DTD, RSF Hold Cyber Training Workshop in Southern Vietnam Despite Police Harassment

Vietnam activists attending cyber security training course in Vung Tau on Feb 20-22
Vietnam activists attending cyber security training course in Vung Tau on Feb 20-22

[themify_box style=”blue, announcement, rounded” ]As many as 27 social activists, political dissidents and human rights advocates, mostly from the southern region, attended the three-day workshop which was held in Saigon-Binh Chau resort in Xuyen Moc district, about 150 kilometers from Saigon.[/themify_box]

Defend the Defenders, February 23, 2016

Defend the Defenders (DTD), an independent human rights group in Vietnam, in collaboration with Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières -RSF), successfully organized a cyber training course in Vietnam’s southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau on February 20-22 despite constant harassment by the local police.

As many as 27 social activists, political dissidents and human rights advocates, mostly from the southern region, attended the three-day workshop which was held in Saigon-Binh Chau resort in Xuyen Moc district, about 150 kilometers from Saigon.

Among them are prominent political dissidents Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, bloggers Tran Bang, Huynh Ngoc Chenh and Le Anh Hung, former prisoners of conscience Duong Thi Tan, Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh, Luu Trong Kiet, Huynh Ngoc Tuan, Nguyen Van Rang, and human rights activists Nguyen Thi Nhung, Nguyen Ho Nhat Thanh, Hanh Nhan and others.

The course, instructed by IT expert Ton Phi, focused on basic cyber security knowledge which will help activists to protect themselves from computer viruses and government-based cyber attacks amid increasing political crackdown in Vietnam, where the communists vow to keep the country under a one-party regime and consider all independent civil society organizations as “reactionary groups”.

During the course, local authorities deployed a large number of police officers, officers from the Border Guards of the Vietnam People’s Army and militia to kept constant surveillance and caused harassment to participants.

Around 100 police officers and officers of the Borders Guards of the Vietnam People’s Army arrived at the resort early Saturday, putting the area at the highest security level, said one of the resort’s staff.

In the beginning, when the first meeting of the course was held in a rented conference room of the resort, police and army officers blocked the room. Later, a man who introduced himself as an officer from the province’s Department of Information and Communication, asked the course organizers about the content and permission. He ordered the course to be stopped, saying the organizers need to get approval first from his department.

The participants refused to suspend their workshop, saying their activities are not illegal and just focus on cyber security matters. They also refused to sign any administrative minutes prepared by the Department of Information and Communication despite threats made by security officers. They even invited authorities to take part in the training course.

Police rejected the invitation to attend the course but sent some officers to enter the room to keep watch and take pictures and videos.

Finally, police violently opened the conference room’s doors, charged in and ordered the participants to leave the room. Police also requested the hotel staff to cut off electricity of the room, and threatened to seize the projector, laptops and other equipment of the activists.

Police also ordered the hotel owners to terminate the renting contract of the conference room between the hotel and the course organizers. In response, the organizers decided to hold the remaining two meetings in one of their rented rooms in the resort.

However, police did not give up but continued to make troubles for the course. They ordered the hotel staff to request the activists not to gather in their rooms, and sent plainclothes officers to film the activists.

The activists strongly protested the police’s moves, saying the moves were illegal and disturbed them.

Police threatened to detain activists and charged them with causing public disorders but the activists replied that the police were the trouble-makers.

Police in Ba Ria-Vung Tau kept constant surveillance on the activists until they left the province in the afternoon of Monday.

This was the second training course on cyber security organized by DTD and RSF, a France-based international non-profit, non-governmental organization that promotes and defends freedom of information and freedom of the press.

The first course was held in the northern city of Haiphong in late July last year. It was also harassed by the local police.

Many participants said they found the course very useful for their online activities in the country which is considered as one of the biggest enemies of Internet, said Mr. Vu Quoc Ngu, an executive officer of Defend the Defenders.

Similar courses should be organized for other social activists in Vietnam, he added.