Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for June 10-16, 2019: Many Protesters in Mid-June 2018 Still in Pre-trial Detention


Defend the Defenders| June 16, 2019

Vietnam’s communist regime is still holding dozens of protesters who participated in the mass demonstration in mid-June last year, according to Defend the Defenders’ statistics. While Huynh Duc Thanh Binh and Tran Long Phi will go to their trial on June 24-25 on allegation of subversion, nine others are still in pre-trial detention for investigation on a charge of disruption of security and the accusations against two others are not publicized. All of them have not been allowed to meet with their relatives and lawyers.

On June 13, security forces blocked well-known environmentalist Cao Vinh Thinh from taking an international flight to Bangkok. She was held in custody from early morning to the late evening of the same day. Police confiscated her passport.

Authorities in Ba Sao Prison Camp have placed four prisoners of conscience Le Dinh Luong, Le Thanh Tung, Phan Kim Khanh, and Nguyen Viet Dung in solitary cells as punishment for their demand for better prison conditions. The act was taken after the four imprisoned activists gather to talk about a petition requesting the prison to remove severe imprisonment conditions, including low-quality food, bad hygienic conditions, and hard forced works.

Plainclothes agents in Kim Bang district assaulted local 70-year-old activist Truong Minh Huong after he joined other activists and relatives of prisoners of conscience to pay regular visits to Ba Sao Prison camp on June 16. This is one of series of attacks carried out by police in Kim Bang district against Mr. Huong who bravely speaks out against systemic corruption and human rights abuse.

The mother of blogger Le Anh Hung has called on authorities in Hanoi to release him from an involuntary stay in a mental hospital, where she said he was forced to take medicine and is suffering “both mentally and physically.”

Many elderly prisoners of conscience belonging to An Dan Dai Dao Buddhist sect are suffering from severe diseases and their families have submitted petitions for suspension of their sentences on medical grounds. However, their requests have gone unanswered.

And other important news

===== June 10 =====

Vietnam Still Holds Dozens of Activists after Mass Demonstration in Mid-June 2018

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s communist regime is still holding dozens of activists who participated in peaceful demonstrations in mid-June last year to protest two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security.

Along with imprisoning more than 80 peaceful protesters with imprisonment terms of between eight months and 54 months, Vietnam’s security forces are holding around 20 others in pre-trial detention.

Mr. Le Quy Loc and Mr. Truong Huu Loc were arrested on June 11, 2018 and charged with “disruption of security” under Article 118 of the Penal Code. They are facing imprisonment of between seven and 15 years in prison if are convicted.

Security forces also arrested two young activists Huynh Duc Thanh Binh and Tran Long Phi and their Vietnamese American friend named Michael Minh Phuong Nguyen on July 7 on allegation of subversion. The first two participated in the mass protests in Ho Chi Minh City and Dong Nai province in June. Authorities planned to hold a trial for them on June 24-25. Mr. Huynh Duc Thinh, a former political prisoner and the father of Mr. Binh, will also be tried for misprision under Clause 1 of Article 390 of the same code.

In late August and early September last year, the security forces resumed their persecution against dissidents, arresting eight members of the unregistered group Hien Phap (Constitution) who actively participated in the mass protest in HCM City. While Mr. Le Minh The was sentenced to two years for “abusing democratic freedom” and Mr. Huynh Truong Ca was given five years and six months in prison for “conducting anti-state propaganda,” Ms. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hanh, Ms. Doan Thi Hong, Mr. Ho Van Cuong, Mr. Ngo Van Dung and Ms. Hoang Thi Thu Vang were charged with “disruption of security” and still waiting for their trials. Meanwhile, the charges against Mr. Tran Thanh Phuong and Mr. Do The Hoa were not announced. All of them have not been allowed to meet with their families and lawyers as police said the investigation against them continues.

Vietnam’s authoritarian regime continues its crackdown on local dissent, arresting at least 17 activists so far this year, including a brother and a sister Huynh Minh Tam and Huynh Thi To Nga in late February and college lecturer Nguyen Nang Tinh recently.

According to Defend the Defenders’ statistics, Vietnam is holding around 200 prisoners of conscience, 60 of them were sentenced to between 10 and 20 years and Mr. Phan Van Thu with life imprisonment.


Vietnam Blogger Le Anh Hung’s Mother Appeals for His Release from Mental Hospital

RFA: The mother of Vietnamese blogger Le Anh Hung has called on authorities in the communist state to release him from an involuntary stay in a mental hospital, where she said he was forced to take medicine and is suffering “both mentally and physically.”

Hung’s mother, Tran Thi Niem, wrote letters asking the police, procuracy and Central Psychiatric Hospital No. 1. to release him to the care of his family, she told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Wednesday.

“He’s in the worst situation right now, both mentally and physically. The police forced my son to take the medicine, saying my son must take the medicine, but he refused,” she said.

“If they think my son is guilty of something then try him, and if he’s innocent yet they think my son is sick, then release him and let me take my son back,” Niem wrote after her May 10 visit to her son at the Central Psychiatric Hospital No. 1. She revealed the contents of her letter only on Wednesday.

Niem said that Hung, who is in his mid-30s, had lost a lot of weight, and looked ragged, gaunt and depressed. She said he had undergone psychiatric assessment twice between October 2018 and April, without informing his family, and was then sent for treatment at the Central Psychiatric Hospital I.

During the first period of forced observation in October 2018, Hung had gone on a hunger strike, but was fed by prison authorities by force through his mouth and nose, a friend said on May 10. Hung was then sent back to the hospital from April 7 to April 22.

Le, a member of the online Brotherhood of Democracy advocacy group who had blogged for the Voice of America, was arrested in July 2018 on a charge of “abusing democratic freedoms” under Article 331 of Vietnam’s criminal code.

If convicted, he could serve up to seven years in prison.

According to New York-based Human Rights Watch, approximately 150 to 200 activists and bloggers are serving prison time in Vietnam for exercising their right to peaceful expression of their opinions.


Police Search Home of Jailed RFA Blogger Truong Duy Nhat in ‘Land Fraud’ Investigation

RFA: On Monday, the Ministry of Public Security said it has begun a criminal investigation into what it described as a fraudulent purchase of land by detained RFA blogger Truong Duy Nhat, on the same day searching his house in Danang city for evidence in the case, media and other sources said.

Nhat, a weekly contributor to RFA’s Vietnamese Service, disappeared in Bangkok in late January amid fears he was abducted by Vietnamese agents, and two months later was revealed to be in a Hanoi jail, in what legal experts have called a violation of Vietnam’s criminal procedure laws by the country’s police.

On March 25, Vietnam’s police ministry told reporters at a news conference that Nhat had been detained because of his involvement in a land corruption case at the newspaper where he used to be bureau chief in Danang in the 1990s.

While serving on the staff of Vietnam’s Dai Doan Ket newspaper, “Nhat took advantage of documents with the newspaper to buy public land without going through an auction,” the VnExpress newspaper said in a June 10 report.

The purchase had then resulted in “losses to the state exchequer,” the paper said.

Speaking to RFA on Monday, writer and family friend Pham Xuan Nguyen said that he had been informed by friends that police had searched Nhat’s house on Monday after presenting a warrant almost five months old.

“They came and read the search order. However, the order was signed on Jan. 16. And though Nhat was arrested on Jan. 28, for some reason they have waited till June 10 to carry out their search,” Nguyen said.

Lawyer blocked

Also speaking to RFA, Nhat’s attorney Tran Vu Hai confirmed that Nhat’s house had been searched, adding that he has so far been blocked from registering to represent the detained blogger in the state’s case against him.

“I have been following the procedure to register to represent Nhat, but have not heard any response yet,” Hai said. “I know that they just searched his house, but they already had a prosecution order written out and issued long before that.”

Delays in carrying out a search so long after an order has been given are unusual, Dang Dinh Manh, a Vietnamese attorney not involved in Nhat’s case, told RFA on Monday.

“Normally they would conduct a house search to find evidence related to the crime and the case at the same time that the order to prosecute is announced. It is unusual to issue a search order in January and then not carry that out until now,” he said.

It is also unusual to limit a defendant’s access to his lawyers in cases of economic crimes, Manh said.

“At first, people thought that [Nhat’s] case would be tied to national security concerns because of his support for democracy, but in cases of economic crimes there are usually no limits to access for lawyers or family members during the period of investigation.”

“So the investigative office is abusing their power in this case,” he said. “I think that lawyer Tran Vu Hai should definitely complain about this.”

===== June 12 =====

Soc Son District Police Detain Anti-BOT Activist Hue Nhu Again

Defend the Defenders: On June 11, police of Soc Son district, Hanoi detained anti-BOT activist Dang Thi Hue (Facebooker Huệ Như) and a driver named Bui Tien when they were at the Bac Thang Long-Noi Bai BOT toll booth.

They took them to the district police headquarters for questioning from 6 PM until 10.30 PM of the same day.

Ms. Hue told Defend the Defenders that police are seeking to charge her with criminal accusations in order to silence her.

This was the second detention of Ms. Hue within twenty days. In the first time on May 20, Ms. Hue was arrested by several police officers of Soc Son district also in the toll booth who kicked her at her stomach despite her warning that she was in her 5th week of pregnancy. In next days, she felt severe pain in her belly and after a medical examination, doctors told her that she suffered a miscarriage. She was forced to abort in order to save her life.

===== June 13 =====

Environmentalist Cao Vinh Thinh Barred from Traveling to Thailand

Defend the Defenders: Ms. Cao Vinh Thinh, who is a key member of an unregistered environmental group Green Trees, was stopped from taking an international flight to Thailand in the early morning of June 13.

Ms. Thinh was detained by security officers in Noi Bai International Airport at 7.30 AM of Thursday while trying to check in for her flight to Bangkok.

She was taken to a police station for interrogation and released in the late evening of the same day. Police confiscated her passport, taking national security for an excuse.

This is the second time Thinh was detained by the police within three months. The first time was on March 27, 2019. At that time, Thinh’s laptop and phone were confiscated while she was questioned about the movie named “Do not be afraid” which was produced by Green Trees.


One More Facebooker Fined for “Defaming Leaders”

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in the southern province of Tra Vinh have decided to impose an administrative fine of VND7.5 million ($320) for his Facebook posts which were considered as defaming the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam.

Mr. Nguyen Van Vu was said to have posted a status saying communists are a bunch of stupid and greed people, they are leading so their children will also be.”

Mr. Vu is among many Facebookers who have been punished for their Facebook posts which are defaming the communists and their party.

In mid- May, authorities in Tinh Gia district, Thanh Hoa province imposed administrative fines of VND30 million on four local residents for the same reasons.

===== June 14 =====

Jailed Vietnamese Environmental Activists ‘Seriously Ill,’ Says Wife of Group Leader

RFA: Elderly members of an environmental protection group jailed in 2013 in Vietnam on charges of plotting to overthrow the government are “seriously ill,” according to the wife of the group’s leader, who called for international support, saying requests to suspend their sentences on medical grounds have gone unanswered.

Twenty-two members of the Buddhist sect named An Dan Dai Dao, which was based in the central coastal province of Phu Yen, went on trial on Jan. 28, 2013, with group leader Phan Van Thu—also known as Tran Cong—later sentenced to life in prison and 20 others handed terms of between 10 and 17 years under Article 79 of Vietnam’s penal code.

Thu, who turns 71 next week, is now very ill and his health is getting worse, his wife Vo Than Thuy told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Friday, saying she had visited him in prison on June 1.

“He said he was sick and when he talked, he coughed a lot,” she said.

“I brought many kinds of medication for him, as per his instruction when he was permitted to phone home, including for a cough, allergies, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. He suffers from many diseases and he is old now.”

Thuy told RFA that Thu’s family had repeatedly applied for a suspension of his sentence on medical grounds over the years since his trial, but he was only sent to a hospital for examination once in April last year, and afterwards prison authorities said his condition did not warrant release.

“The family has petitioned many times, even to the offices of the central government … but no one cared about the case,” she said.

“My journey of petitioning has left me exhausted.”

Thuy said that families of the 22 prisoners began sending appeals to the international community in December last year because authorities have failed to respond to their applications for medical parole.

“We have to appeal to the international community to assist in this case,” she said.

“Relatives of prisoners of the Bia Son group also filed grievances in the hope that international human rights organizations will speak out on their behalf.”

In addition to Thu, another jailed member of the group, Doan Dinh Nam, is receiving dialysis for kidney disease under police supervision at a hospital in Vietnam’s southern port city of Vung Tau, she said.

Group members say they had worked only to protect the environment and to teach and practice their faith as followers of the An Dan Dai Dao Buddhist sect founded by Thu in 1969.

According to state media, the group had built up their numbers while pretending to operate an ecotourism site in Phu Yen province and had been distributing anti-government documents before their arrest in February 2012.


ILO welcomes Viet Nam’s vote to ratify ILO fundamental convention on collective bargaining

ILO News: The International Labour Organization (ILO) has congratulated Viet Nam on its important decision to ratify one of the organization’s fundamental conventions to promote collective bargaining.

On 14 June, all of the 452 National Assembly deputies present at the session voted yes to the Government’ dossier for ratification of ILO Convention 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining .

Convention 98 is one of the eight ILO core conventions under the ILO’s 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work , which covers: freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour; the effective abolition of child labour; and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. All ILO member states should respect and apply the principles under the 1998 Declaration.

“We congratulate Viet Nam on ratifying Convention 98. Not only is this a fundamental right, but also an enabling right that facilitates the achievement of many other labour protections”, said the ILO’s Deputy Director-General for Policy, Deborah Greenfield.

Adopted in 1949, Convention 98 has three major components to ensure that collective bargaining between workers and employers can take place in an effective manner. They include protection of workers and trade union officers against employers’ acts of discrimination at work, guarantees for workers’ and employers’ organizations to be free from interference or dominance from each other, and requirement of institutional and legal measures provided by the State to promote collective bargaining.

One significant change Viet Nam will need to make to be in line with this convention is to move away from the current prevalent situation where grassroots trade unions are dominated by management. “In many factories, it is not hard to find a senior manager or human resources manager acting also as the trade union chair,” said ILO Viet Nam Director, Chang-Hee Lee. “Making unions independent from dominance or interference of the management is a key to building harmonious, stable and progressive industrial relations for sustainable development.”

He went on to say Vietnamese workers, trade unions and employers have already proven their will and capacity for genuine collective bargaining, as shown in the recent breakthrough development of multi-employers’ collective bargaining in the electronics industry in Hai Phong, the tourism industry in Da Nang, and furniture industry in Binh Duong.

“The ratification of Convention 98 will accelerate the spread of genuine collective bargaining for win-win solutions at Vietnamese workplaces, which is likely to result in better working conditions, higher productivity and shared prosperity, contributing to sustainable development,” he added.

The ILO’s eight core conventions, including Convention 98, under the fundamental principles and rights at work, have become a central part of the new generation of free trade agreements, including the CPPTPP (The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) and the FTA between the EU and Viet Nam, as well as most of corporate socially responsible policies of multi-national enterprises.

Convention 98 is the sixth fundamental conventions Viet Nam has ratified. They also include Convention 29 on forced labour, Conventions 100 and 111 on non-discrimination, and Conventions 138 and 182 on child labour.

For the remaining two conventions, Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Dao Ngoc Dung said Viet Nam will also work on the preparation to ratify Convention 105 on forced labour by 2020 and Convention 87 on freedom of association by 2023.

===== June 16 =====

Four PoCs in Ba Sao Prison Camp Placed in Solitary Cells after Protesting Severe Conditions

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Ba Sao Prison Camp have placed four prisoners of conscience Le Dinh Luong, Le Thanh Tung, Phan Kim Khanh and Nguyen Viet Dung in solitary cells as punishment for their demand for better prison conditions.

According to their families, they were disciplined after gathering to talk about a petition requesting the prison to remove severe imprisonment conditions, including low-quality food, bad hygienic conditions, and hard forced works.

Instead of listening to them, the prison’s authorities decided to punish them, holding them in tied close cells and not permitting them to receive food and stuff suplements from their families. The punishment includes not to allow them to make phone calls to their relatives.

Mr. Luong and Mr. Tung were convicted of subversion with respective imprisonments of 20 years and 12 years while Mr. Khanh and Mr. Dung were found guilty of “conducting anti-state propaganda” with the same imprisonment of six years.


Plainclothes Agents in Ha Nam Assault Local Activist Truong Minh Huong

 Defend the Defenders: Plainclothes agents in Ha Nam province brutally beat local activist Truong Minh Huong at noon of Sunday (June 16), causing severe injuries on his body, the victim told Defend the Defenders.

In the morning, Mr. Truong joined other activists from Bau Bi Solidarity to accompany families of prisoners of conscience to pay regular visits to Ba Sao Prison camp. After the lunch, Mr. Huong left for his private residence in Ba Sao commune, Kim Bang district.

On his way, he was attacked by a group of five or six plainclothes agents who stopped his motorbike and started to punch and kick him. They also used his helmet to beat him.

As other activists came to the scence, the attackers left and ran away. He suffered from a number of injuries on his body.

Huong, 70, is a land petitioner whose land was confiscated by authorities in Kim Bang district without being paid adequately. Later, he became an activist fighting for multi-party democracy and human rights and helping other victims of justice miscarriage.

He has been under constant harassment of the local police who often place him under de facto house arrest or attack his house with stones and bricks. He was assaulted many times, including the attacks in 2014 and 2016.

Ba Sao Prison camp is holding many prisoners of conscience, including Le Dinh Luong, Le Thanh Tung, Pham Van Troi, Phan Kim Khanh, and Nguyen Viet Dung.