The Vietnamese women who refuse to stay silent

Pham Doan Trang in 2019. Image: Facebook

As International Women’s Day nears, female activists in Vietnam are appealing for global attention to the persecution they often face

Grace Bui, Asia Times, March 7, 2021

Just before midnight on October 6, 2020, police raided the boarding house of Pham Doan Trang, a prominent Vietnamese author, journalist, and human-rights activist. They arrested her under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code for “making, storing, disseminating or propagating information, documents, and articles against the State and Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” She faces up to 20 years in prison.

Ironically, Pham Doan Trang was arrested just hours after the United States and Vietnam completed their 24th annual Human Rights Dialogue. Trang has been held incommunicado in pretrial detention since her arrest. No one has seen her or heard from her since that day, not even her lawyer.

Unfortunately, Trang’s case is not unique. Despite their internationally acclaimed achievements and important contributions to the human rights, free press, and pro-democracy movement in Vietnam, Trang and other female activists in the country are frequently subjected to harassment, arrest, and long prison sentences.

On June 24, 2020, police broke into Can Thi Theu’s house and arrested her without a warrant. Theu is a land-grab victim and a land-rights activist. She was harassed multiple times before she was arrested that day, her third arrest. She is being held incommunicado. Her sons, Trinh Ba Tu and Trinh Ba Phuong, have also been arrested, leaving Theu’s husband, Trinh Ba Khiem, as the only one not currently imprisoned.

Early the same day, land petitioner and human-rights defender Nguyen Thi Tam was kidnapped by security forces while going to the local market.