Vietnam Arrests Former Prisoner of Conscience amid Rising Public Dissatisfaction, Second Detention within 20 Days
By Vu Quoc Ngu, Defend the Defenders
June 29, 2016
Vietnamís security forces have detained pro-democracy activist Pham Minh Vu in a bid to suppress local dissent amid rising public dissatisfaction, social networks reported, citing information from his family.
Accordingly, security forces in the central province of Quang Binh came to Mr. Vuís family house and picked him up on force on June 29 without showing any warrant. The local police kept constant surveillance near his house in recent days, the family said.
Vu, a former prisoner of conscience, is a member of Brotherhood of Democracy, the unsanctioned pro-democracy group in the Southeast Asian nation.
On May 15, 2014, Vu and two other members of Brotherhood of Democracy, Do Nam Trung and Le Phuong Anh went to the southern province of Dong Nai to cover news on the local anti-China protests of tens of thousands of local workers. Initially, police accused the three activists of inciting anti-China riots in which angry workers attacked Chinese workers and destroyed China-invested factories in Dong Nai provinceís industrial zones. However, due to lack of solid evidence, Vietnamís investigation agency changed the allegation to conducting activities ďabusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizensĒ under Article 258 of the Penal Code.
Later, the trio was sentenced to between 12 months and 18 months in prison. Vu was released on November 15 last year, after one and half years in jail.
After being freed, Vu has actively participated in public gatherings which aim to promote multi-party democracy and human rights as well as protect the countryís sovereignty against Chinaís violations in the East Sea (South China Sea) and environment. He was detained several times by police while attending peaceful events.
Vu is the second activist being detained within 20 days. On June 10, Vietnam arrested Hanoi-based land rights activist Can Thi Theu on allegation of causing public disorders under Article 245 of the Penal Code.
Their arrests were made after Vietnam completed the power transition with the 12th National Congress of the ruling communist party in late February and the formal general election for the rubber-stamp parliament in May. The new leadership with many police generals taking senior posts wants to show its muscles against local political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders.
According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, Vietnam is holding around 130 political prisoners. In mid-December last year, Vietnam arrested human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, the founder of Brotherhood of Democracy and charged him with anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of the Penal Code. He is still under pre-trial detention.
On June 28, newly-appointed Minister of Public Security Senior Lieutenant General To Lam said the police forces will apply tougher measures to prevent spontaneous demonstrations to ensure the countryís political stability.
Meanwhile, public is angry about the massive death of marine species in the central coastal region which started in early April but the government has yet to release the results of its investigation on the environmental disaster which has killed hundreds of tons of fish. The catastrophe, which has affected the central regionís fishing, salt production and tourism for decades, is believed to be caused by the discharge of a huge volume of improperly-treated waste of a steel plant of the Taiwanese Formosa Plastic Group.
Vietnamese patriotic activists have also been disappointed about the governmentís weak response to Chinaís violations of the countryís sovereignty in the East Sea.
Systemic corruption and serious human rights violations are other issues triggering public dissatisfaction in Vietnam.