Vietcombank Freezes Activist’s Account Due to Donations for Deceased Dong Tam Elderly Leader

Hanoi-based activist Nguyen Thuy Hanh

Defend the Defenders, January 17, 2020


Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam (Vietcombank), the largest commercial bank in communist-ruled Vietnam, has frozen a bank account of Hanoi-based activist Nguyen Thuy Hanh after she receives a large sum of donations for deceased elderly leader Le Dinh Kinh, who was killed by police in Hanoi on January 9.

On January 17, Mrs. Hanh went to the bank to withdraw the money gift for the family of the Dong Tam commune’s moral leader, the bank told her this account has been frozen. Asked for the reason, the bank refused the answer. It only gave her a copied document, showing VND525.45 million ($22,000) have been frozen.

Hanh, who is managing the 50K Fund for assisting prisoners of conscience and activists-at-risks, called on Vietnamese in the country and abroad to make donations for the family of Mr. Kinh after the deadly raid of Vietnam’s police on January 9 in which they killed him and destroyed his house. In addition, police arrested his two sons and two grandsons as well as his adopted daughter and charged them with “murder.”

After the call, Hanh has received more than thousands of small donations from Vietnamese across the globe. She had been placed in de facto house arrest for more than a week and plainclothes agents were deployed near her private residence in Hanoi until Friday.

Meanwhile, prominent dissident and political writer Pham Doan Trang has alerted that Vietnam’s security forces have been pressuring those people who had sent money support to Dong Tam villagers to admit that they are members of a certain political party when they provided “financial support” to Dong Tam villagers.

The police’s sinister goal is to try with all their might to create the existence of a group of terrorists in Dong Tam, and use that as an excuse to “attack, destroy the terrorists,” with aim to cover up their crime of having mounted a large-scale, organised attack against Dong Tam residents on January 9, said Trang, who has been among activists who established the “Dong Tam taskforce” to compile, verify and announce publicly all information relating to the police brutal attack in the location.

After Mrs. Hanh announced Vietcombank’s act, hundreds of activists have called for a boycott of the bank’s services and urged people to withdraw their money from the bank. They urged the bank to reconsider its decision in Mrs. Hanh’s case otherwise it will face a widespread boycott.

This is the second case of freezing activists’ accounts of Vietcombank. In 2015, it made the same act against prominent political dissident Nguyen Thanh Giang. However, it reopened his account after receiving a threat of boycotts of activists in the capital city at that time.

In response to the call for the boycott against Vietcombank, Deputy Minister of Public Security Luong Tam Quang said the bank’s move was requested by the ministry in a bid to deal with terrorism. He said many contributors to Mr. Kinh’s family have admitted that their donations are for purchasing weapons against Vietnam’s police.

On its website, the ministry has requested people not to send donations for Mr. Kinh’s family. It also admitted that it ordered Vietcombank to freeze the bank account of Mrs. Hanh.