Vietnam music teacher loses appeal against 8-year sentence

Dang Dang Phuoc was convicted of spreading anti-state propaganda.


RFA | 2023.09.25

In an appeal that only lasted two hours, the High People’s Court in Vietnam’s Dak Lak province on Tuesday upheld an eight-year prison sentence for music lecturer Dang Dang Phuoc, his wife Le Thi Ha told Radio Free Asia.

The 61-year-old instructor at Dak Lak College of Pedagogy was convicted on June 6 this year of "making, storing, spreading or propagating information, documents and items aimed at opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” 

He was prosecuted under the penal code’s controversial Article 117, which rights groups say is frequently used to suppress free speech.

Police arrested him on Sept. 8 last year after he posted on Facebook in support of activist Bui Tuan Lam, known as “Onion Bae.”

His wife was also questioned about songs he sang and posted on social media, including one by a former political prisoner and another with lyrics about the problems faced by Vietnam under the Communist Party.

Speaking to RFA Vietnamese on Tuesday Le Thi Ha called the appeal a sham.

"There is nothing different from the first-instance hearing,” she said.

“The examiners of the province’s Department of Information and Communication continued to be absent while the court panel did not respect the defenses of my husband and his lawyers."

Ha said her husband planned to appeal to a higher court. 

Under Vietnamese law, Phuoc has the right to appeal to the Supreme People's Court. However, in most political cases, the decision of the regional high court is usually the final word.

Over the past 10 years Phuoc campaigned against corruption and for better protection for civil and political rights. He signed pro-democracy petitions and called for changes to Vietnam’s constitution, which grants the Communist Party a monopoly on power.

“Dang Dang Phuoc shouldn’t be in prison for simply calling for better treatment and justice for the poor and vulnerable Vietnamese, and demanding the government provide better social services and a cleaner environment for all,” said Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson, ahead of the appeal.

“If the Vietnamese government cared at all about the welfare of the people, they would be listening to principled activists like Dang Dang Phuoc, not imprisoning him.”

According to RFA statistics, Phuoc is the 11th activist convicted this year and the sixth person convicted of "propaganda against the state" under Article 117.

Many countries have called on Vietnam to amend or remove Article 117 from the penal code to be compatible with international human rights conventions that Vietnam has signed.

Translated by RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Mike Firn and Elaine Chan.

Updated to add quote from Phuoc's wife Le Thi Ha.


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