April 11, 2016
Front Line Defenders | Apr 08, 2016
On 1 April 2016, human rights defender Mr Nguyen Cong Thu was severely beaten by a group of men while on his way to Long Dien A commune in Cho Moi district, An Giang province.
Nguyen Cong Thu is a news writer and web manager working for an online portal – Defend the Defenders. Defend the Defenders is a non-profit, independent organization reporting serious human rights violations and promoting human rights in Vietnam. Nguyen Cong Thu is a follower of Hoa Hao Buddhism, one of the major religions in Vietnam widely spread over the Mekong River Delta in the South of the country. When founded in 1939, the Hoa Hao Buddhist sect was primarily followed by peasants. Its members, therefore, traditionally encouraged the development of the agricultural sector of the economy, promoted social work and provided help for those in need.
On 1 April 2016, Nguyen Cong Thu was on his way to the house of his fiancée’s family, located in the Long Dien A commune when he was stopped by traffic police. A group of men, allegedly including plain-clothed police officers, attacked the human rights defender. Nguyen Cong Thu was severely beaten, causing serious injuries to his head, face and feet. The attackers insulted the human rights defender and threatened to kill him if he continues with his human rights activities, including those that promote the right to freedom of religion and belief. The chief police officer of the Long Dien A commune and one of the police officers from the Cho Moi district police department were allegedly among the attackers.
When Nguyen Cong Thu tried to escape the scene the attackers followed him to his own home in the My An commune. When informed of the attack, family members went to help and support the human rights defender. The attackers however did not allow them to take Nguyen Cong Thu to the local hospital, surrounding the house and blocking the road. The following day, the men retreated and the human rights defender was taken to hospital for the necessary medical treatment in Cho Moi district, An Giang province. Nguyen Cong Thu also had his motorcycle stolen by the attackers despite the protests of his family who were planning on using it as evidence in the attack.
The attack on Nguyen Cong Thu took place one day prior to the 79th anniversary of the death of the late leader Huynh Phu So of the Hoa Hao Buddhist sect who was assassinated by communists in 1947. Authorities in the Mekong Delta tightened security efforts during early April, barring many Hoa Hao followers from gathering to pray for their late leader.
Front Line Defenders is gravely concerned about the physical assault on Nguyen Cong Thu, which it believes to be directly linked to his peaceful and legitimate work in defence of human rights defenders and the freedom of religion in Vietnam.
Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Vietnam to:
1. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the attack on Nguyen Cong Thu, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
2. Provide the necessary medical treatment for injured human rights defender Nguyen Cong Thu;
3. Take all necessary measures to guarantee in the future the physical and psychological integrity and security of Nguyen Cong Thu;
4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Vietnam are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.