One More Vietnamese Blogger Arrested amid Increasing Persecution against Local Dissent

Mr. Pham Van Diep upon arrest on Juen 29, 2019

Defend the Defenders, June 30, 2019


On June 29, authorities in Vietnam’s central province of Thanh Hoa arrested local resident Pham Van Diep, accusing him of “Making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of the country’s Penal Code.

The state media has reported that police carried out searching his private residence in Quang Tien ward, Sam Son city and confiscated a computer and a lot of documents related to his activities.

According to the province’s police investigation agency, he will be held in the next four months for investigation. During the investigation period, he will not be permitted to meet with his relatives and lawyers.

He is alleged of using Facebook to conduct anti-state propaganda and will face imprisonment of between five and 12 years if is convicted.

Mr. Diep studied his bachelor degree in Russia. He stayed for years there and obtained Russian nationality. Due to his online posts criticizing the Vietnamese government in various issues such as environmental pollution, weak response to China’s violations in the East Sea (South China Sea) and human right abuse, he was reportedly barred from coming back to his home country.

Once he was denied to enter in Vietnam when he arrived in Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi several years ago. He went to Laos and was arrested by the Lao security forces after distributing leftlets protesting the denial of the Vietnamese authorities. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison for “using the Lao territory to oppose its neighbor country.”

After being released, he came back to Thanh Hoa and lives with his parents.

The state media also reported that since March 2019, he has posted a number of articles and conducted many livestreams on Facebook to call for public demonstrations against Sam Son city’s plan to build a sea square.

Activists said he participated in the peaceful demonstration to protest two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security in Hanoi on June 10, 2018, and was detained by security forces for several hours.

He has been under constant harassment of police in Thanh Hoa province, who summoned him for interrogation many times in the past few years.

The arrest of Diep is part of the ongoing crackdown of the Vietnamese communist regime on local dissent. In the first half of this year, Vietnam has arrested at least 20 human rights defenders, social activists, and bloggers, mostly on allegations in the national security provisions of the Penal Code, and convicted nine activists with a total 50 years in prison and 17 years of probation.

Last week, Vietnam convicted four activists, sentencing them to between one and 12 years in prison.

Vietnam is holding at least 220 prisoners of conscience, according to the Defend the Defenders’ statistics while Amnesty International said the number is 128.