Two Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience Arrested, Facing Criminal Charges

Mr. Truong Minh Tam was brutally beaten by plainclothes in August last year when he visited former political prisoner Tran Minh Nhat in Lam Dong
Mr. Truong Minh Tam (left) and Mr. Chu Manh Son were brutally beaten by plainclothes in August last year when he visited former political prisoner Tran Minh Nhat in Lam Dong

[themify_box style=”blue, announcement, rounded” ]Vietnam’s security forces have arrested two former prisoners of conscience Truong Minh Tam and Chu Manh Son when they were covering news on the environmental disaster in the central coastal region with the massive death of aquatic species in April[/themify_box]

By Vu Quoc Ngu, May 1, 2016

Vietnam’s security forces have arrested two former prisoners of conscience Truong Minh Tam and Chu Manh Son when they were covering news on the environmental disaster in the central coastal region with the massive death of aquatic species in April, state media has reported.

According to the Vietnam National Television (VTV)’s news on the evening of May 1, Mr. Tam was arrested while gathering information in areas near the Taiwanese Formosa steel plant.

Mr. Son, who works for local newswire GNsP, was detained while filming protestors against Formosa which is blamed for throwing untreated toxic waste into Vietnam’s sea, causing the en-mass death of fisheries in the four central provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue.

The two guys may face criminal charges as Vietnam’s communist government has sought someone to blame for recent instability in the Southeast Asian nation.

The police investigation agency will hold the two activists for maximum nine days and after that, they will officially make criminal charges or release them, according to the current law of detention.

Mr. Tam is a member of Vietnam Pathway Movement which works for enhancing multi-democracy and human rights in the country. In October 2014, he completed his one-year imprisonment for fabricated allegation of conducting financial fraud.

He was arrested on Oct 7, 2013 and was charged of conducting financial fraud but in fact, the trial was the revenge for his political activities as he actively participated in demonstration in 2011-2013 to protest China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea). Like other political cases, his trial and the appeal was with maximum security while his family and friends were not allowed to be in the courtroom

Tam said during interrogations, investigating officers always ignored about the allegation but asked him about his social activities. They offered some bargains but he strongly rejected. Later, they tried him at an “open hearing” on which security agents were filled the courtroom.

After the trial and the appeal, he was placed in Prison No. 5 of the Ministry of Public Security in Yen Dinh district in Thanh Hoa province. He spent 167 days in a special room where prisoners are treated like animals without basic human rights.

Tam was attacked and robbed by plainclothes agents two times after being released.

Meanwhile, Mr. Son was arrested on August 2, 2011 and charged of conducting anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of the Penal Code. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison and three years under house arrest. During the imprisonment, Son said he was treated inhumanely by prison’s authorities.

After being released in early 2014, Son has been harassed by authorities in his home province of Nghe An. He was severely attacked by plainclothes several times.

The Vietnamese government accuses Son of being member of the U.S.-based Viet Tan (Vietnam Reform Party), a pro-democracy organization but listed as terrorist group by the Vietnamese communists.

Vietnam’s government has intensified political crackdown against local political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders prior to the general election for the parliament scheduled on May 22.

In the last eight days of March, Vietnam imprisoned eight political dissidents, including prominent blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Ba Sam) and writer Nguyen Ngoc Gia. The government has also detained prominent human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha since December 16 last year without bringing them to court.

On May 1, security forces in Ho Chi Minh City and Danang barbarically assaulted many protestors and detained dozens of others during peaceful demonstrations against Formosa’s discharge of toxic chemicals which have polluted waters and killed hundreds of tons of aquatic species in Vietnam’s central coastal region. Thousands of activists, fishing farmers and traders have participated in protests in many localities in recent days, including in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Ha Tinh, Hue, Quang Binh and Quang Tri.

In the first half of April, the rubber stamp parliament in the 13th tenure elected the new leadership for the country in the next five years. A number of police generals were elected to the country’s leadership, including President Tran Dai Quang, Vice Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh and Chief of the Supreme People’s Court Nguyen Hoa Binh. Many police officers hold key positions in the ruling communist party, too.

Vietnamese communists vow to keep the country under a one-party regime.