghe An Province
    Criminal Charge(s): Spreading propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (§88 VCC)
    Details: Nguyen Van Hai, also known as Nguyen Hoang Hai, better known by his pen name Dieu Cay, is a Vietnamese blogger who has been prosecuted by the government of Vietnam for tax evasion and “disseminating anti-state information and materials”. His imprisonment was protested by several international human rights organizations, and Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience.
    Compelling Reason for Release: Imprisoned in solitary confinement.

    15. Nguyen Van Lia
    DOB: 1940
    Years Sentenced: 4.5 years imprisonment
    Location: Xuan Loc Prison, Binh Duong Province (K2)
    Criminal Charge(s): Abusing democratic freedoms (§258 VCC)
    Details: Nguyen Van Lia is a longtime adherent of Hoa Hao Buddhism, a religious group often suppressed by the government, and the co-author of several Hoa Hao Buddhist religious instruction texts and books. He was charged with violating Article 258 of the penal code for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state,” a vague crime that could result in a sentence of up to seven years.
    Compelling Reason for Release: Suffers from old age; high blood pressure and does not have access to medication. His family is not permitted to send medication.

    16. Nguyen Van Ly
    DOB: 1946
    Years Sentenced: 8 years imprisonment; 5 years house-arrest
    Location: Nam Ha Prison, Ha Nam Province
    Criminal Charge(s): Spreading propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (§88 VCC)
    Details: Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly is a Vietnamese Roman Catholic priest and dissident involved in many pro-democracy movements for which he was imprisoned for a total of almost 15 years. For his ongoing imprisonment and continuous non-violent protest, Amnesty International adopted Father Lý in December 1983 as a prisoner of conscience. Most recently, his support for the Bloc 8406 manifesto has led to his sentence on 30 March 2007, for an additional eight years in prison.

    17. Nguyen Van Minh
    DOB: 1980
    Years Sentenced: Pending
    Location: Lap Vo Detention Center, Dong Thap Prison
    Criminal Charge(s): Resisting persons in the performance of their official duties. (§275 VCC).
    Details: Nguyen Van Minh is a religious worker of the Hoa Hao Buddhist Church – Original Branch. He was arrested along with Bui Thi Minh Hang on their way to visit Nguyen Bac Truyen.

    18. Pham Minh Vu
    DOB: 1980
    Years Sentenced: Pending
    Location: Dong Nai Prison
    Criminal Charge(s): Causing public disorder (§ 245 VCC)
    Details: Pham Minh Vu is a member of the Brotherhood for Democracy. He has been accused of provoking a violent riot in a Dong Nai Province’s industrial park in May 2014 along with Le Thi Phuong Anh and Do Nam Trung.

    19. Pham Viet Dao
    DOB: 1951
    Years Sentenced: 15 months imprisonment
    Location: Hanoi
    Criminal Charge(s): Abusing democratic freedoms (§258 VCC)
    Details: Pham Viet Dao is a former Vietnamese Communist Party member and government official. He was convicted under Article 258 of Vietnam’s penal code for allegedly “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the interests of the State.”

    20. Phan Van Thu
    DOB: 1948
    Years Sentenced: Life imprisonment
    Location: Unknown
    Criminal Charge(s): Conducting activities to overthrow the people’s government (§79 VCC)
    Details: Phan Van Thu was arrested on 05 February 2012 in Phu Yen Province. He was allegedly the leader of Public Law Council of Bia Son, which the Vietnamese police newspaper has accused of “conducting activities to overthrow the people’s government.”

    21. Ta Phong Tan
    DOB: 1968
    Years Sentenced: 10 years imprisonment; 5 years house-arrest
    Location: Yen Dinh Prison, Thanh Hoa Province
    Criminal Charge(s): Spreading propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (§88 VCC)
    Details: Ta Phong Tan is a Vietnamese dissident blogger, a former policewoman and member of the Communist Party of Vietnam. She was arrested in September 2011 under anti-state propaganda charges for her blog posts alleging government corruption.
    Compelling Reason for Release: Under psychological pressure because of civil disobedience within prison.

    22. Tran Huynh Duy Thuc
    DOB: 1965
    Years Sentenced: 16 years imprisonment; 5 years house-arrest
    Location: Xuyen Moc Prinson, Dong Nai Province
    Criminal Charge(s): Conducting activities to overthrow the people’s government (§79 VCC)
    Details: According to the indictment, along with Nguyen Tien Trung, Le Cong Dinh and Le Thang Long, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc had sought to build a multiparty system and written 53 articles, amongst them “The Vietnam’s Roadmap”, and posted them on the internet. Thuc was director general of the OCI telecommunication company. Initially at his arrest on 24 May 2009, he had been accused of “theft of telecom fees”. Later the charge was turned to “spreading propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” (§88 VCC) and finally to subversive activities (§79 VCC). He was tried on 20 January 2010 in Ho Chi Minh City. His sentence was upheld at the appellate trial on 11 May 2010.
    Compelling Reason for Release: Was forced into solitary confinement as a disciplinary punishment.

    23. Tran Vu Anh Binh
    DOB: 1974
    Years Sentenced: 6 years imprisonment; 2 years house-arrest
    Location: An Phuoc Prison, Binh Duong Province
    Criminal Charge(s): Tran Vu Anh Binh is a Catholic songwriter and member of the Patriotic Youth Group (PYG) who participated in anti-China demonstrations in Ho Chi Minh City. Along with 4 members of PYG, he was arrested on 19 September 2011 in HCM City.

    24. Truong Duy Nhat
    DOB: 1964
    Years Sentenced: 2 years imprisonment
    Location: Hoa Son Prison, Da Nang
    Criminal Charge(s): Abusing democratic freedoms (§258 VCC)
    Details: Truong Duy Nhat was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment for allegedly “abusing the rights of freedom” in writing his blog “Another Point of View”. The charges were based on 12 specific entries on his blog in which he criticized the performances of top government and Party officials, including the General Secretary and the Prime Minister.

    25. Vo Minh Tri (Viet Khang)
    DOB: 1978
    Years Sentenced: 4 years imprisonment; 2 years house-arrest
    Location: Xuan Loc Prison, Binh Duong Province (K2)
    Criminal Charge(s): Spreading propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (§88 VCC)
    Details: Vo Minh Tri has composed 2 patriotic songs: “Who are you?” and “Where is my Vietnam?”. He personally performed them and posted them on the internet to support anti-China demonstrations in Vietnam. He was arrested on 23 December 2011 in HCM City.

    Total years of imprisonment: 121.25
    Total years of house-arrest: 32
    Total cases of life imprisonment: 1
    Total cases still pending: 8

  • Rights activist held upon return from UN talks

    (Photo left: Blogger Pham Le Vuong Cac (right) with fellow UPR delegates Nguyen Quang A (right) and Trinh Huu Long at the United Nations Human Right Council in Geneva.)

    (RFA) – Authorities in Ho Chi Minh City held activist Pham Le Vuong Cac for 24 hours and subjected him to “torture” upon his return from a U.N. meeting in Geneva which he had attended to voice concerns over Vietnam’s failure to implement pledges made to improve the country’s rights record.

    Blogger Cac was part of a delegation which attended the talks on Vietnam’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR)—a process each U.N. member country undergoes every four years.

    The delegation said in a statement that aside from Cac, who was detained by security police shortly after his flight landed in Vietnam’s largest city, other team members could also be punished for speaking up for greater human rights in the one-party communist state.

    Cac was the second Vietnamese activist to have been detained and harassed this year for attending international meetings on Vietnam’s human rights record, the statement said.

    “On 01 August 2014, one of our members, Pham Le Vuong Cac—a [Ho Chi Minh City]-based human rights defender—was detained and questioned at Tan Son Nhat International Airport by the security police upon his return to Vietnam,” the delegation said in the statement.

    It said that Cac had landed at 12:20 a.m. and was detained shortly after, but that no notice had been given to his family and friends, who continued to wait for him at the airport’s security gate until late that night.

    He was escorted home by police officers early the following day.

    The delegation said that Cac’s 24-hour detention demonstrated “Vietnam’s pattern of neglecting its human rights obligations,” adding that it not only infringed on Vietnam’s laws, but also ignored international standards to which the country is bound.

    “Cac’s rights as a citizen were violated because there was no issuance of either a notice or a decision by a responsible government agency to address this incident,” the statement said.

    “Most significantly, the detention indicates signs of torture as the security police reportedly employed unlawful methods, including using threats during the extensive hours of questioning in order to extract information from Cac.”

    Cac, an independent blogger and legal advocate, had been traveling since June with a delegation of activists representing 10 of Vietnam’s civil society organizations to raise awareness of the country’s human rights issues.

    During his trip, he had met with representatives of U.N. working bodies, delegates from the EU, Polish and Czech foreign affairs officials and international human rights organizations to share his experiences as a rights advocate working in Vietnam.

    Rights obligations

    Vietnam became a member of the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council in January and underwent its second UPR in February.

    As recently as June 20, under the UPR process, Vietnam accepted 182 of the 227 recommendations given by member states, including the responsibility to “give individuals, groups and organs of society the legitimacy and recognition to promote human rights and to express their opinions or dissent publicly.”

    Vietnam came under criticism in February for the harassment and jailing of bloggers and government critics during its UPR, with Western nations calling on the country to respect freedom of expression.

    But despite Hanoi’s pledge to uphold its rights commitments, authorities in Vietnam detained and questioned fellow activist Bui Tuan Lam for hours in February after returning to Ho Chi Minh City from Geneva for UPR-related activities. His passport was confiscated on grounds of “national security.”

    “As the UPR provides that States must respect and facilitate civil society’s participation in the UPR process, Vietnam’s treatment of Lam and Cac are [evidence] of the big gap between the Vietnamese government’s statements in the international arena and its conduct at home,” the delegation statement said.

    It also expressed concern over the personal security and freedom of movement of pro-democracy scholar Nguyen Quang A, who had joined Cac in the delegation to Geneva and returned to Hanoi on Aug. 3, saying that exit bans have been increased on Vietnamese activists to bar them from participating in international advocacy.

    “The Vietnam UPR Delegation [is] concerned that other human rights activists will face similar or even more severe methods of repression in the future for their activities,” the statement said.

    “In regards to the Vietnamese government’s obligations under both national and international laws, we request a termination of harassment on local human rights activists and due prosecution of those who are responsible for such misconduct.”

  • Land grab victims protest at Police Ministry

    (VNRN) – Victims of massive land grab and families of those arrested brought their grievance to the center of power and held a protest at the Ministry of Police in Hanoi on Aug 8. More than 60 people marched under the watchful eye of a police car that followed them closely.

    This marked the third march by the farmers of Duong Noi (Dương Nội) this month. The farmers have had their lands expropriated to make way for development projects that the local government, a ward in the Ha Dong district of Hanoi, approved without adequate consultation or adequate compensation, the farmers claim.

    The farmers wore red T-shirts bearing the words “Duong Noi famers need help” and carried signs demanding “land to the tillers” and “release my parents.”

    In April, police and other armed men moved in en masse and ejected the protesting farmers from the land. Government forces were videotaped beating, kicking and arresting the farmers. Among the people arrested was Can Thi Theu (Cấn Thị Thêu). Her children have been joining the protest to demand her release since.

    On this march, Theu’s son Trinh Ba Phuong also filed a complaint with the Ministry of Police seeking an investigation over the assault on him the previous day as he was protesting.

    The farmers stated that they would continue their protests until their grievances are addressed and those arrested are freed.

  • UN Special Rapporteur: Vietnam lacks religious freedom

    (VNRN) – Vietnam still fails to respect for a person’s faith and religious belief, the the U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Heiner Beilefeldt said in a press statement dated July 31.

    In addition, people in minority religion areas were intimidated, harassed and prevented from meeting him. Beilefeldt also reported that the laws of Vietnam give the government agencies broad power to restrict and forbid freedom of religion, and specifically cited the example that “the invocation of unspecified ‘social interests’ may even lead to criminal prosecution, in accordance to Article 258 of the Penal Code.”

    At a press conference, the Vietnamese Minitry of Foreign Affairs’ Pham Hai Anh, deputy head of its Department of International Organizations, stated that issued raised by Beilefeldt were merely “misunderstanding, lack of further exchange of information.”

    In his press statement, Beilefeldt called attention to the difference between respecting a person’s faith – usually called the “forum internum” – and merely the manifestation of religion, which is the “forum externum.”

    What Vietnam still lacks, Beilefeldt said, “is a clarification that the internal dimension of a person’s religious, moral or philosophical conviction – usually termed the ‘forum internum’ – must be respected unconditionally and can never be exposed to any restrictions or interferences for whatever reasons, even in situations of a serious crisis or an emergency.”

    The unconditional protection of a person’s inner faith, he said, “reflects the insight that forcing human beings to feign a faith which is not authentic or denounce their deeply held convictions may undermine their self-respect.”

    “These are absolute prohibitions with no exceptions,” he said.

    External manifestations of religions or beliefs, on the other hand, “are not protected unconditionally by international law” and “is therefore all the more important to specify the conditions for limitations in a clear and predictable manner.” Even in this sphere, the laws of Vietnam are vague and ambiguous.

    “The relevant legal documents of Viet Nam,” the Special Rapporteur said, “give Government agencies broad space to regulate, limit, restrict of forbid the exercise of freedom of religion or belief.”

    Beilefeldt called out specifically Article 258 of the Penal Code, which generally prohibit “abusing the rights to freedom.”

    “The wide and vague formulation in Article 258 gives the relevant authorities a carte blanche to sanction people for all sorts of activities – and their underlying attitudes – which are deemed to somehow run counter to the interest of the State,” Beilefeldt reported.

    This problem is not merely academic, the U.N. Special Rapporteur said. H emphasized that Article 258 “has been invoked frequently in practice and has been applied to restrict freedom of religion or belief and other human rights.”

    When Beilefeldt visited areas with strong ethnic minority presence, in the provinces of An Giang, Gia Lai, and Kon Tum, however, his planned visits “were unfortunately interrupted.” People he wanted to meet with “had been either under heavy surveillance, warned, intimidated, harassed or prevented from travelling by the police. Even those who successfully met with me were not free from a certain degree of police surveillance or questioning.”

    Beilefeldt noted that he himself “was closely monitored of my whereabouts by undeclared “security or police agents”, while the privacy and confidentiality of some meetings could have been compromised.”

    MOFA’s Pham Hai Anh, however, denied it and said U.N. requirements provided for the host country to protect the security of the Special Rapporteur. Anh further said “Vietnamese law guarantees all people the right to meet whoever they want.”

  • Vietnamese government’s ‘Opinion Shapers’ target activist Facebook pages

    by Duy Hoang

    In recent weeks, well-known Vietnamese activists have found themselves suddenly unable to log in to their Facebook accounts. Their personal pages have been suspended for “abuse” even though there was no apparent violation of any Facebook policy.

    According to Angelina Trang Huynh, who temporarily lost access to her Facebook account earlier this month, the culprit is the Vietnamese government’s online army, known as “opinion shapers” (“dư luận viên”). These opinion shapers used Facebook’s “report abuse” system to orchestrate an onslaught of reports that likely led Facebook to suspend the targeted accounts.

    With 25 million Vietnamese users, Facebook is the social network in the country. Since Facebook took off in Vietnam in 2009, authorities have tried unsuccessfully to restrict its explosive growth and role as a medium for free expression.

    Early attempts by authorities to block Facebook did not succeed and only encouraged netizens to learn how to circumvent and became versed in civil disobedience.

    In 2013, 30-year old Dinh Nhat Uy was the first Vietnamese activist known to be arrested for his activities on Facebook. He was convicted for “abusing democratic freedoms” through status updates calling for the release of his younger brother who also used social media to express dissent. Uy’s arrest sparked widespread attention but did not temper enthusiasm for using the social network for political discussion and organizing.

    It appears that Vietnamese authorities have given up on totally blocking Facebook. The country’s economy and image depend on authorities maintaining some semblance of an open Internet.

    However, through “opinion shapers” authorities apparently hope to achieve their goal of stifling free speech. This online army has been blamed for creating an environment of intimidation and harassment, as evidenced by their tidal wave of toxic and profanity-laden comments.

    By flagging an account en masse, not unlike a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, these government henchmen can quickly trigger the takedown of a Facebook profile or community page with content critical of the Hanoi government.

    Facebooker Trinh Huu Long posted a list of accounts taken down recently. It reads like a list of who’s who in the Vietnamese online activist community:

    15. Nguyen Lan Thang – blogger
    16. Nguyen Tien Trung – former prisoner of conscience, recently released on April 12, 2014
    17. Nguyen Tuong Thuy – blogger
    18. Nhat Ky Yeu Nuoc – a news/media page

    Expect Vietnamese netizens to strike back, says Angelina Trang Huynh:

    Offline, the authorities wield security police to physically abuse peaceful activists. Online, they use ‘opinion shapers’ to silence bloggers. Does the Vietnamese government really think they can get away with this abuse?

    (This article originally appeared on Global Voices Online. Reprinted with author’s permission.)

  • TPP free trade agreement is non-starter for workers’ rights: Activist

    As negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement continue, several members of the U.S. Congress held a press conference on July 9 on the steps of the Capitol, setting forth numerous objections to the Obama administration’s approach to the TPP.

    In addition to opposing the President’s fast track authority, the members of the House of Representatives (Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), George Miller (D-CA), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) and Donna Edwards (D-MD)) also demand that TPP addresses trade imbalances and upholds standards of food safety, workers’ rights and LGBT and women’s rights.

    Two activists were invited to speak at the press conference, workers’ rights activist Jerame Davis, and Vietnamese blogger and civil society activist Pham Doan Trang, representing VOICE.

    The TPP is an ambitious trade agreement that the United States is negotiating with 11 other countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region including Vietnam. Passage of the TPP is one of the primary goals of the Obama administration’s trade agenda. If completed, it will create a vast free-trade zone that will include practically every economy in the Pacific Basin.

    The full text of Trang’s address follows.

    * * *

    Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for inviting me here to speak about labor rights violations in Viet Nam, and why the TPP should be a non-starter.

    On June 26, labor right activist Do Thi Minh Hanh, 29, was released from prison, and this is good news. However, it does not change the fact that labor rights, together with land rights and the right to expression, may be the three most widespread and seriously violated rights in Viet Nam.

    Every year in Viet Nam, there are hundreds of workers strikes; and 95% of them are considered to be illegal. Why illegal? Because, no way can they be lawful under the Labor Code and Trade Union Law, which still deny the existence of independent labor unions.

    The fact is that all unions are outlawed, except the monopoly state-run, the Viet Nam General Confederation of Labor, VGCL. Its owners are the ruling party, its officials are party officials, and its charter is to serve the party. We even have an internal VGCL document showing that VGCL asked police to arrest and punish strike leaders.

    Every union must register with this Confederation to be recognized. And under law, strikes must be held by those recognized unions. The Labor Code also requires a process of conciliation and arbitration before the workers can conduct a strike. So, it is understandable that under such harsh requirements, 95% of the strikes are deemed illegal.
    Also, 95% of the hundreds of strikes each year are related to wages, or the low incomes. As Viet Nam has undergone economic recession since 2008, workers are among the worst impacted victims. They suffer from low incomes, working overtime without being paid; many are denied insurance or heath care programs, especially in private sector. Working conditions have been lowered, and collective food poisoning has been widespread.

    Just over a week ago, two hundreds of workers had been poisoned after having dinner in a company located in Ho Chi Minh City. Before that, on May 15, five hundred workers in Thanh Hoa province were poisoned as well because of drinking water provided by their employer. And these are just the known cases. Many similar cases must have happened in Viet Nam without being known and no one has been charged for that. The health and the lives of workers have been continuously threatened without any significant protection, especially from the Vietnamese government.

    Forced labor is another violation of labor rights. There are reports from former political prisoners on the exploitation of prisoners, using them to produce garments, furniture, and cashew nuts.

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    We understand that when found to be violating labor rights, Vietnam’s ruling party wants to pay fines rather than enduring increased tariffs.

    We also understand that by releasing Do Thi Minh Hanh early, the Vietnamese government just wants to pretend to the world that they are respecting labor rights.

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    I’ve been talking about bad faith and rights violations, but I’d like to end by noting that there is some hope. Facebook is hugely popular in Vietnam, connecting people; and there are dozens of NGOs who are actively protecting and promoting human rights. I know this because my group, VOICE, is in frequent contact with some such groups.

    So, on behalf of VOICE and democracy supporters in Viet Nam, I would love to say: Don’t have a trade agreement in which labor rights are not enforceable. My people aspire to economic prosperity, but it must hand in hand with liberty. Please be with us on our journey.

  • Man beaten to death after police traffic stop

    (VNRN) – A man, stopped by police for a sobriety check on June 25 in Ho Chi Minh City, insisted that a ticket be properly issued before they could seize his motorbike. Immediately after, two unknown assailants beat him up so badly he later died in the hospital, the Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper reported.

    Nguyen Van Chin, 44, died of internal injury to his vital organs including his small intestine. Before dying, however, he was able to tell his family what happened.

    Chin was on his way home after an office party around 11pm when he was stopped by a group of traffic police. They administered an alcohol test and decided to impound his motorbike.

    Chin, however, insisted that a ticket be issued so he could go pay the fine and retrieve his motorbike. As Chin and the police were still arguing, two men in plainsclothes came over, pull Chin out, and said they would get him his ticket.

    Instead, as they went into a dark alley, they beat him until he passed out.

    When Chin woke up, the traffic police was gone, so he crawled to the street and hailed a taxi to the hospital. The hospital staff then used his cell phone to call his family.

    He died around 1 am on the 27th.

    Instances of police killing civilians have happened so often they are becoming commonplace.

    A group of activists, led by blogger Me Nam (Mother Mushroom), has launched a “Stop Police Killing Civilians” campaign.

    Ironically, the group’s first public meeting, at a Human Rights Coffee, was broken up by the police and 3 of the participants were arrested.

  • Jailed labor rights activist released early

    (VNRN) – A Vietnamese labor rights activist was freed June 27 from a Hanoi prison after completing four of her 7-year sentence for organizing workers. Two other activists convicted at the same 2010 trial are still imprisoned.

    Do Thi Minh Hanh (Đỗ Thị Minh Hạnh), 29, was convicted of “disrupting security” for handing out leaflets in support of workers demanding better pay and conditions. Also convicted were Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung (Nguyễn Hoàng Quốc Hùng) and Doan Huy Chuong (Đoàn Huy Chương). Hung was sentenced to 9 years while Hanh and Chuong received 7 years each.

    Hanh’s release was sudden; her family was unaware until Hanh had left prison and called home. The family kept the news quiet until Hanh had arrived safely home in Di Linh province.

    Hung, Hanh, and Chuong were accused of organizing and leading a massive strike of 10,000 workers at the My Phong shoe factory in Tra Vinh, a coastal province in the Mekong Delta. The strikers were protesting excessive work hours, a cut in year-end pay, and abusive management.

    The police arrested Chuong, Hanh and Hung. Both Hanh and Hung accused the police of beating them. The appellate court in 2011 affirmed the three prison sentences.

    Hanh’s mother Tran Thi Ngoc Minh (Trần Thị Ngọc Minh) had been traveling throughout the U.S., Europe and Australia seeking international pressure to free her daughter.

  • Appeal court affirms prison sentence for blogger Truong Duy Nhat

    <- Police transport van arrives with blogger Truong Duy Nhat to the court of appeals in Da Nang. (Photo: huynhngocchenh.blogspot.de)

    (VNRN) - A lightning fast appellate hearing in Danang today affirmed the two-year sentence imposed on blogger Truong Duy Nhat (Trương Duy Nhất) for allegedly “abusing the rights of freedom” in writing his blog “Another Point of View” (Một Góc Nhìn Khác).

    Nhat’s wife and daughter were present in court, and were able to talk to him. His daughter brought home toys Nhat had made in prison for her.

    Several other friends, however, were not admitted to the hearing. They were told they had to have sought permission beforehand.

    Some of his friends had expected that he would be sentenced to time served and professed no surprise in seeing the appellate verdict.

    “I was just naive,” one of Nhat’s friend said. Friends say the appeal court made its decision after less than two hours of hearing.

    The prosecution was based on 12 specific entries on Nhat’s blog, dating from 2009 through 2013, in which he criticized the performances of top government and Party officials, including the Secretary-General and the Prime Minister.

    Nhat’s lawyer Tran Vu Hai (Trần Vũ Hải) asked the court to call the officials as witnesses, as the indictment alleges damages to the reputation of the officials. The court, however, refused.

    Nhat was convicted of violating Article 258 of the Vietnamese Penal Code, an ambiguous provision which makes it a crime to “abuse the rights to freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of belief, religion, assembly, association and other democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens.”

    In late 2013, a group of Vietnamese bloggers launched a “No 258″ campaign calling attention to the law’s vagueness and danger of arbitrarily using it to suppress legitimate free speech. Copies of the group’s petition were hand delivered to many diplomatic missions in Hanoi and subsequently several bloggers who did so were questioned by the police.

  • VIDEO + FULL TEXT: Independent civil society activists speak at UN Human Rights Council

    (VNRN) – Activists representing 10 civil society organizations spoke to the UN Human Rights Council on June 24 as part of the final meeting on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Vietnam’s records.

    Human rights lawyer Trinh Huu Long spoke on behalf of the activists present at the UNHRC plenary session, Dr. Nguyen Quang A (Nguyễn Quang A), an economist and activist; Pham Le Vuong Cac (Phạm Lê Vương Các), a blogger and independent journalist; and human rights lawyer Nguyen Thi Vy Hanh (Nguyễn Thị Vy Hạnh).

    The independent civil society organizations represented by the four activists are Civil Society Forum, the United Workers-Farmers Organization of Vietnam, the Association of Political & Religious Prisoners of Vietnam, the Brotherhood for Democracy, Bau Bi Tuong Than Association, No-UC FC of Hanoi, No-U FC of Saigon, the Hoa Hao Buddhist Church West branch, the Vietnam Path Movement, and VOICE. The statement read at the UNHRC was made in conjunction with CIVICUS, an international NGO with focus on citizen action and civil society, especially “where democracy and citizens’ freedom of association are threatened.”

    The full text of the statement follows.

    Thank you, Mr. President.

    CIVICUS presents this statement together with 10 civil society organizations in Vietnam. It is our first time speaking at the Council.

    But it has not been easy for us to be here. Some of our colleagues were stopped from attending this session. Others were warned not to attend.

    Specifically, members of our delegation who attended the last session in February have been subjected to harassment and interrogation since their return to Vietnam. Their passports have been confiscated and one member was severely beaten up. Reprisals are therefore real and continuing in Vietnam.

    Worse, the Vietnamese government continues to arrest and imprison voices of conscience. Voices like Tran Huynh Duy Thuc (Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức), the founder of the Vietnam Path Movement who was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment for daring to challenge the one-party rule. And human rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan (Lê Quốc Quân) who was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment and ordered to pay a fine of $100,000 US dollars on the false charge of ‘tax evasion’. All this despite the findings of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s that his detention is arbitrary and unlawful.

    Last month, blogger Anh Ba Sam (Anh Ba Sàm) was arrested for the crime of ‘abusing freedom and democracy’ while most significantly, Vietnam continues to detain Activist Bui Thi Minh Hang (Bùi Thị Minh Hằng) without trial, 6 days after Vietnam’s glowing report to this very Council on February 5 on its Universal Periodic Review progress.

    There are, in fact, hundreds of prisoners of conscience in Vietnam right now.

    Mr. President: Despite Vietnam’s joining the Council and the present UPR, the truth remains that Vietnam continues to violate international laws and in many instances, its own domestic laws.

    We therefore urge you and the Council to pay more attention to the ongoing abuses in Vietnam and to assist independent civil society organizations to determine our own destiny.

    Thank you very much.

Latest News

20th
September
07th
September
05th
September
27th
August
26th
August
25th
August
21st
August
17th
August
15th
August

What’s Happening with Us

1pixel[1]

VIDEO + FULL TEXT: Independent civil society activists speak at UN Human Rights Council

June 25th, 2014

(VNRN) – Activists representing 10 civil society organizations spoke to the UN Human Rights Council on June 24 as part of the final meeting on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Vietnam’s records. […]

LHQ

Vietnamese activists to attend UN human rights reporting session on Vietnam

June 20th, 2014

(VNRN) – Four civil society activists from Vietnam have arrived in Geneva to speak at the UPR session where final input will be provided and the UN Human Rights Council will complete […]

bien ban

FULL TEXT: Government harasses UPR civil society delegates

June 19th, 2014

(VNRN) – A coalition of 15 independent Vietnamese civil society organizations (CSOs) has made the following report to express their concern about the government’s reprisals against activists engaged in UN human rights mechanism. […]

Con Duong Viet Nam logo

Vietnam Path Movement marks 2nd anniversary

June 11th, 2014

The Vietnam Path Movement, one of Vietnam Right Now’s member organizations, celebrated two years of activities since a group of political prisoners, including some still incarcerated, called for its formation. On June […]

Say no violence

FULL TEXT: In wake of riots, Vietnam Path Movement urges restraint

May 15th, 2014

Following destructive riots that targeted Chinese-owned factories, the Vietnam Path Movement on May 13 urged restraint, reiterated the movement’s commitment to nonviolence and peaceful means, and called for the government and all […]

nguyen-huu-vinh-basam

Statement by The Vietnam Path Movement on the arrest of Nguyen Huu Vinh and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy

May 07th, 2014

The Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security on May 5, 2014 has once again applied Article 258 of the Vietnamese Penal Code to suppress opposite opinions through the arrest of Anh Ba Sam […]

Con Duong Viet Nam logo

Statement by the Vietnam Path Movement on the release of Nguyen Tien Trung and Vi Duc Hoi

April 13th, 2014

The Vietnam Path Movement has received news of activists Nguyen Tien Trung and Vi Duc Hoi being released from prison today following an order signed by Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang. We […]