Vietnam Human Rights Defenders Weekly August 08-14, 2016: Many Vietnamese Activists Detained after Attending Regional Conferences on Freedom of Religion and Belief

Vietnam Human Rights Defenders Weekly, August 14, 2016

dtd

Vietnam’s security forces have detained a number of activists who returned from Timor Leste where they attended regional conferences on freedom of religions and beliefs as well as ASEAN People’s Forum.

Mr. Tran Ngoc Suong, Mr. Tran Ngoc Huynh, Ms. Vo Thi Kim Van and two other members of the Vietnam Independent Civil Society Organizations Network (VICSON) and independent researcher on East Sea (South China Sea) issues Dinh Kim Phuc were detained and interrogated by security officers for hours when they arrived in Ho Chi Minh City’s Son Nhat International Airport and the Moc Bai International Border Gate in the southern province of Tay Ninh this week.

As many as 46 Vietnamese activists, including 17 from the country, attended the conferences organized by Southeast Asian and international human rights NGOs in the capital city of Dili.

On August 13, four bloggers led by well-known human rights activist Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh were brutally attacked by unknown individuals while they tried to cover news on environmental dispute in the central province of Khanh Hoa. The assault occurred one day after the local authorities violently suppressed Ninh Ich villagers when they held demonstration to demand suspension of a waste treatment plant due to its pollution which affects the villagers’ health.

On Monday, police in Ho Chi Minh City detained a local activist because he worn a T-shirt with a human rights logo. While in police custody, activist Nguyen Lam Hoang Bao was beaten by uniformed officers and plainclothes agents.

Security forces in the central province of Nghe An continue harassing former prisoner of conscience Ho Thi Bich Khuong, whose son received serious injuries due to a traffic accident which was believed to be caused by plainclothes agents.

And many other important news

===== August 08 =====

Vietnamese Former Prisoner of Conscience Harassed While in Hospital for Medical Treatment

Defend the Defenders: Security officers in Vietnam’s central province of Nghe An have harassed and intimidated former prisoner of conscience Ho Thi Bich Khuong when she went to a local hospital for medical treatment for her and her son, who was severely beaten by what many believed to be local plainclothes one month ago.

Ms. Khuong, who is also a land rights activist, contacted Defend the Defenders by telephone on the morning of August 8 to report her dangerous situation. She said she brought her son, Nguyen Trung Duc to the Orthopedics hospital in Vinh city for medical check-up to prepare for surgery as he has not yet recovered from the attack last month.

Khuong said she also plans to go to another hospital to treat some health problems resulting from hash and unsanitary conditions during her imprisonment a year ago.

When she was resting in a waiting hall in the hospital, a policeman in plainclothes asked her to follow him to a police station. The man whom Khuong recognized as the provincial security officer called for support from others when he met strong objection from the activist.

When Khuong called to a staff of Defend the Defenders to report her situation, the policeman demanded a bodyguard in the hospital to expel her out of the hall. Khuong refused to leave, saying no body has rights to force her to leaves the hospital when she comes for medical treatment.

Plainclothes agents continued to follow her when she was inside the hospital.

Meanwhile, her son still needs further medical treatment for the injuries on his head and arm. On July 13, when he was driving his motorbike in Nam Dan district, two men riding parallel to him on another motorbike cut across him, causing him to lose control of the vehicle.  Duc fell to the ground and was knocked unconscious. He woke a short time later covered in blood.

Duc made his way to hospital where he received dozens of stitches to close a deep wound running 15cm along the top of his head and a 10cm wound running along his upper right arm.

Ms. Khuong, a member of the Vietnam Independent Civil Society Organizations Network (VICSON), has been under constant surveillance and harassment of authorities in Nghe An after being released in mid-January this year.

In 2011, she was arrested and charged with anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of the Penal Code. Later, she was sentenced to five years in prison and additional three years under house arrest. She was imprisoned twice before for a total of 30 months.

Vietnam has applied a number of controversial articles such as 79, 88, 245 and 258 of the Penal Code to silence government’s critics, social activists and human rights defenders.

Security forces in Nghe An have harassed, intimidated and persecuted many activists. One of their tactics is using plainclothes agents to assault activists, causing severe injuries. Their victims included human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and his assistants in December last year, and eight members of the pro-democracy Brotherhood of Democracy on July 9.

Meanwhile, local activists reported that on August 6, police in Nghe An detained two activists Thai Van Phap and Tran Thi Hien from Yen Thanh district for hours when they returned from La Nham parish.  During the detention, police officers beat the duo, causing many injuries on their heads and bodies.

http://www.vietnamhumanrightsdefenders.net/2016/08/08/vietnamese-former-prisoner-of-conscience-harassed-while-in-hospital-for-medical-treatment/

——————

Saigon-based Activist Detained, Beaten for Wearing T-shirt

with Human Rights Logo

Defend the Defenders: On August 8, Nguyen Lam Hoang Bao, an activist in Ho Chi Minh City, was detained and brutally beaten by local police for wearing a T-shirt with a human rights logo, the victim said.

In late evening of Monday, Bao, 23, was held by traffic policemen when he was riding his motorbike on street of Ward 3, District 6. Policemen stopped him for administrative checking and did not find violations committed by the activist.

When Bao used his smart phone to film, the traffic policemen got angry. They recognized the human rights logo on his t-shirt and called other police officers to arrest him.

Four friends of Bao came to support him and police officers violently took two of their smart phones.

Bao was brought to the police station in Ward 3 where he was beaten by uniform and plainclothes police officers. Police also confiscated his ID and one smart phone.

The activist was held in the police station until the noon of the next day. Police also returned his ID and phones.

Bao told the Defend the Defenders that he still feels pain in his head and face four days after the incident.

This is the third detention of Bao by the police in HCMC since February, and in two cases, he was beaten by police.

In February, he came to support land petitioners who gathered in a park in HCMC to protest the illegal seizure of their land by authorities in their localities. While trying to prevent the police from suppressing the land petitioners, he was knocked down by police officers and later detained for 14 hours in police custody.

In May-June, Bao attended a number of peaceful demonstrations in HCMC against the Taiwanese Formosa steel plant which caused the environmental catastrophe in the central region that killed hundreds of tons of fish in April-May. He was detained for 12 hours in police station without being tortured in June.

Vietnam’s government strives to prevent spontaneous demonstrations and orders the security forces to suppress, intimidate and persecute local political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders.

Vietnam’s government has applied a number of controversial Penal Code articles such as 79, 87, 88, 89, and 258 to silence local political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders. In addition, police arbitrarily detain and torture many activists or intimidate and assault them on streets.

In the first seven months in 2016, before and after the 12th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam in late February, hundreds of activists were detained, beaten and suffered other kinds.

There were 17 cases in which dozens of Vietnamese activists were brutally beaten by police officers and plainclothes in police stations or on street between January 1 and July 18. Due to these attacks, many activists suffered from serious injuries and needed medical treatment and recovery.

In May-June, police in HCMC detained hundreds of anti-Formosa activists and kept them in a facility for holding drug addicts and sex workers for several days. Many of them complained that they were beaten or badly treated by police officers during detention.

===== August 9 =====

Vietnam to Try Two Activists in August, Charging Them with Conducting Anti-state Propaganda

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s central coastal province of Khanh Hoa will bring to court two online activists Nguyen Huu Quoc Duy and Nguyen Huu Thien An in August for allegation of conducting anti-state activities under Article 88 of the country’s Penal Code, according to their families and lawyers.

Mr. Duy, born in 1985 and a resident of Cam Ranh city, was arrested on November 27, 2015 for posting articles on his Facebook page criticizing policies of the Vietnamese government while his cousin An was detained on August 28, 2015 for drawing letter DMCS (stands for F*ck communism) on a wall of the Vinh Phuoc ward police building and supporting a pro-democracy campaign Zoombie of Vietnamese activists.

According to the police’s information provided to the family, Duy was also accused of using Facebook messenger to provide “incorrect information about state leaders” to 30 school students.

If convicted in two separate trials, Duy and An may face imprisonment of between three and 20 years in prison, according to the Penal Code.

Mrs. Nguyen Thi Nay, the mother of Duy, said the local police provided a warrant two weeks after the arrest, and the family has not been allowed to visit him in detention.

Currently, Duy is held in Song Lo detention facility in Nha Trang city.

During the investigation period, Duy was kept in Ninh Hoa detention facility, 45 kilometers from Nha Trang city. His family had not permitted to provide food supply for him directly but left the supply in the province’s police headquarters so the supply was handed over to him 19 days later, making some food to decay.

Before being arrested, between August 30 and September 11, 2015, Duy was summoned many times to local police who demanded him to stop sharing “anti-state articles”, according to a police’s letter sent to his family.

The family has invited lawyers Vo An Don and Nguyen Kha Thanh to defend them in upcoming trials.

Vietnam’s communist government has used many controversial articles 79, 88, 245, and 258 to silence local government critics, social activists and human rights defenders.

The government detained human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha on December 16 last year, accusing them of conducting anti-state propaganda under Articles 88. The two activists are still held in the Hanoi-based B14 detention facility. It is unclear when Hanoi will bring them to court.

In the first half of 2016, Vietnam convicted at least 12 activists, including prominent bloggers Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Ba Sam) and Nguyen Dinh Ngoc (aka Nguyen Ngoc Gia), and sentenced them to long prison terms simply for exercising their basic rights enshrined in Vietnam’s 2013 Constitution.

According to the London-based Amnesty International, Vietnam is holding at least 88 prisoners of conscience while the New York-based Human Rights Watch said that the Southeast Asian nation is imprisoning Vietnam is imprisoning around 100 other activists who are behind bars for exercising their rights, including Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Ngo Hao, Dang Xuan Dieu, Ho Duc Hoa, Nguyen Dang Minh Man, Nguyen Cong Chinh, Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung, and Doan Huy Chuong.

===== August 10 =====

Report on Religious Freedom in Vietnam for 2015

U.S. Department of State: The Vietnamese Committee for Religious Affairs released a draft of the “Law on Religion and Belief” for public comment in April 2015. Despite representations by Vietnamese officials that the new law would begin to bring the country into compliance with its international obligations, the draft law appeared to make only minimal changes to the deeply problematic current regulations on religion. Several representatives of religious communities have asserted that a “bad” draft law would be worse than keeping the current, less formal patchwork of regulations. Others have argued the draft law, while imperfect, will legally “lock in” certain limited rights, such as the right of religious groups to rent property, hold events, or ordain clergy. Subsequent drafts have made some encouraging improvements, but many concerning issues remain unaddressed.

Despite ongoing challenges in Vietnam, most leaders of religious groups agree that religious freedom is gradually expanding in Vietnam. The government is gradually expanding national-level recognition of religious organizations (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is one recent example), and, in provinces with cooperative local authorities, expanding local church registrations. Unregistered organizations reported fewer problems conducting their operations, particularly in major cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Full Report on Vietnam

International Religious Freedom Report for 2015

——————–

Vietnamese, Taiwanese Environmentalists Hold Anti-Formosa Demonstration in Taipei

Defend the Defenders: On August 10, around 100 environmentalists from Vietnam and Taiwan held a demonstration outside the headquarters of Taiwanese Formosa Plastic Group in Taipei, calling the conglomerate to leave Vietnam after causing an environmental disaster which has affected hundreds of people in Vietnam’s central coastal region, foreign media has reported.

The demonstrators chanted “Formosa: out of Vietnam” and “We want the truth”, demanding the Taiwanese company to clean the environment in Vietnam’s central region and provide sufficient compensation for local people affected by the firm’s discharge of tons of very toxic industrial waste in sea water in the region and other localities before withdrawing its businesses from the Southeast Asian nation, Reuters and AFP reported Wednesday.

Protesters also criticized what they saw as a lack of transparency in the Vietnamese government’s handling of the matter, urging Formosa to disclose the investigation report on the pollution and ensure that victims are sufficiently compensated.

“Formosa is not the only party in this incident. The Vietnamese authorities need to demonstrate greater transparency and release its investigative report,” U.S.-based activist Duy Hoang was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Due to the dumping of toxic chemicals by Formosa steel plant in Vietnam’s central province of Ha Tinh, hundreds tons of fish died in the coast of four provinces Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue in April-May.

Vietnam’s social networks have reported that many people had suffered from water pollution and contaminated fish and some of them died, however, the state-run media has remained silent while no official information from the government was available.

In late June, the Vietnamese government said that the $10.6 billion steel project allowed toxic waste to enter the sea in one of Vietnam’s biggest environmental disasters. Formosa, one of the communist country’s biggest investors, admitted its steel plant caused massive fish deaths along a 200 km stretch of coastline in April and pledged a compensation of $500 million.

The pollution caused by Formosa steel plant has caused widespread anger among Vietnam’s public. Thousands of them have rallied in streets since early May. In response, Vietnam’s government has deployed the security forces to violently suppress local activists, many of them have been detained, beaten, intimidated and persecuted.

The Formosa steel plant continues its operations, said some Vietnamese activists.

Activists demand Formosa Plastics Group shut steel unit in Vietnam

Anti-pollution protesters demand Taiwan’s Formosa quit Vietnam

===== August 11, 2016 =====

Viet Nam: Imprisonment of asylum seeker forcibly returned by Australia would be unlawful and could be disastrous for her four young children

Amnesty International: The imminent imprisonment of Trần Thị Thanh Loan, an asylum seeker forcibly returned by Australia with her husband and four children in March 2015, would be a callous and perverse punishment for the exercise of her right to seek asylum, Amnesty International has said. Additionally, it would have dire consequences for her four young children, aged between four and twelve. Loan’s imprisonment for attempting to flee the country to seek asylum in Australia would follow the equally unacceptable imprisonment of her husband earlier this year for the same offence.

Loan and her husband, Hồ Trung Lợi, together with their four children, were among 46 people who fled Viet Nam by boat in March 2015, trying to seek asylum in Australia. The boat the group was travelling in was intercepted by the Australian authorities who forcibly returned the 46 passengers to Viet Nam in April 2015.

Despite assurances to the passengers from the Australian and Vietnamese authorities that they would not be sent to prison after being returned to Viet Nam, the couple were among four handed jail sentences after being convicted under Article 275 of the Penal Code, of ‘Organizing and/or coercing other persons to flee abroad or to stay abroad illegally’, in April 2016. Loan was sentenced to three years in prison, whereas Hồ received a two year prison sentence. The two others, Nguyễn Thị Liên and Nguyễn Văn Hải, were sentenced to three and two years’ imprisonment respectively.

While Hồ Trung Lợi has been in prison since July 2015, Trần Thị Thanh Loan remained on bail pending her appeal. On Monday 8 August, Loan received notification that her appeal, which was considered in June, had been denied and that she had seven days to report to her local police station in La Gi village, Bình Thuận Province, to be taken to prison. The seven day period expires on 15 August 2016.

Loan and Hồ, together with Nguyễn Thị Liên and Nguyễn Văn Hải, were convicted for exercising an internationally protected human right; they should be released from detention and cleared of their conviction immediately. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international law instruments provides for the right to seek asylum outside one’s country. Rather than penalising the exercise of the right to seek asylum, Vietnam is obliged to respect and protect this right, as it is a norm of customary international law binding on all nations.

In addition to being unlawful, the imprisonment of Loan and Hồ will leave their four young children without their parents and legal guardians. Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Viet Nam is a state party, the Vietnamese authorities are obliged to make the best interest of children a primary consideration in all actions concerning children, including those taken by administrative authorities and courts of law.

In a separate but almost identical case, four others from La Gi village, Bình Thuận Province, were convicted under Article 275 after a boat they were traveling in was intercepted by Australian authorities and they were forcibly returned to Viet Nam in July 2015. Two men, Nguyễn Đình Quý and Nguyễn Minh Quyết, were detained after the group was returned. They were both given two year sentences after their trial in May 2016 whereas two women in the same case, Trần Thị Lụa and Huỳnh Thị Kiều, received three year sentences. Lụa and Kiều are on bail pending the outcome of their appeal. Nguyễn Đình Quý and Huỳnh Thị Kiều are married with three children between the ages of five and 20 years old. Should Kiều also be sent to jail, their children will also be arbitrarily deprived of both their parents by the criminal justice system.

Nguyễn Minh Quyết was released from prison in April 2016 as a result of a medical problem which has left him unable to walk. He is serving the remainder of his sentence under house arrest. While the authorities have stated that his incapacity is due to a medical condition brought about by other factors, it has been reported that he was beaten while in custody in La Gi police station.

The detention and imprisonment of an individual for exercising his/her right to seek asylum are arbitrary and unlawful. The Vietnamese authorities must immediately and unconditionally release the four individuals currently in prison and under house arrest and vacate the convictions of all eight.

——————–

80-year-old Vietnamese Cleared from Wrong Murder Charge

after 43 Years

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s judicial agencies have apologized to an 80-year-old citizen in the northern province of Bac Ninh after clearing him from a wrongful murder case after 43 years, state media has reported.

At a public meeting in a local government building in Cho commune, Yen Phong district on August 11, representatives of the Criminal Investigation Agency of the Ministry of Public Security, the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuracy as well as local authorities offered an apology for Tran Van Them, who was arrested in 1970 and later wrongly accused of killing his cousin Nguyen Khac Van.

Them, who was sentenced to death penalty in 1973 and later released in 1975 after the real killer confessed to the crime, had not been officially cleared from the case since then.

In the official letter issued by the Ministry of Public Security, Vietnam’s authorities admitted the legal miscarriage on Them’s case and pledged to pay him compensation.

In the past 43 years, Mr. Them had been seeking to be cleared from allegation of killing his cousin.

“I have been living with the injustice and shame for the past 43 years, being called a killer by my neighbors and even my relatives,” Them said.

A number of legal miscarriage cases have been unveiled recently in which many people have been wrongly sentenced to heavy sentences, including capital punishment. Their names have been cleared years later after the real killers confessed.

The victims of legal miscarriage included Mr. Huynh Van Nen from the central province of Binh Thuan, Luong Ngoc Phi from the northern province of Thai Binh, and Nguyen Thanh Chan from the northern province of Bac Giang.

Mr. Nen and Mr. Chan were wrongly convicted in murder cases. They were freed after spending over ten years in prison, and received respective compensations of billions of dong.

According to the Ministry of Justice, Vietnam’s authorities have received petitions in 258 cases and settled 204 cases in recent years, in which wrongly-sentenced people demand VND111 billion of compensation. Miscarriage of justice was reported in 133 cases due to wrong criminal procedures and the victims were compensated with VND56 billion, the ministry said.

The money for compensation comes from state budget.

——————-

Two Prisoners of Conscience Complete Their Imprisonments

Defend the Defenders: Two prisoners of conscience Nguyen Van Minh and Phan Ngoc Tuan were released this week after they completed their imprisonments.

Mr. Minh was arrested on February 11, 2014 together with Ms. Nguyen Thuy Quynh and Ms. Bui Thi Minh Hang when they and other activists went to the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap to visit former political prisoner Nguyen Bac Truyen.

On that day, police officers attacked the group of around 20 activists, brutally beating them and detaining the trio. Later, the authorities in Dong Thap accused them of causing public disorders and sentenced Quynh, Minh and Hang to two years, two and half and three years, respectively. Ms. Quynh was released in February while Ms. Hang is due to be freed in February next year.

The sentences against Ms. Hang, Ms. Quynh and Mr. Minh met strong protest of Vietnamese activists and international community. A number of Western governments urged Vietnam to release them unconditionally since the accusations against them were trumped-up.

Meanwhile, Mr. Tuan from Phan Rang in the central coastal province of Ninh Thuan was freed one day earlier. He was arrested on August 10, 2011 and charged with conducting anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of the Penal Code.

The indictment said that between April 2010 and August 2011, Tuan disseminated many documents, including leaflets, defaming the communist party, its government and state officials.

In fact, Mr. Tuan and his wife had helped local workers to protect their labor rights and disseminated documents accusing Ninh Thuan officials of committing corruption.

Later, Tuan was sentenced to five years in prison and additional three years under house arrest.

===== August 12 =====

Villagers in Khanh Hoa Suppressed, Beaten while Protesting Pollution Caused by Local Waste Treatment Plant

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s central province of Khanh Hoa on August 12 deployed hundreds of police officers, including mobile heavily-armed forces to suppress the peaceful demonstration of villagers in Ninh Ich, Ninh An commune, Ninh Hoa town who protested a local waste treatment plant for causing pollution in their areas.

When hundreds of Ninh Ich villagers went on streets to demand suspension of the waste treatment plant located near the village, police violently dispersed the gathering. Many people, including women and children, were reportedly beaten by police officers.

Due to the attack, Ms. Che Thi Hien received a number of serious injuries and needed to be taken to a town hospital for treatment.

Several villagers were detained by police.

The villagers said the plant, built at a cost of VND137 billion ($6.1 million), became operational one year ago. Located about one kilometer from the village, it has been emitting dust and heavily polluting the local environment.

Ninh Ich villagers complain that since the plant operations started, they have suffered from difficult breathing and skin rashes.

Ninh Hoà: Công an đàn áp người dân bảo vệ môi trường

——————–

 Vietnamese People Increasingly Indifferent to Corruption: UNDP

Defend the Defenders: The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has said that the rate of Vietnam’s people denouncing corruption fell more than five times to 2.3% in 2015 from 12.5% in 2011, state media reported, citing the agency’s latest report.

The corruption tolerance level among citizens tends to increase amid rampant and persistent frauds at the provincial level, according to UNDP’s specialist Do Thi Thanh Huyen.

The amount of money which people asked for bribery each time rocketed to average VND34.8 million ($1,560) in 2015 from VND5.8 million in 2011, according to the UNDP-supported Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI).

According to PAPI 2015, a policy monitoring tool that reflects citizen experiences with the performance of central to local governments in governance, public administration and public service delivery, corruption remained at an alarming bell in Vietnam and people in urban areas suffer more from corruption than those in rural regions.

The survey respondents said their biggest concerns in 2015 are focused on corruption (6.04%), followed by East Sea tension (5.08%), and economic growth (4.57%).

Regarding land appropriation, PAPI 2015 showed that up to 70% of people surveyed said they were dissatisfied with land seizure and compensation policies, noting that ethnic minorities received less recompense in land appropriation than Kinh group.

===== August 13 =====

Four Vietnamese Bloggers Assaulted While Covering

News on Environmental Dispute

Defend the Defenders: On August 13, four Vietnamese bloggers in the central province of Khanh Hoa were brutally attacked by a group of numerous unknown individuals while covering news on an environmental dispute in Ninh Hoa town.

The victims are Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (aka Me Nam of Mushroom Mother), Bien Dinh Luat, Ton Nu Khiem Cung and Nguyen Ba Vinh. Ms. Quynh is well-known blogger and human rights defenders who won the 2015 Civil Rights Defender of the Year of the Stockholm-based Civil Rights Defenders.

On Saturday, the four activists went to in Ninh Ich village, Ninh An commune, Ninh Hoa town where local residents are suffering from the pollution caused by a waste treatment plant located around one kilometer away of the village.

On their way to the village, the bloggers were closely followed by individuals, one of them is recognized by the activists as a police officer in the Khanh Hoa province’s Department of Police. On their return to Nha Trang city, a group of ten men attacked the bloggers, knocking them down from their motorbikes and beating them.

The attackers also took cell phones and cameras which the bloggers used for filming the disputed areas and interviewing affected villagers and threw them into a water canal.

Blogger Vinh said some of attackers were trying to kill him with swords but he successfully avoided the deadly attacks.

The attackers left the scene soon after other people came to help the bloggers.

The victims said they received numerous serious injuries on their bodies due to the assault and lost all cell phones and cameras. Blogger Cung’s suitcase was robbed.

The assault happened one day after the authorities in Khanh Hoa sent hundreds of police officers, including heavily-armed mobile policemen to violently suppress the peaceful demonstration of Ninh Ich villagers who demand suspension of the waste treatment plant located near the village. Many people, including women and children, were reportedly beaten by police officers. Several villagers were detained by police on Friday.

The villagers said the plant built at costs of VND137 billion ($6.1 million) started operational one year ago. Located about one kilometer from the village, it has been emitting dust and heavily polluting the local environment.

Ninh Ich villagers complain that since the plant operations started, they have suffered from difficult breathing and skin rashes. They fear that the river from which they take water for daily use may be polluted with chemicals leaked by the plant which is located very near to the upper part of the river.

Blogger Quynh said her team tried to investigate whether toxic industrial waste is transferred to the plant. Recently, Vietnam’s authorities have found that the Taiwanese Formosa Plastic Group, with help of many Vietnamese officials and companies, has dumped huge volume of very harmful industrial waste in Vietnam’s sea water and many other places inland.

In addition to giving hard sentences to silence government’s critics, Vietnam’s communist government has also deployed security officers and plainclothes agents to assault political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders.

Since the beginning of this year, dozens of activists have been attacked in nearly 20 cases. Many of them have suffered from serious injuries and needed treatment and recovery over long period of time.

In late April and early May, Vietnam’s security forces also detained two independent bloggers Truong Minh Tam and Chu Manh Son when they went to the central province of Ha Tinh to cover news on the massive death of aquatic species there. Tam said during the seven-day detention, police officers forced him to take off all his clothes and beat him, and cursed him with dirty words while Son was reportedly tortured by police officers before being released.

===== August 14 =====

Many Vietnamese Activists Detained upon Return from Civil Society Conferences in Timor Leste

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s security forces have detained a number of activists and confiscated passports of some of them when they returned from Timor Leste where they attended regional conferences on freedom of religions and beliefs as well as ASEAN People’s Forum.

Mr. Tran Ngoc Suong, Mr. Tran Ngoc Huynh, Ms. Vo Thi Kim Van and two other members of the Vietnam Independent Civil Society Organizations Network (VICSON) and independent researcher on East Sea (South China Sea) issues Dinh Kim Phuc were detained and interrogated by security officers for hours when they arrived in Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport and the Moc Bai International Border Gate in the southern province of Tay Ninh this week.

Police officers in Tan Son Nhat International Airport tried to rob the passport of Mr. Suong, however, they were forced to return it to him due to strong protest from him and other activists coming to support him.

On July 30, security forces in the airport blocked three activists, including Mennonite pastor Pham Ngoc Thach from leaving the country on their way to the conferences which were held in Timor Leste’s capital city of Dili on August 1-5. Police also confiscated their passports, citing regulations in the government’s Decree 136.

As many as 46 Vietnamese activists, including 17 from the country, participated in the ASEAN Conference on freedom of religion and belief organized by Southeast Asian and international civil society groups.

——————–

Private Residence of Catholic Priest Attacked with Dirty Substances, Stones

Defend the Defenders: Catholic priest Phan Van Loi, a former prisoner of conscience, has announced that his private residence in the central city of Hue was attacked with dirty substances and stones by unknown individuals in early morning of August 14.

The priest said four mobs in two motorbikes approached his house and threw three packages of dirty mess at the house’s garden.

One guy attacked the priest’s house with stone, said Father Loi, who is co-president of the Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience, an independent civil society group.

When a neighbor tried to film the attackers, they went away.

Father Loi, who spent total seven years in prison for exercising freedom of expression, has been constantly harassed by local authorities.

In July last year, his private residence was also attacked by dirty mess. He said both incidents were perpetrated by local government-supported thugs or plainclothes agents.