Released Vietnamese Protestors Under Great Pressure of Police

Pro-democracy activist Trinh Toan was hospitalized with damaged brain after being tortured by HCM City police on June 17


Defend the Defenders, June 24, 2018


Vietnam’s authorities continue to harass activists and ordinary people who participated in recent peaceful demonstrations.

Activist Truong Thi Ha, a law student in Ho Chi Minh City, told Defend the Defenders that her landlord requested her to leave to another place one day after she was released by police.

Ms. Ha suggested that police have pressured her landlord.

Ha was detained in the morning of June 17 in central HCM City. She was beaten, taken to Tao Dan Park where she was interrogated for hours  and beaten again before being released the next day.

Meanwhile, Pham Thi Thanh Truc (Facebook account Pham Truc), a student of the University of Economics Ho Chi Minh told that in custody, police tried to force her to confess that she had rallied for VND300,000 ($13) as a reward from “hostile forces”. They still held her ID card and cell phone and said she can only get back these items after signing a letter of confession and commits not to participate in any kinds of demonstrations.

Truc said she will never sign in such a document.

Police forcedHCM Cityresident, Hoai Diem,to deleteaFacebook posting in which she had described beingdetained in the morning of June 17 while walking in the city center afterwitnessingsecurity forces assaultdozens of detainees in Tao Dan Park. She said the reason she complied and deleted the post wasto protect her family, especially her small kids, implyingthat local authorities had threatened her to hide the evidence ofpolice brutality.

Trinh Toan and Nguyen Thanh Loan,two activists in HCM City,were arrested by plainclothes agents in the city’s center on the morning of June 17. They were also taken to the Tao Dan Park where they were beaten by police. Toan was taken in a closedroom where many policemen beat him until he collapsed on the ground. Several hours later, police took him to a hospital. Under the pressure of police, the hospital did not conductathoroughcheck-up. His wife was forced to transfer to the Viet-Phap Hospital with a hope for receiving better services, however, police followed and finally she took him to their private residence and asked private doctors to come to treat him.

Two days later, Loan went to the hospitals to get the results of the check-up but they refused to hand them over to her.

Toan was said to suffer severe injuries on his head. He feltgreat pain in his belly and was taken to a hospital. The results of scanning showed that he has a number of injuries in internal organs.

On June 17, security forces in HCM City arrested hundreds of activists, ordinary citizens and tourists and held them in the Tao Dan Park where most of them were beaten and interrogated. Police confiscated their cell phones, cameras and other items. Among detainees were ordinary people going to take a coffee in the Sunday’s morning.

Many activists and ordinary citizens have reported that they have never witnessed such brutality, especially from police forces.

Dissident blogger Pham Doan Trang reportedthat one of her friends was arrested a few seconds after leaving a cafeteria in District 1 in HCM City. Under-cover policemen detained him and sent him to the Tao Dan Park where he was beaten from 2PM until 8PM of June 17. He fell unconscious and when he wokeup, he noticed that he was at the emergency facility of a hospital under the authority of the Ministry of Public Security. The medical staff said he was brought by policemen who left shortly after coming. He had to persuade the staff that he hadno money for medical service and under police threat and asked them to lethim go home.

Around 500 activists, ordinary citizens and tourists were detained by security forces in HCM City on June 17. On that day, along with placing dozens of activists under house arrest, the city’s authorities sent thousands of riot police, police and plainclothes agents as well as militia to patrol main streets and corners in the city in a bid to prevent demonstrations. One week earlier, tens of thousands of activistsrallied in the city to protest the bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security. The country’s parliament delayed the vote of the first bill until its second National Assemblymeeting scheduled in October-November but passed the first bill which will take effecton January 1, 2019 with police gaining extensivepowersto silence online speech.

Meanwhile, authorities in the central province of Binh Thuan where the recent mass protests turned violent have prosecuted 34 local residents for causing public disturbance, destroying assets and obstructing people on public duty. Nguyen Minh Kha, a 18-year-old protestor who suffered serious injuries from police torture, is currently subject to an arrest warrant. He was said to be treated in a private medical facility in HCM City.

The mass arrest on June 17 is the second widespread suppression within a week. On June 10-12, police in Hanoi, HCM City, Binh Thuan and Danang violently dispersed peaceful protests and detained hundreds of demonstrators. Many had also been tortured but the police brutality was not as serious as it was on June 17, observers said, noting there was no big protests breaking out on that day, and many detainees were ordinary citizens and tourists who had no plan to participate in any protest.

On June 15, Human Rights Watch issued a statementcalling on Vietnam’s government to investigate and prosecute as appropriate any security personnel responsible for excessive use of force, arbitrary detention, or ill-treatment in custody in the wake of the protests. Any protesters being held unjustly should be freed, said the New York-based human rights organization.

One week later, Human Rights Watch urgedthe European Union’s trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström to raise human rights concerns at talks with Vietnamese Minister of Trade and Industry Tran Tuan Anh slated on June 25 about concluding a long negotiated EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement.Vietnam’s government is among the world’s most repressive so the EU has an opportunity to use its considerable bargaining power on behalf of the Vietnamese people, said Human Rights Watch.