Pro-democracy Activist Nguyen Van Thanh Detained, Charged of Rape in Unclear Circumstance

Activist Nguyen Van Thanh (left) and his fellow Nguyen Thuy Hanh

Defend the Defenders, October 13, 2019


Authorities in Vietnam’s central province of Quang Binh have kidnapped local pro-democracy activist and tried to charge him with “rape of a person under 16 years old” under Article 142 of the country’s 2015 Criminal Code in a case that many dissidents consider as a trumped-up allegation in a bid to silence him.

Arrest warrant issued by the Ba Don town police

Businessman Thanh, 29, was reported missing in the afternoon of October 10 after he informed his family that he went outside to meet with a client for his house repair business. His family couldn’t contact him from early evening of the same day, fearing he may get trouble. One day later, the police in Ba Don town announced that they arrested him and publicized the arrest warrant on allegation of raping dated October 11.

It is likely Thanh will be held for months and no wonder if authorities in Quang Binh will change their charge against him into one of the allegations in the National Security provisions in the Criminal Code, like in other trumped-up cases in the past such as with political dissident Cu Huy Ha Vu and environmentalist Nguyen Nam Phong.

Thanh is a member of the unregistered group Brotherhood for Democracy which is suffering seriously from Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on the local dissent with ten members being imprisoned for their peaceful activities.

In recent years, Thanh has reportedly worked against local corruption and high unofficial fees imposed by local schools. He has also voiced against the Taiwan-invested Formosa Steel Plant which discharged its industrial waste into the sea and caused the environmental disaster in Vietnam’s central coast in 2016 with hundreds of tons of fisheries died along the 200-kilometer line.

Due to his peaceful activities, he has been harassed by the local authorities who try to block his economic activities. He was detained several times for questioning.

Vietnam is intensifying its crackdown on the local dissent, arresting two dozens of activists so far this year. The communist regime has also convicted 23 bloggers, Facebookers and anti-corruption activists for their peaceful activities to a total 106.5 years in prison and 20 years of probation. A number of activists are held in pre-trial detention.