‘Very Concerned’ Over Growing Crackdown in Vietnam: Diplomat
RFA – 05/30/2019
The U.S. voiced strong concern in May at a growing crackdown over the last two
years on dissent in Vietnam, and has urged the one-party communist state to free
all political prisoners now held in the country’s jails, a senior U.S. diplomat
said on Wednesday.
Speaking in an interview with RFA’s Vietnamese Service, Scott Busby—deputy
assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor—pointed to
what he called a “rising number of prosecutions of people who have been freely
expressing their opinions in Vietnam.”
In talks held on May 15 with Vietnamese officials in Hanoi, U.S. delegates to an
annual dialogue on human rights were able to raise their concerns about the
situation in Vietnam, Busby said, adding, “Now, whether [the government] will
act on our concerns is another question.”
Prior to the dialogue U.S. delegates to the talks had tried unsuccessfully to
meet with a number of Vietnamese rights advocates and representatives of civil
society, Busby said.
“And in Ho Chi Minh City in particular there were three activists who were
prevented from meeting with us, and that was concerning to us, that the
government would not allow us to see them.”
U.S. delegates were able to meet, however, with jailed blogger Tran Thi Nga, who
was sentenced in July 2017 to nine years in prison for spreading “propaganda
against the state under Article 88 of Vietnam’s penal code, Busby said.
“We had an hour-long meeting with her,” Busby said.
“She seemed in good health, but she raised concerns about the way she is being
treated in prison, and she also raised concerns about the fact that she is in
prison at all. And we told her that she was very much on our minds and that we
would be continuing to raise her case with the government of Vietnam.”
Subject of concern
Raised as a subject of particular concern was the case of Truong Duy Nhat, an
RFA contributor abducted in late January in Bangkok, Thailand, a day after
applying for refugee status and now held at a Ministry of Public Security
detention center in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi, Busby said.
"And we pressed the government of Vietnam for an explanation about how this came
to pass," Busby said.
Though talks with Vietnam in May were “full and frank,” Busby said, “We had
differences on a variety of issues.”
“I would say that one of the biggest differences is the treatment of dissidents
in Vietnam, people who are criticizing the government, and the long sentences
being given to these people,” he said.
Meanwhile, Catholic schoolteacher Nguyen Nang Tinh, arrested this week in Nghe
An province while having breakfast with his son, has now been charged with
“making, storing, distributing or disseminating information against the
Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” Vietnamese media reported on May 30.
And activists Nguyen Viet Dung, jailed in Ha Nam province, and Luu Van Bay, held
in Binh Duong, have now been moved to other prisons, with family members told
only that they are being “disciplined” or have been transferred, sources told
RFA’s Vietnamese Service this week.
Vietnam now holds an estimated 128 prisoners of conscience, according to a May
13, 2019 report by rights group Amnesty International.
“The Vietnamese authorities portray individuals who are peacefully exercising
their human rights as criminals,” Amnesty International (AI) said in its
report, Prisoners of Conscience in Vietnam.
“However, it is the government that flagrantly contravenes international human
rights law and its own constitution,” AI said.
Nguyen Kim Binh of Vietnam Human Rights Network meanwhile said in December that
the one-party communist state is currently detaining more than 200 political
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Channhu Hoang, Written
in English by Richard Finney.