vietnam prisoners

BY , FEBRUARY 13, 2014 | Segment

Human Rights Watch announced Thursday that Vietnam was still bullying any and all opposition to its authoritarian, one-party communist rule.

According to Brad Adams, the Asia Director for the non-profit group, uniformed and plainclothes agents cut the Internet to and rifled through a home in the Dong Thap region, then imprisoned and interrogated the man who lives there — lawyer, author and advocate for democratic rights Nguyen Bac Truyen. He told Voice of America that he was grilled until being released the next morning about previous business dealings, but he and Human Rights Watch believe he was really being pressured (in the hours before his wedding no less) for continuing to be a public champion for human rights, despite just being released from prison for doing it.

They let him go, though, and went another route. In addition to his fiancee being questioned by authorities for three hours on the night Truyen was taken to police headquarters, they returned on February 11, and, according to Vietnamese bloggers, arrested hisd fiancé, Bui Thi Kim Phuong, and about 20 others who have been known to visit Truyen’s house. Three of them are still in custody on February 13.

“This looks like a shameful and personalized act of retaliation against human rights defenders,” said Adams. “Donors and other international actors who want to see reforms in Vietnam should publicly call for an immediate end to such blatantly abusive security force behavior. … Unless the authorities suddenly produce credible evidence of a criminal act by Nguyen Bac Truyen, their actions must be seen as a continuation of the unjustified targeting of human rights defenders for exercising their fundamental human rights.”

HRW said Truyen had just been released in 2010 from serving a three-and-a-half-year sentence for publishing documents in favor of having more than one party to stand behind. Even though pressure from party officials hadn’t ceased since his release, he started publicly resisting authoritative rule again early this month, like (gasp!) support of the release of Nguyen Huu Cau, who’s been imprisoned since 1982 for being an icon of an earlier push for something called freedom of political speech.

According to the U.S. Department of States’ Human Rights Report on Vietnam in 2012, “The most significant human rights problems in the country continued to be severe government restrictions on citizens’ political rights, particularly their right to change their government; increased measures to limit citizens’ civil liberties; and corruption in the judicial system and police.”

At least, according to Anthony Bourdain, they’ve got the food right. He says the nation is home to his pho-varite grub: “Not because I once ate a still-beating cobra heart there, but because the food’s great all over the country.”

If you can’t speak with your words, use your food.

[Photo credits: Getty Images]