Despite US-Vietnam human rights dialogue, activists denied right to travel

Four human rights activists have been denied exit from the country on May 7, given the ongoing human rights dialogue in Hanoi between Vietnam and the United States. They were also contemporarily detained for interrogation and had their passport confiscated for “national security” reason.

Le Ba Huy Hao [Lê Bá Huy Hào, aka. Cuénot Lê] was stopped at Tan Son Nhat airport while his flight was due to depart for Bangkok at 11.15 am. Then he was taken to the airport’s police station for interrogation regarding “passport issue”. His companion, mrs. Nguyen Thi Nhung [Nguyễn Thị Nhung], mother of former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Phuong Uyen [Nguyễn Phương Uyên] was also denied exit from Vietnam, but unlike Le Ba Huy Hao, she was not questioned for hours.

Her daughter, female student Nguyen Phuong Uyen, was imprisoned for almost one year in 2012-13 for “conducting propaganda against the state” under Article 88 of the Vietnamese Penal Code.

Vu Xuan Ai [Vũ Xuân Ái], a high-rank police officer at the Tan Son Nhat airport, was famous to the HR activists' community for his words, "I am the law." Photo by Hoang Dung

Vu Xuan Ai [Vũ Xuân Ái], a high-rank police officer at the Tan Son Nhat airport, was famous to the HR activists’ community for his words, “I am the law.” Photo by Hoang Dung

At the Noi Bai airport in Hanoi, the police also prevented two other activists, Le Anh Hung [Lê Anh Hùng] and Maria Thuy Nguyen [Maria Thúy Nguyễn] from leaving the country, citing “national security” reason. Both of them had their passport confiscated and were released after several hours of interrogation.

In the two recent years, the Vietnamese authorities have been escalating in restricting citizens’ right to movement. At least 100 human rights activists are now on the police’s blacklist and denied exit from the country.

The Ministry of Public Security is in charge of immigration issues in Vietnam, and they have full authority to prevent any citizen from going abroad, even for such unclear and unexplicable reasons as “national security” or “at the request of local police.”