Trial against Australian Chau Van Kham and Two Local Activists Scheduled on November 11

Mr. Nguyen Van Vien

Defend the Defenders, November 2, 2019


Vietnam’s communist regime will try Australian citizen Chau Van Kham and two local activists named Nguyen Van Vien and Tran Van Quyen on allegation of “Terrorism to oppose the people’s government” under Article 113 of the country’s Criminal Code just because of their membership in the California-based Viet Tan (Vietnam Reform Party), Defend the Defenders has learned.

Mr. Tran Van Quyen

The trial will be carried out by the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City in its headquarters on November 11. Four other individuals will also be tried by the same court for “Fabricating an organization’s seal or documents and use” under Article 341 of the Criminal Code for helping Mr. Kham and others get fake identification documents.

Mr. Chau Van Kham

Mr. Kham, 65 and Mr. Vien, 48, were arrested on January 13 this year during their meeting in HCM City while Mr. Quyen, 20, was detained ten days later. In the beginning, they were charged with “conducting activities against the people’s government” under Article 109. However, the Police Department of HCM City changed their charge after finding no evidence to prove the initial allegation.

Three Saigon-based human rights lawyers Dang Dinh Manh, Nguyen Van Mien, and Trinh Vinh Phuc are among attorneys defending the trio in the upcoming trial. The activists face imprisonment of between 10 years and 15 years in prison if are convicted, according to the current Vietnamese law.

Mr. Kham is a senior member of Viet Tan which is labeled as a terrorist group by Vietnam’s communist regime. He has worked on promoting human rights and multi-party democracy in Vietnam. He reportedly used fake documents to enter Vietnam from Cambodia in early January and was arrested a few days later. During the visit of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to Hanoi on August 22-24 and the 16th annual Australia-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue on August 29, Human Rights Watch Australia urged the Australian government to address Vietnam’s human rights issues and raise questions about Mr. Kham.

Meanwhile, Mr. Vien is an environmentalist in Quang Nam province. He has been active in condemning the Taiwanese Formosa Company for discharging a large amount of industrial waste into Vietnam’s central coast and caused a devastating environmental disaster in the region in 2016. Due to his activism, he and his family have been under the persecution of the local government so he was forced to leave his home province to relocate to HCM City, the biggest economic hub in the Southeast Asian nation.

Vien is a member of the unregistered group Brotherhood for Democracy which is under severe persecution of the Vietnamese security forces with more than ten key members being jailed with lengthy sentences. He was said to join Viet Tan during meetings with Mr. Kham.

There is little information about Mr. Quyen with the exception that he became a member of Viet Tan a few years ago.

The arrests and the trial of the trio are part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on the local dissent amid increasing social dissatisfaction triggered by the failures of the communist regime to deal with the nation’s issues, including systemic corruption, widespread human rights abuse, serious environmental pollution and China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea).

Hundreds of political dissidents, social activists, human rights defenders, and Facebookers, as well as ordinary people, have been beaten, arrested and convicted of allegations mostly in the national security provisions of the Criminal Code in the past few years.

So far this year, 27 activists have been convicted and sentenced to a total 115 years and six months in prison and 20 years of probation in trumped-up cases and trials which failed to meet international standards of a fair trial.

Vietnam is holding at least 236 prisoners of conscience, including 28 activists in pre-trial detention, according to Defend the Defenders’ latest statistics.