February 23, 2015
Vietnam Human Right Defenders’ Weekly Feb 16-22: Chief-Editor of Nguoi Cao Tuoi Newspaper Dismissed and Probed
Activists visit former prisoners of conscience nationwide on the occasion of Lunar New Year festival or Tet.
Three land petitioners in the northern province of Bac Giang were beaten by local policemen when they went to the private house of the provincial People’s Committee chairman to demand for dialogue on their denouncement.
Blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh and land petitioners Nguyen Thi Be Hai from Dong Thap, Nguyen Thi Tri from Binh Duong and Ngo Thi Minh Uoc from Binh Duong will be brought before court in coming months.
And other interesting news
=========== Feb 16, 2015==========
Nguoi Cao Tuoi Newspaper Chief-Editor Dismissed, Probed
Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communication has dismissed Kim Quoc Hoa from the post chief-editor of the Nguoi Cao Tuoi (Elderly) newspaper while police investigation agency starts to probe him for allegation.
The newspaper had posted a number of articles which accused many high-ranking officials from taking bribery and corruption.
They Vow to Try My Husband: Blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh’s Wife
Mrs. Le Thi Minh Ha, wife of blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh (AnhBaSam) said she has filled the second petition to the Supreme People’s Procuracy asking for dropping all charges against her husband. However, it signed a decision on Feb 6 to send his case to the Supreme People’s Court.
The Vietnamese government has vowed to try her husband so there is a little chance for Mr. Vinh to be freed to spend Tet with his family, she noted.
Mr. Vinh, co-founder of AnhBaSam news website, was arrested in May last year and is probed for conducting activities “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens”.
He was allowed to visit his home shortly when his father died earlier this year.
Mrs Ha told BBC that she met him on Feb 11 on which he informed that he had sent a petition with over ten pages with his concerns during the past thirty years to authorities.
Vinh had not mentioned that he was kept together with criminal offenders who have acted dangerously and threatened him, she informed. Earlier, he complained to detention’s authorities that cell mates had often threatened him and affected his health conditions.
=================== Feb 17, 2015
RWB Condemns Vietnam’s Imprisoning Three Citizen-Journalists
The New York-based Reporters Without Borders has condemned the recent Vietnam’s sentencing of three citizen-journalists namely Le Thi Phuong Anh, Do Nam Trung and Pham Minh Vu and called for the immediately release of these activists.
“We strongly condemn the court’s verdict and call for the immediately release of these jailed citizen-journalists,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk three days after the People’s Court in Vietnam’s southern province of Dong Nai ruled that Anh, Trung and Vu abused democratic freedoms under Article 258 of the Criminal Code.
On Feb 12, the court found that the trio had 157 posts which “insulted the prestige of the state and Communist Party and undermined the trust of the people, especially workers, students and young people, in the Party,” and sentenced Anh, Trung and Vu to 12, 14 and 18 months in prison respectively.
The sentences were clearly unjust and violated freedom of information and expression, the RWB said.
Arrested while covering anti-Chinese demonstrations which were triggered by China’s illegal deployment of HYSY-981 oil rig in Vietnam’s central offshore in mid May, the trio was accused in connection with their Facebook posts about anti-Chinese protests and China’s violations of Vietnam’s territorial waters.
The issue often gives rise to accusations by members of the public that Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party is too lax with China. In its verdict, the court said the bloggers had used their Facebook account to “disseminate content (articles and photos) that incited and led to anti-state demonstrations.”
“These harsh sentences show that the Communist Party does not fear the consequences of its violations of fundamental freedoms and human rights. To put pressure on the authorities, we urge the international community to react and to demand the release of all bloggers and citizen-journalists imprisoned in Vietnam,” said Mr. Adams.
The authorities also confiscated two motorcycles, several mobile phones and cash from the bloggers, whose sentences reflect the increasingly tough line being taken by the authorities and their frequent use of article 258 to jail independent news providers.
The same article was used to strip the newspaper Nguoi Cao Tuoi (Elderly People) of its licence on Jan 7 and initiate proceedings against its editor, Kim Quoc Hoa, who is facing possible dismissal. Hoa has received threats from the highest government level in the past in connection with his coverage of corruption involving senior officials.
Vietnam, which is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, saw its situation deteriorate in 2014.
Three Land Petitioners Still Under Investigation on Charges on Article 88
Three land petitioners named Nguyen Thi Be Hai from Dong Thap, Nguyen Thi Tri from Binh Duong and Ngo Thi Minh Phuoc from Binh Phuoc are still being investigated on allegations of violating Article 88 of the country’s Criminal Code, said lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng, who has been hired by the trio’s families to protect them in the case.
However, Vietnam’s authorities have refused to grant defense certificate for him to present the trio, he informed, adding the reason is that the case is still under investigation.
Mrs. Hai, born in 1958, was arrested on July 7 for conducting anti-state activities under Article 88. Currently, she is held in Phan Dang Luu detention facility in Binh Thach district, Ho Chi Minh City.
Hai has sought justice for her family’s land for over the past 20 years. In 1984, authorities in Dong Thap took 1.4 hectares of her family and gave it to two communist families. In 1994, Hai’s family demanded for returning the land and the authorities agreed to compensate just VND400 for a square meter. Hai’s family did not agree and filed petitions to ask for reasonable compensation but their voices remained unanswered.
Tri and Phuoc were also arrested in the same period for land issues.
=========== Feb 19, 2015=====
Bac Giang Land Petitioners Beaten One Day Prior to New Year Eve
At 9 am of Feb 17, one day prior to the Lunar New Year’s Eve, land petitioners Nguyen Thi Luyen, Pham Thi Nhuong and Nguyen Thi Suot from Tan Uyen district, Bac Giang city went to the private house of the provincial People’s Committee chairman to ask peaceful dialogue on land issues.
The chairman refused to talk with them, and called local policemen to beat the trio and detained them to police station in Hoang Van Thu ward and then transferred them to authorities of the location where the trio lives. During their stay in the police station as well as during the way to home ward, the three females were beaten severely by policemen.
When Luyen and Suot rode by a motorbike to their houses, thugs stopped them and beat them brutally. Policemen brought them to a local hospital and left.
On the same time, Nhuong left police station and met militia, policemen and thugs who attacked her. She ran and police car caught her, brought her back to police station where she was beaten again. Finally she successfully ran into a private house and the owner provided her a shelter. With help of some youths, she returned her home without being beaten more.
Tet for Families of Prisoners of Consciences
Mr. Dang Thi Quynh Anh, a daughter of jailed activist Bui Thi Minh Hang, said this year her family misses Hang very much.
In late 2014, the People’s Court in the southern province of Dong Thap rejected appeals of Hang and upheld her 3-year sentence for bogus traffic allegation under Article 245 of the Criminal Code.
However, international human rights bodies said she was imprisoned because she voiced her dissent point of view.
Speaking with the VOA, Mrs. Anh said her family visited Hang whose health conditions have been improved.
The family expects international and domestic pressure on Vietnam’s communist government so her mother can be freed before the term ends.
Hang was arrested together with Nguyen Van Minh and Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh in February last year when they were on their way to visit former political prisoner Nguyen Bac Truyen in Lap Vo district in Dong Thap province.
Mrs. Bui Thi Kim Thuy, the wife of Minh, said she and her children cry too much when think of him.
While holding numerous political dissidents, Vietnam released on bait blogger Nguyen Quang Lap. His wife, Mrs. Ho Thi Hong, said her family is very pleased that Lap was allowed to spend Tet with his family.
FVPoC Representatives Visit with Three-Prisoner-of-Concern Hoa Hao Family
On Feb 20, the third day of the Lunar New Year festival or Tet, on behalf of the Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience (FVPoC), Mr. Pham Ba Hai from Saigon, and Mr. Vo Van Buu and Nguyen Thanh Phong from An Giang visited the family of Mr. Bui Van Trung in Phuoc Hoa village, Phuoc Hung commune, An Phu district in An Giang province.
The trio handed over a FVPoC’s present of VND2 million to Mr. Trung’s family.
Mr. Trung was arrested on Oct 30, 2012 and sentenced to 4 years in prison for conducting activities against on-duty state officers when they tried to break into his house to prevent Hoa Hao followers from gathering for the sect’s praying.
His son, Mr. Bui Van Tham recently completed his 30-month jail for similar charge while his son-in-law, Mr. Nguyen Van Minh is serving his 30-month sentence for bogus traffic allegation in the case involved land rights activist Bui Thi Minh Hang.
Cambodia Blocks Vietnamese from Seeking Asylum
According to Cambodian press, there were 38 Vietnamese Montagnards went to seek political asylum in the neighboring country in November last year. They are hiding at a forest in O’Yadaw district, Ratanakiri province.
After being informed, the Cambodia-based U.N.’s office of the High Commission of Human Rights (OHCHR) sent its representatives to Ratanakkiri to meet the refugees and bring them to Phnom Penh to wait for UN’s approval.
However, the efforts of the OHCHR met strong protest from Cambodian authorities. The representatives were not allowed by Cambodian authorities to meet the refugees in December.
Deputy head of police in Ratanakiri affirmed that he wants to cooperate with the OHCHR, however, the OHCHR needs approval from the Cambodian Internal Ministry.
While waiting for administrative procedure, OHCHR’s representatives have asked authorities in O’Yadaw district not to return Vietnamese refugees to their home country but send them to Ratanakkiri provincial authorities or the Cambodian Internal Ministry.