Vietnam Land Petitioners’ Leader Arrested, Charged with Causing Public Disorders
Vu Quoc Ngu, June 10, 2016
Vietnam’s security forces on June 10 arrested Mrs. Can Thi Theu, a leading figure among thousands of land petitioners in the Southeast Asian nation, and charged her with allegation of “causing public disorders” under Article 245 of the country’s Penal Code.
Mr. Trinh Ba Phuong, the older son of Mrs. Theu said in the very early morning of Friday, authorities in Hanoi deployed around 70 police officers to a private residence of her family in the northern province of Hoa Binh to arrest her.
Police handcuffed Mrs. Theu and searched her house in Ngoc Luong commune in Yen Thuy district, confiscating her cell phone, Phuong said, adding that authorities afraid of protests from other land petitioners so they deployed the large number of armed police on the arrest.
The police said they arrested her due to her public disturbing activities in Hanoi’s Dong Da district. She may be detained for up to four months for investigation and if is proven guilty, she may face imprisonment of up to seven years in jail, according to the Vietnamese law.
This is the trumped-up allegation against hear mother as she rarely went to Dong Da district, Mr. Phuong said.
Mrs. Theu is a former prisoner of conscience. On April 25, 2014, she was arrested while filming Hanoi’s land seizure in her village in Duong Noi commune in Ha Dong district. The city’s authorities took large areas of land from Duong Noi farmers, including Theu’s family with very low compensation prices to give private investors for property development.
The land grabbing of Hanoi’s authorities made hundreds of farmers in Theu’s village without production tools.
Two years ago, Theu was severely beaten by police upon the arrest. Later, the local authorities charged her with “resisting on-duty state officials” under Article 257 of the Penal Code and sentenced her to 15 months in prison. Her husband, Mr. Trinh Ba Tu, was also imprisoned for 15 months for the same charge.
After being released in July last year, she has actively participated in peaceful demonstrations to demand for land return, or in peaceful protests on environmental issues and against China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea). She was detained many times by Hanoi’s police, and sometimes severely beaten by police officers.
Theu’s arrest was made few days after the European Parliament issued a resolution to condemn Vietnam’s ongoing persecution against local political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders.
In its press release on June 9, the European Parliament said its members deplore continuing human rights violations in Vietnam, including “political intimidation, harassment, assaults, arbitrary arrests, heavy prison sentences and unfair trials, perpetrated against political activists, journalists, bloggers, dissidents and human rights defenders”, and call on the government of Vietnam to put an “immediate stop to all harassment, intimidation, and persecution” of these individuals.
“The increasing levels of violence perpetrated against Vietnamese protesters” demonstrating throughout the country in May 2016 to express their anger over “an ecological catastrophe that decimated the nation’s fish stocks” are worrying, said the press release, adding the Vietnam government should respect the right to freedom of assembly in line with its international human rights obligations, the findings of the investigations into the environmental disaster should be published and those responsible should be held accountable.
Some observers said her arrest is a start of new suppression wave of the government after the ruling communists asserted their power with the recent formal election of the rubber-stamp parliament and the People’s Committee in provincial, district and communal levels. The communists continue to dominate the country’s legislative body National Assembly as only two out of 496 selected members of the institution are not members of the ruling party. The situation is the same in the local levels.
Vietnam has applied a zero tolerance for government’s criticism and considers unregistered civil organizations as “reactionary groups.” The police forces have violently suppressed all spontaneous demonstrations which may challenge the government.
Vietnam has prioritized high growth rate of gross domestic products (GDP), giving many incentives for industrial and property developers. The government has seized large areas of land nationwide from local residents to give for industrial and property projects without paying adequate compensation.
Due to the government’s land grabbing policy, thousands of farmers have lost their cultivation land and houses. Many of them have come to government agencies in Hanoi to protest land seizure but their voices are hardly heard.
Land petitioners, who live in misery, have been subjects to police’s torture.
In Vietnam, all land belongs to the state and local residents have only right to use so the state can seize land for socio-economic development. In many cases, local authorities have abused the land policy, causing great dissatisfaction among local residents.