Another blogger arrested as repression intensifies

Nguyen Thanh Dung is being held on a charge used to silence government critics. Photo courtesy Tuoi Tre.

The Vietnamese government is continuing its campaign to silence independent voices, with the arrest of a 29-year-old
blogger in Thanh Hoa province south of the capital.

State media said that Nguyen Danh Dung had posted some 700 video clips defaming government officials on a variety of Youtube and Facebook accounts.

The latest arrest comes a few days after civil society organisations appealed to the international community about an intensifying climate of repression in Vietnam.

The twenty one signatories, representing religious, human rights and pro-democracy organisations, highlighted the “arbitrary detention” of a growing number of activists.

Dung was accused of curating videos from a number of websites deemed “hostile” by the authorities.

He is being held in custody while being investigated on a charge of “abusing democratic freedoms” to damage the interests of the state.

The charge is frequently used by the authorities to imprison bloggers who challenge Communist party policies.

“Although it is a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Vietnam not only disrespects human rights but has recently intensified its human rights persecution, worsening the state of human rights violation,” said the 21 groups, including the Civil Society Forum, the Brotherhood for Democracy, and independent chapters of the Cao Dai church and Hoa Hao Buddhist group.

Held in isolation

The statement, released on Human Rights Day on December 10, highlighted the case of the human rights lawyer and Christian activist, Nguyen Van Dai, who has been held in isolation since his arrest last December.

They also drew attention to the latest term of imprisonment for the land rights activist, Can Thi Theu, and the arrest of the prominent bloggers Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, known as Mother Mushroom, and Ho Hai, in the last two months.

In their statement, the political and civil society organisations accused authorities of mistreating prisoners of conscience, restricting the right of travel of former prisoners of conscience and systematically making their lives a misery.

They cited the case of the Lutheran pastor, Nguyen Cong Chinh, who was suddenly moved from An Phuoc camp in Binh Duong province to an undisclosed location.

Such tactics are used by the authorities to isolate prisoners from their relatives and supporters.

Pastor Chinh was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2011 for undermining national solidarity under Article 87 of the penal code.

Threats and intimidation

The Political and Religious Prisoners Friendship Association reported that they have the names of some 100 prisoners of conscience, and estimate that hundreds of other prisoners from ethnic minority groups in the Central Highlands and northern provinces are detained in camps for religious activities.

The statement’s signatories said government authorities also used threats and intimidation to harass rights advocates and bloggers, damaged their property and fired mainstream journalists who opposed the Communist party’s policies.

They also accused the government of destroying places of religious worship, including the Lien Tri Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City, and the Caodaist temple at Tuy An.

The groups called on the international community to pressurise the government to “unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience, annul detention systems for prisoners of conscience, stop acts of terrorism against rights activists, and respect freedom of speech and the press.”

“Vietnamese people must have rights to live, with all the human rights that are stipulated in the universal declaration of human rights,” they said.