Identifying The Vietnam Authorities’ Advocacy Using Violence Against Human Rights Defenders

Vietnam has still applied this strategy. Instead of brutal battles with modern weaponry, there are political dissent with pen and empty hands. The negotiation sides are not belligerent parties, but diplomats of democratic governments and international human rights experts who negotiate for the release of political prisoners. The process is endless. The Vietnamese government has gained much from signed agreements to enhance the capacity of its police forces and military forces which pledge to protect the one-party regime by intensifying more severe suppression against political dissidents and human rights defenders.

FVPOC | cập nhật 13/11/2014

CTNLT8

U.S. Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowski on a press conference in Hanoi on Oct 27, the last day of his visit to the communist nation, said “…it would not be progress if a dozen people were released and then a dozen more people were arrested, so what we stressed above all is the need to follow through on the commitment that the Vietnamese government has made to fundamentally reform the laws …

So far this year, Vietnam’s government has released 13 political prisoners, namely Dinh Dang Dinh, Nguyen Huu Cau, Cu Huy Ha Vu, Nguyen Tien Trung, Vi Duc Hoi, Do Thi Minh Hanh, Tran Tu, Nguyen Tuan Nam, Tran Hoang Giang, Nguyen Long Hoi, Le Van Tinh, Nguyen Van Hai- Dieu Cay and Giang A Chu, a prisoner of an ethnic minority . The first ever release of political prisoners recognized by many countries as “progressive move” of the Vietnamese government.

Doing prisoners of conscience business

Arrest, imprisonment and release are three phases of investment in prisoners of conscience. Vietnam’s government  arrests those who bravely voice against corruption, office abuse and human rights violations. They  jail them with long-jailed sentences in order to deter other people and raising prices of political prisoners when their cases are concerned by democratic governments worldwide. Then they release to show their humanitarian policy after bargaining with foreign countries. Vietnam’s high-quality products for this trading are “prisoners of conscience for export”.

After 1975, a number of post-war issues make the former foes, the U.S. and the Vietnam communists, seek to settle for mutual interests. The need of integrating into the economic globalization has forced Vietnam to improve its human rights record to avoid international condemnation. In September 1998, world’s big newspapers covered the releases of three Vietnamese political prisoners namely Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, Professor Doan Viet Hoat, and Professor Nguyen Dinh Huy. These releases were fueled by negotiations between Vietnam and the U.S. on Bilateral  Trade Agreement (BTA) and then going further with MFN (the Most Favored Nations trade status). In July 2000, Vietnam and the U.S. signed TBA.

Along with releases of the trio, four high profile religious activists were freed: Buddhist monks Ven.Thich Quang Do, Ven.Thich Tue Sy, Ven.Thich Tri Sieu (Le Manh That) and Catholic priest Nguyen Van Ly. The public opinion had no doubt that the release was the result of the UN rapporteur on Religious Freedom, Mr. Abdelfattah Amor. After that, the communist government in Hanoi signed a number of bilateral and multi-lateral agreements on economics, education and security.

The release of 13 political prisoners this year was for signing of Trans-Pacific Partnership and the full removal of lethal weapon ban with the U.S. and FTA, Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with the EU. Also, Vietnam released prisoners of conscience to prove that it is an eligible member of the UN Human Rights Council.

From left to right: former prisoners of conscience Le Dong Phuong, Nguyen Tuan Nam, Pham Ba Hai and Truong Minh Duc. (Photo on Nov 8, 2014).
From left to right: former prisoners of conscience Le Dong Phuong, Nguyen Tuan Nam, Pham Ba Hai and Truong Minh Duc. (Photo on Nov 8, 2014).

Talk/Fight strategy

Once being student in Vietnam, one can understand Talk/Fight strategy in Vietnam’s modern revolutionary history. Accordingly, policies of diplomacy and military have influence on each other. The victory in frontline will bring advantage in negotiation, and the success  in negotiation will encourage soldiers and pave the way for the larger victory of soldiers. The strategy was applied successfully in signing Geneva Accord in 1954 and Paris Agreement in 1973.

Vietnam has still applied this strategy. Instead of brutal battles with modern weaponry, there are political dissent with pen and empty hands. The negotiation sides are not belligerent parties, but diplomats of democratic governments and international human rights experts who negotiate for the release of political prisoners. The process is endless. The Vietnamese government has gained much from signed agreements to enhance the capacity of its police forces and military forces which pledge to protect the one-party regime by intensifying more severe suppression against political dissidents and human rights defenders.

Facing a number of questions in the UN Human Right Council, Vietnam has chosen to implement a delicate suppression tactic to hide its clear violations on human rights. After the UN rapporteur on Religious Freedom, Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt left Vietnam and after visit exchanges of senior officials between Hanoi and Washington, Vietnam’s police have ratcheted up using violence against dissidents. They have used thugs or plain-clothe agents to attack political dissidents and human rights activists, and the incidents have never been investigated.

Violence, torture – a having wings number

In the report titled “Deaths in Custody and Police Brutality in Vietnam” published on Sept 16 by Human Rights Watch, the 96-page report named 28 Vietnamese citizens died in custody. 14 deaths were caused by police violence as authorities admitted, four from unexplained causes, six were allegedly suicides and four allegedly from illness during detention. These not included political prisoners and dissidents.

In my statistics below, I focus on the harassment against political dissidents and human rights activists

There have been 31 attacks and degraded treatments against 115 dissidents so far this year

In January 2014:

  1. Activist Le Quoc Quyet was attacked by security agents at My Kim apartment, Hiep Binh Chanh ward, Thu Duc district, HCMC.

In February 2014

  1. On Feb 11, Bui Thi Minh Hang and 21 other activists were beaten by policemen and mobs in Long Hung village, Lap Vo district, Dong Thap province.
  2. On Feb 11, the house of activist Huynh Ngoc Tuan in Tam Ky city, Quang Nam province was attacked with stones.
  3. On Feb 16, blogger Nguyen Van Thanh was beaten by policemen in an administrative checking on household registration at his rent room in Hoa Phuoc commune, Hoa Vang district, Danang city.
  4. On Feb 19, blogger Huỳnh Trọng Hiếu and his father Huynh Ngoc Tuan were brutally beaten by ten masked men when the duo get out of taxi.
  5. On Feb 21, the house of former political prisoner Huỳnh Ngọc Tuấn was thrown with stones and rank liquid.
  6. On Feb 24, former political prisoner Nguyen Bac Truyen was attacked in Hanoi when he was going to Australia Embassy.

In March 2014:

  1. On March 20, blogger Trịnh Anh Tuấn (nickname Gio Lang Thang) on the way to home was attacked by security agents after attending a human rights cafe in Hanoi.
  2. On March 31, the house of Hoa Hao Buddhist follower Nguyễn Văn Vinh was attacked. Followers Nguyen Ngoc Ha, Nguyen Thi Ngoc Lan and tens of others were beaten brutally, many of them fell unconscious.
  3. On March 22, human rights activist Trương Văn Dũng was assaulted with iron bar near the Nam Dong gas station, Hanoi.
  4. On March 23, women human rights activist Trần Thị Nga and many others were beaten when they held banners demanding Hanoi to release activist Bui Thi Minh Hang. Ms. Nga was sexually abused in the police station.
  5. On March 24, Hoa Hao Buddhist follower Nguyễn Hoàng Nam were attacked by policemen in a house raid when he was conducting religious ritual at his home in Vinh Chau commune, Chau Doc district, An Giang province .

In April 2014:

13. On April 9, Hoa Hao Buddhist followers Bùi Văn Luốc and Le Van Soc were beaten by plain-clothed security agents.

14. On April 16, activist Bùi Tuấn Lâm was severely assaulted by Quang Nam province’s security policemen in Tam Ky city.

15. On April 19, activists Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, Trinh Kim Tien, Nguyen Ho Nhat Thanh and Nguyen Van Hai were beaten and detained due to organizing human rights cafe in Nha Trang city.

16. On April 21, two women rights activists Trần Thị Hài and Nguyen Ngoc Lua were beaten by police after attending the appeal of two land petitioners in Can Tho.

In May 2014:

17. On May 8, former political prisoner Nguyen Van Dai was attacked by security agents who threw a glass cup at his head, causing bleeding.

18. On May 17, Vinh-based music lecturer- activist Nguyễn Năng Tĩnh was beaten by thugs with presence of dozens of local policemen.

19. On May 18, activists Nguyễn Ngọc Lụa, Nguyen The Lu, Huynh Trong Hieu and Vo Quoc Anh were attacked by police in HCM City when they prepared for attending anti-China protest.

20. On May 25, member of the Vietnamese Women for Human rights, Ms. Trần Thị Nga was assaulted by plain clothes to broke her arm and leg. The attack happened at 4pm in Thanh Tri district, Hanoi.

21. On May 25, Buddhist monk, Ven. Thích Vĩnh Phước led a delegation from Ba Ria- Vung Tau to pay a tribute to Le Thi Tuyet Mai’s funeral, who self-immolated to protest China’s invasion in the East Sea. He was hit by security agents at Saigon Bridge.

In June 2014:

22. On June 9, Binh Duong province-based Protestant Mennonite was attacked by policemen, militia and thugs with stones and bricks. As many as 29 followers out of 76 people were injured.

In August 2014:

23. On August 28, Nguyễn Bắc Truyển was intentionally hurt by security agent’s vehicle. Luckily, he did not get injured seriously after being checked in a hospital.

In September 2014:

24. On Sept 8, Trương Minh Đức was pulled out of a taxi in Hanoi by two security agents and then was beaten.

25. On Sept 30, Dương Âu was hit at his head with a brick by a local policeman at his house in Lam Dong.

In Oct 2014

26. On Oct 29, activists Phạm Bá Hải and Lê Văn Sóc were beaten by security agents after they left Duong Au’s house.

27. On Oct 30, Mr. Pham Ba Hai was tortured at Vinh’s police station. He was detained together with Le Van Soc immediately after landing to the Vinh airport.

28. Nghe An province-base activist Chu Manh Son was beaten and fined for leaving his house without permission to pick up Pham Ba Hai and Le Van Soc.

In November

29. On Nov 1-2, followers of Binh Duong Protestant Mennonite Church were attacked with stones and bricks by local policemen and thugs. Many got injured.

30. On Nov 2, independent journalist Truong Minh Duc, who is also former political prisoner, was attacked and robbed by eight agents in Thu Dau Mot, Binh Duong province. He recognized one as a police officer.

31. On Nov 9, Binh Duong Protestant Mennonite Church’s pastor was beaten when thugs threw stones to the church.

In 2013, 71 Vietnamese activists were attacked in 18 incidents.

113

In April 2013:

  1. On April 6, activist Trương Văn Dũng and student Vu Ngoc Thanh were beaten seriously in the first day of the trial against Doan Van Vuon.
  2. On April 9, activist Nguyen Chi Duc was attacked.
  3. On April 12, Mrs. Trần Thị Hồng, wife of pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh was detained in one house where she was taken off clothes and beaten brutally by plain-clothe agents.

In May 2013:

  1. On May 5, after human rights picnic in Saigon, bloggers Nguyen Hoang Vi, Vo Quoc Anh, Nguyen Thao Chi and Nguyen Thi Cuc were beaten severely.

In June 2013:

  1. On June 2, anti-China activists Nguyen Van Phuong, Truong Van Dung and Nguyen Chi Duc were beaten brutally by police officers.
  2. On June 25, Hoa Hao monk Võ Văn Thanh Liêm and 20 followers were beaten brutally by policemen and militia when they were praying in Quang Minh Tu Pagoda.
  3. On June 25, Falun Gong member Phạm Hữu Phước was beaten by thugs who threw garbage at his head. In a police station in Ben Thanh ward, HCMC, he was also beaten by a plain-clothe policeman.

In August 2013:

  1. Hồ Đức Thanh was beaten after Hanoi police raid into an English class.
  2. Activists Trần Thị Nga and Nguyen Bac Truyen were attacked in front of a Saigon-based hotel.

In September 2013:

10. Catholic followers of My Yen parish in Nghe An were violently suppressed by local police when they gathered to demand the release of other followers illegally detained.

11. Activists Nguyen Phuong Uyen, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, Pham Ba Hai, Le Quoc Quyet, Duong Thi Tan and Nguyen Thi Nhung were attacked and detained at Mr. Thuy’s house in Thanh Tri district, Hanoi. Other activists, including Dinh Van Thi were also beaten when they came to help the attacked activists.

In October 2013:

12. On Oct 24, Hoàng Thị Vàng and Duong Van Phung were hospitalized after being beaten in suppressing Hmong people in Ly Tu Trong park of Hanoi.

13. Activist Lê Thiện Nhân and Trương Văn Dũng were detained and beaten by Hanoi police after they provided assistance for land petitioners in Hanoi. Mr. Dung was broken his ribs.

14. Lưu Trọng Kiệt and Lam Bui were brutally beaten when they tried to attend a trial against blogger Dinh Nhat Uy.

In November 2013:

15. Activists Trương Văn Dũng and Tran Thi Nga were attacked when they were going to fill complaints for being attacked earlier.

In December 2013:

16. Activist Nguyen Hoang Vi, Hoang Dung, Me Nam and five others were beaten on the Human Rights Day when they prepared to launch Blogger Network.

17. Bloggers Nguyễn Đức Quốc, Nguyen Van Thanh, Le Thi Phuong Anh and Le Anh Hung were attacked when they went to the police station to demand for returning illegally-confiscated gadgets in Danang city.

18. Huynh Ngoc Tuan was beaten to broke his rib in a visit to the former prisoner of conscience Pham Van Troi in Thuong Tin district, Hanoi.

TORTURE AND OTHER DEGRADING TREATMENTS AGAINST PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE

In 2014, at least 18 prisoners of conscience had either taken hunger strike or been punished, tortured.

In February, 2014

  1. Human rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan went on hunger strike from Feb 2. He demanded legal books to prepare for his self-defense prior to the appeal. He also asked for religious books and met with a priest when he was held in the Hanoi-based B14 prison.
  2. Activists Bùi Hằng, Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh and Nguyen Van Minh conducted 15-day hunger strike to protest their illegal arrest. The trio was held in Dong Thap province.
  3. Prisoner of conscience Nguyễn Văn Hoa was mistreated and refused medical care in Ha Nam province-based Ba Sao prison, because he refused to confess.

In March 2014:

  1. Political prisoner Ngô Hào was forced to work as he is over 60 with serious diseases.
  2. Prisoner Tạ Phong Tần was beaten and degradingly treated by inmates.
  3. Pastor Nguyễn Công Chính denounced that he was beaten by 15 jailers. They used electrical batons, rubber batons and pepper spray to attack him when he prayed in the cell.

In April 2014:

  1. Prisoner Đặng Xuân Diệutook hunger strike (down to 41kg weight) to protest the jailers refused to settle his complaints. He also refused to wear prisoner’s uniform, saying he is innocent.
  2. Trần Minh Nhật and Trần Hữu Đức conducted the hunger strike to ask for religious freedom in Phu Son prison, Thai Nguyen province.
  3. Đinh Nguyên Kha took hunger strike to protest inhumane treatment in Xuyen Moc prison, Ba Ria-Vung Tau province.

In May 2014:

10. Pastor Nguyễn Công Chính was publicly denounced in the prison because he requested jailers to open cell’s windows and improve prison’s living conditions.

11. Võ Thu Thủy denounced mistreatment against prisoners, including Ho Thi Bich Khuong..

12. Tạ Phong Tần and Ngo Hao were mistreated.

In August 2014:

13. Mai Thị Dung was suppressed, mistreated.

14. Đặng Xuân Diệu was punished, shackled in solid confinement.

In September 2014

15. Nguyễn Đình Cương was subjected to solid confienment and shackeled.

In Oct 2014:

16. Đặng Xuân Diệu called for rescue during punishment.

The number of mistreated prisoners of conscience was 12 in 2013 at least.

In May 2013:

  1. Cu Huy Ha Vu conducted a hunger strike to protest prison’s authorities denied his denunciation petition.
  2. Union activist Đỗ Thị Minh Hạnh was beaten and punished.

In June 2013:

  1. Trần Minh Nhật conducted hunger strike in Nghi Kim prison, Nghe An province.

In July 2013:

  1. Nguyen Van Hai (Dieu Cay) conducted 33-day hunger strike in Prison No. 6 of Nghe An province.

In August 2013:

  1. Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức, Nguyen Ngoc Cuong, Huynh Anh Tri, Phan Ngoc Tuan, Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung were shackled and punished.
  2. Vi Đức Hồi was punished after protesting jailers to beating Le Van Son, and installing camera and wave-destroying device in the cell.
  3. Trần Hữu Đức conducted ten-day hunger strike when he was punished by authorities of Phu Son prison in Thai Nguyen.
  4. Paulus Lê Sơn, Nguyen Van Oai and Vi Duc Hoi were mistreated.

In September 2013

  1. Nguyễn Xuân Nghĩa was beaten by inmates.

In October 2013:

10. Pastor Nguyễn Công Chính was beaten.

11. Cù Huy Hà Vũ conducted second hunger strike.

Former prisoner of conscience, student Nguyen Phuong Uyen
Former prisoner of conscience, student Nguyen Phuong Uyen

Conclusion

In 2013, there are 71 people assaulted in 18 incidents compared to 115 people in 31 incidents of the first ten months of this year.

Prisoners of conscience are always the target of repression and mistreatment by prisons’ authorities across Vietnam. After failing in forcing them to confess, prison’s authorities have applied numerous measures to break their resilience. The number of prisoners of conscience on hunger strike rose from 12 in 2013 to 18 in 2014.

In order to ease international criticism, and qualify for a seat in the election of UN Human Right Council, Vietnam temporarily geared down its arrests. In 2013 there was only four arrests, including Ngo Hao, Truong Duy Nhat, Pham Viet Dao, and Dinh Nhat Uy; and Bui Hang (three defendants), Anh Ba Sam (two) and Le Thi Phuong Anh (three) in 2014. That is a tactic of the Talk/Fight strategy.

Back to the press conference of U.S. Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowski. The reporter of Thanh Nien newspaper asked him to reveal  more the information of his meeting with Deputy Minister of Public Security, Lieutenant-General To Lam, he replied that the meeting with the Deputy Minister of for Public Security was almost two hours long.  It was very serious, very substantive. “There are many things that the governments of Vietnam and the United States want for our relationship in the future and that the Ministry of Public Security holds the most important key,” he retold.

The U.S. and other countries have used diplomat channels to express their concerns about human rights violation without any sanctions. Thus, this has encouraged Vietnam government  to keep trading prisoners of conscience.

The history has pointed out that Vietnamese communists do not always fulfill their commitments with the U.S. and foreign countries. They do on their way, the way of dictators to repress any people who may undermine their power, even peaceful human rights campaigners.

Will the brutality of violence with no endpoint end? And who will bring justice to human rights defenders in Vietnam?.

Sài Gòn, Nov 11, 2014.

Phạm Bá Hải.

Coordinator of FVPoC.

Member of IJAVN.