Posts Tagged ‘Viet Tan’

U.S. Expects Human Rights Improvements in Vietnam

August 22, 2014


A Chinese Coast Guard vessel (R) passes near the Chinese oil rig, Haiyang Shi You 981 (L) in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) from the coast of Vietnam June 13, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Nguyen Minh

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Remarkable changes are afoot in Vietnam, a country that Americans left in humiliating fashion nearly 40 years ago when Saigon fell to communist forces.

General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Do Ba Ty, left, deputy defense minister and chief of general staff of the Vietnam People’s Army, review an honor guard at the Defense Ministry in Hanoi on Aug. 14, 2014. (AFP Photo/Hoang Dinh Nam)

Last week, the U.S. Army’s highest-ranking official visited Hanoi to mend old war wounds and to set the stage for a new, friendlier era that goes beyond diplomacy to possibly include arms sales to Vietnam. Here’s what U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told USA Today in a Aug. 18 news report:

“That’s not to say it won’t happen without some effort. But I think there’s a possibility that Vietnam could be a very strong partner. Look at our history with the British or the Germans or the Japanese. It could be like a phoenix rising from the ashes. That’s what I hope happens here in this relationship.”

For many in Seattle’s large Vietnamese-American community, including myself, it’s difficult to view any actions by Vietnam’s government without skepticism. Overseas Vietnamese — predominantly made up of refugees and citizens of the former South Vietnam forced to flee after the communist takeover — have long staged protests and movements for democracy, religious freedom and human rights in their homeland. The regime has largely ignored those pleas— until now.

Vietnam has few options. Its leadership needs allies to fend off China’s aggression in the South China Sea and to increase trade.

Among the reasons to believe the tide has turned and Vietnam is on the verge of a substantive political shift:

  • In July, a band of journalists formed the country’s first independent journalism organization to protect freedom of the press and reporting free of government censorship, according to the group Reporters without Borders.
  • The U.S. is actively engaged and interested in balancing Beijing’s powers in the region, reports Voice of America. The Vietnamese are just as interested in keeping China at bay and maintaining sovereignty.
  • This month, 61 members of the Communist Party signed an open letter calling “for more political openness,” according to The New York Times.
  • Vietnam badly wants to join the Trans Pacific Partnership, a major free trade agreement under negotiation by the U.S. and 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific.

This represents a golden opportunity to ensure Vietnam follows through with its obligation to improve labor conditions and its human rights record, which Human Rights Watch warns “deteriorated significantly in 2013.” At least one analyst tells the BBC that Vietnam stands to benefit the most from joining the TPP because of the high volume of apparel and footwear now made and exported to the U.S.

Prominent Vietnamese political dissident and constitutional scholar Cu Huy Ha Vu was released from a Vietnamese prison in April. In a stirring May 16 guest column for The Washington Post, he called for future negotiations to include forcing the Communist Party to release some 400 prisoners of conscience and to repeal a series of laws designed to maintain one-party control.

The U.S. and other TPP countries should insist upon those reforms before diplomatic relations with Vietnam are extended to include the sales of military weapons and membership in a lucrative trade agreement.
 ByDuy HoangEarlier this month, Senator John McCain indicated that it was time for the United States to consider selling lethal weapons to Vietnam after a 30-year embargo. The recent maritime standoff between Beijing and Hanoi over Chinese oil exploration off the central coast of Vietnam exposed Hanoi’s many strategic weaknesses.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung receiving Senators John McCain in Hanoi on August 9.

Providing Vietnam with coast guard and maritime systems as a first step – and eventually radar, fighter aircraft and spare parts for leftover American military equipment – would bolster Hanoi’s strategic capabilities vis-a-vis China and give substance to the “comprehensive partnership” announced last year between Hanoi and Washington.

But more than modern weapon systems, what Vietnam really needs for its long-term security is modern political values. Only through a free and open society can the country mobilize the national unity and prosperity needed to safeguard its sovereignty.

The Hanoi leadership’s dilemma between pursuing the national interest and ensuring the communist regime’s preservation has often led to incoherent and contradictory actions. Since the 1950s, that has meant acquiescing to Beijing’s territorial grabs at the expense of Vietnamese sovereignty. In recent years, Hanoi has accommodated Beijing by suppressing domestic criticism of Chinese expansionism.

Communist contradictions
During the war, communist North Vietnam relied heavily on Chinese military support. But Beijing’s assistance was costly. In a 1958 diplomatic note, then prime minister Pham Van Dong implicitly recognized Beijing’s claim over virtually the entire South China Sea. In 1974, Hanoi was deafly silent when China invaded and occupied the Paracel Islands, which were then held by South Vietnam.

Following the war, Hanoi’s tilt toward the Soviet Union and invasion of neighboring Cambodia resulted in a break with China that culminated in a bloody border war in 1979. But by 1990, with the Soviet Union no longer providing aid and communist states in Eastern Europe collapsing like dominoes, Hanoi re-established diplomatic relations with Beijing.

The rapprochement was brokered at a secret summit held in the southern Chinese city of Chengdu in September 1990. The agreements concluded by the senior leadership of both communist parties have still not been publicized. Based on limited revelations by retired officials, Vietnamese bloggers speculate that Hanoi made key concessions regarding land and maritime borders as the price for normalization.

Since Chengdu, Hanoi has closely followed Beijing’s model of “Market Leninism”, characterized by a quasi-open economy and closed political system. While the average Vietnamese citizen is undoubtedly wary of China based on two millennia of conflict, communist regime elites have profited from Chinese economic investment and ideological support.

This may explain why Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh recently described China’s violation of Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as just a small disagreement among “brothers”. Speaking at the Shangri-La defense dialogue on May 31, General Thanh was reluctant to openly criticize Beijing, even as its naval forces were harassing Vietnamese coast guard and fishing vessels in the vicinity of an oil rig operated by state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation.

In apparent deference to Beijing, the ruling Communist Party’s politburo reportedly barred Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh from traveling to the US during the maritime standoff. Only after China removed the oil rig did Hanoi send a senior party official to the US, though surprisingly not the perceived as pro-West foreign minister.

Nor is it clear why Vietnam has still not initiated a legal case at the United Nations, as the Philippines has done for its maritime dispute with China. Even though most outside observers regard Vietnam as holding the legal high ground against China, Hanoi is deeply conflicted on whether to internationalize the dispute. As a result, Beijing is still able to define the issue bilaterally, a one-on-one interaction that allows China to leverage its large country advantages.

Until the Hanoi’s Communist Party leadership demonstrates a willingness to break away from Beijing’s influence, lifting the American arms embargo will not fix Vietnam’s core weakness, which is political rather than military.

Rights roadmap
Senator McCain was correct to link military assistance to human rights: “How much we can do in this regard, as with our other most ambitious trade and security objectives, depends greatly on additional action by Vietnam on human rights.”

Indeed, now is the time for the US to establish concrete and sensible conditions for lifting the arms embargo. By spelling out conditions that ultimately bolster Vietnam’s security, US policymakers can elevate the bilateral relationship to the next level in good faith.

The foremost condition should be the unconditional release of all political prisoners. It is ironic that while Hanoi is pushing for Washington to take a stronger public stand on the South China Sea, it continues to detain Vietnamese citizens who have peacefully spoken out against Chinese aggression.

Second would be the repeal of vague national security provisions which systematically criminalize free expression and peaceful political activity. As long as Vietnamese authorities confuse blogging or pro-democracy advocacy with threats to national security, they will not be able to focus properly on the existential threat arising from an increasingly aggressive China.

Third would be to focus the mission of the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) solely on external defense. Currently, the PAVN is mandated with three roles: protecting the regime, external defense, and economic development. American weapons should never be delivered to a military that’s geared toward suppressing dissent in the name of internal security.

Salient sentiments
An online poll conducted by the BBC’s Vietnamese language service in July asked readers which country they preferred Vietnam to ally with. The US was chosen by 87% of respondents, while China was selected by a mere 1%.

The poll results confirm the observations of nearly all Vietnam watchers: the Vietnamese people want closer ties with the US and greater diplomatic distance from China. The survey confirmed another hard truth: that the vast majority of Vietnamese citizens currently do not have a voice in their national affairs under the current authoritarian regime.

The issue of providing lethal weapons to Vietnam will likely be considered by the Obama administration and Congress in the near future. Concerned by a rising China, some American policy makers might view the arms embargo as the chief impediment to closer US-Vietnam ties.

But American weapons alone won’t result in a stronger Vietnam, nor a deeper strategic relationship. The upcoming debate should also be guided by an appreciation for what would most empower Vietnam and its people – improved human rights and greater civil liberties.

Duy Hoang is a US-based leader of Viet Tan, an unsanctioned pro-democracy political party in Vietnam.


Vietnamese Americans agitate for human rights in their homeland — seeking political change in the communist country

July 27, 2013

Vietnamese refugees in the United States and a reform party press for political change in the communist country.

By Anh Do
The Los Angels Times

Until Communist captors locked his dad in a 9-by-9-foot jail cell, Khoa Nguyen did not fully appreciate the battle his father was fighting.

As a boy, he remembered him talking about the struggles in his homeland, the basic human rights he believed his countrymen in Vietnam had been denied.

His parent’s activity with a pro-democracy group finally drew his father from the family’s comfortable Garden Grove home to Vietnam, where he hoped to train residents to use nonviolent methods in lobbying for reforms. Instead, he was charged with subversion and arrested.

“I did not completely understand his passion until he went to prison,” Nguyen said. “Then it became important. It became urgent.”

Nguyen Quoc Quan of Viet Tan, the Vietnam Reform Party, was imprisoned for nine months after returning to Vietnam to help his countrymen advocate for change. (Bethany Mollenkof / Los Angeles Times)

From UC Davis where he studies chemistry, the 20-year-old monitored his father’s nine-month captivity, which ended suddenly — and unexpectedly — in January when officials allowed Nguyen Quoc Quan to return to the U.S., where he received a hero’s welcome in the Vietnamese American community.

Now, at a time when Vietnam’s top leaders make their first visit to the U.S. since 1995, when the two nations resumed diplomatic relations, Khoa Nguyen is among those pushing for improved human rights and free speech in a country that many Vietnamese Americans haven’t seen since the fall of Saigon.

Tiến sĩ Nguyễn Quốc Quân, Đảng Việt Tân

Ahead of President Truong Tan Sang’s meeting with President Obama on Thursday, Vietnamese American activists branded Vietnam “the new Myanmar in terms of repression,” blasting its government’s history of detaining dissidents, censoring the Internet and stifling the “development of civil society.”

The group Viet Tan, also known as the Vietnam Reform Party, is one of the strongest voices in the effort to bring political change to Vietnam. Regarded by the United Nations as a “peaceful” organization, it is seen as an enemy of the state in Vietnam, where it is banned.

In Vietnamese American communities, such as Orange County’s bustling Little Saigon, Viet Tan is a source of both news and inspiration to some.

“I’ve been reading Viet Tan news and catching up on the names behind the news,” said Mary Tran, who researched the party for a term paper at UCLA. “Every Vietnamese newspaper covers the human rights abuses that they highlight and the ongoing arrests of dissidents. That they document this is fascinating because their purpose is a purpose I believe in.”

Ha Nguyen, eating lunch at Pho Quang Trung in Little Saigon, spent part of the week in the Vietnamese enclave passing out fliers that urged Obama to “push for the release of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience” in Vietnam — as a condition of an expanded U.S.-Vietnam partnership. The Anaheim retiree said he supports Viet Tan’s campaign.

“I like how they work behind the scenes to try and inspire change,” he said. “It must start with improving social welfare and restoring civil rights.”

Viet Tan pushed hard for the release of Nguyen Quoc Quan, a former math teacher and longtime member who helps mobilize young people to join the cause.

Like his father, Khoa Nguyen has now applied to join the party. Founded in 1982 as the National United Front for the Freedom of Vietnam, the group operated underground for more than two decades. Potential members still must find sponsors within the party and enroll in training, learning about history, political strategy and social media, especially how to use video to spread messages.

Viet Tan leaders work to roll back restrictions against basic rights in Vietnam, promoting freedom of the press, boosting grass-roots movements and engaging in international advocacy, said Dung Tran, the group’s Southern California spokesman. “We selectively recruit those with energy and passion and a deep understanding of what it means to bring democracy to our country,” he says.

“I am proud that others know of the party’s work and my father’s work,” said Khoa Nguyen, who has attended training sessions in Canada. “Him being jailed unjustly is the first time I felt this is real. We’re doing something other people might not like, and if needed, we can go to jail as a family. My dad was always talking to me about fighting to give power back to the people — to empower people.”

Now back in Orange County, Nguyen Quoc Quan said he never considered his jailing as something “heroic.

We carry out our mission quietly,” he said. The real heroes, he said, are the “brave political prisoners” who remain in Vietnam.

Nguyen Quoc Quan said last year, when he went to the place he and other refugees still call Saigon (it was renamed Ho Chi Minh City after the war), it was to conduct “nonviolent training.”

But according to the Vietnamese consulate in San Francisco, he flew to his homeland in April 2012 using an alias, “Richard Nguyen.” He “acknowledged to authorities that he planned to cause social turmoil and disturb public events in Vietnam through Viet Tan agents inside Vietnam,” officials said.

“In reality, they don’t have any proof” to bolster their accusations, Nguyen Quoc Quan responds.

Someday, he expects to return to Vietnam to resume his mission. “There will be a time when I need to come back because we value life and bringing good to people’s lives.

“I am simply doing social work.”

President Barack Obama meets with President Truong Tan Sang of Vietnam in the Oval Office on July 25, 2013 in Washington, D.C.  (Photo by Dennis Brack-Pool/Getty Images)


Vietnam: Internet Challenger To Google Redirecting Searches to American Web Sites

May 16, 2013

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — A Russian-financed search engine seeking to challenge Google’s dominance in Vietnam is redirecting queries for some politically sensitive terms to the American company’s website, apparently as a way of avoiding government anger or legal liability for sending surfers to sites containing criticism of the ruling party.

The move Thursday follows an Associated Press story on the well-funded start up, Coc Coc, that noted it didn’t seem to be censoring results. The shift appears to illustrate the difficulties facing companies in Vietnam’s booming Internet sector, which must negotiate the government’s intent on stifling online dissent that is posing a challenge to its authoritarian, one-party rule.

For Coc Coc, it sends a message to the ruling party that it doesn’t have to worry about it encouraging dissent. But it points to possible difficulties for Google if it wants to open offices and promote its products in Vietnam — and not have to act as a government censor. Google currently doesn’t have a presence in Vietnam because it is concerned about liability for content on its servers.  Coc Coc has more than 300 staff and a large office in Hanoi, the capital.

The AP story Wednesday noted that Coc Coc searches for “Viet Tan,” a well-known overseas pro-democracy group outlawed in Vietnam, were similar to Google’s. Each brought up the English and Vietnamese language websites of the organization. By Thursday, that had changed. Searchers were greeted with a message saying the search “was not valid” before being automatically redirected to the Google page displaying the returns for “Viet Tan.” Searches for one of the country’s most well-known dissidents, Le Quoc Quan, were dealt with in the same way.

In an interview with a Coc Coc representative over an instant message service, the company said it “decided not to serve the segment of political queries at all.”

“We are computer geeks completely out of politics and keen on technologies only,” the representative said. “It’s not our focus at all. So that whenever you want to find something in English, French or about politics in Vietnamese — just please use Google.”

Google declined comment.

In 2010, Google shifted its search engine division in China to Hong Kong after censorship requests from Beijing’s one-party government. The decision allowed Baidu, a Chinese search engine that censors on behalf of the government, to dominate the market. Google does take down some material at the requests of governments around the world, but balks at wholesale censoring of content at the request of authoritarian governments.

Coc Coc, which means “Knock Knock” in Vietnamese, is the latest in a series of challengers to Google’s dominance in Vietnam, a country of 90 million people with one of the fastest-growing Internet penetration rates in the world. It believes that its algorithms make for a better search in the Vietnamese language. It is also photographing and filming commercial businesses on streets around the country, data that is used for a richer search experience.

Shaken by the explosion in online dissent, the government is drafting laws that would tighten freedom of expression on the Internet and possibly force companies such as Google to keep their servers inside the country. It routinely blocks and filters sensitive sites, sentences bloggers to long jail terms and is alleged to be involved in hacking attacks on websites critical of the ruling party.


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Vietnam jails activists for subversion amid crackdown on dissidents

February 4, 2013

Reuters in Bangkok

Pro-democracy activists convicted of trying to overthrow communist government, sparking human rights concerns, Monday 4 February 2013 04.43 EST

This picture taken on January 28, 2013 s

Vietnamese activists jailed – Phan Van Thu, centre, and affiliates have been handed lengthy jail terms for subversion. Photograph: Vietnam News Agency/AFP/Getty

A court in Vietnam has sentenced a man to life in prison and given jail terms of up to 17 years to other defendants after they were found guilty of “subversive activities”, according to the state-run Vietnam Television.

The verdict follows a series of harsh punishments handed down for dissent in the communist-ruled country, at a time of reported political infighting among the leadership centred on how to reform the economy and tackle management problems at big state firms that have led to bad debt.

The people’s court of Phu Yen province gave a life sentence to Phan Van Thu, head of a group that wanted to establish a new government in Vietnam, the television station said in a news bulletin.

Jail terms of between 12 and 17 years were handed to others in the case, the television station said without elaborating. “Their action has seriously violated the laws,” it added.

People’s Police newspaper, run by the public security ministry, said Thu and others had joined forces in a tourist resort in the central province of Phu Yen from 2004, printing anti-government documents until their arrest in February 2012.

Thu had spent time in prison for anti-government activities in the late 1970s, the newspaper said.

In January, 13 political activists were found guilty of anti-state crimes and sentenced to prison, a ruling condemned by rights activists as part of a crackdown on dissidents.

Late last month police arrested the human rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan in Hanoi after he wrote an article criticising the Communist party, Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2013, published on Friday.

“The Vietnamese government is systematically suppressing freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and persecuting those who question government policies, expose official corruption, or call for democratic alternatives to one-party rule,” the report stated.

The government has made no comment on the report.

Among other cases, on 24 January security forces detained a blogger in the northern province of Hung Yen and sent him to a mental institution, according to a letter to Vietnam’s leaders from the Paris-based Vietnam Committee on Human Rights.

Last week, the authorities deported Nguyen Quoc Quan, a US national of Vietnamese origin, after keeping him in prison without trial since April last year.

Quan was accused of subversion and of being a member of Viet Tan, an outlawed pro-democracy group based in the US, the Communist party newspaper Nhan Dan wrote.

Quan’s trial, which had been scheduled for 22 January, was dropped, He was freed on 30 January, the Viet Tan group said.

Vietnam Finds 22 Guilty of “Subversion” — Prison Sentences Begin

February 4, 2013
Phan Van Thu (R-standing) and others on trial in Phu Yen province, Vietnam (28 Jan 2013).
These men are on trial in Vietnam for  for subversion and trying to overthrow the government


A court in Vietnam’s Phu Yen province has jailed 22 people for between 10 years and life on subversion charges.

Prosecutors said the group had set up an eco-tourism company as a front for activities aimed at overthrowing the government.

The week-long trial was the largest of its kind in several years, as the government cracks down on dissent despite international criticism.

Last month, a court convicted 14 activists on similar charges.

In that case, 13 people – mostly Catholics, including bloggers and students – accused of having links to the banned Viet Tan group were jailed for between three and 13 years, while one received a suspended sentence.


State-appointed defence lawyer Nguyen Huong Que said the 22 men convicted in Phu Yen had “admitted their crime of aiming to overthrow the people’s administration”.

They were members of a little-known group called the Council for the Laws and Public Affairs of Bia Son [a mountain in Phu Yen].

The group’s leader, Phan Van Thu, was sentenced to life, while other defendants received jail terms of between 10 and 17 years, with five years of house arrest after that.

At the time of his arrest last year, state media had accused Phan of setting up two companies and investing in an eco-tourism park as a cover for recruiting supporters.

The defendants were accused of writing documents critical of the government.

Rights groups say the charges laid against the activists are routinely used by the Vietnamese government to silence dissent.

Dozens of people have been jailed under the laws since 2009, and the government has been accused repeatedly by overseas critics of stepping up repression.

An annual round of dialogue on human rights between Vietnam and the US was cancelled in December because of Washington’s concerns about Hanoi’s worsening rights record.

Last week, Human Rights Watch said the country was “systematically suppressing freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and persecuting those who question government policies”.

Above: Vietnam’s usual response to reporters, cameras and recorders: “No Comment” followed quickly by “You Under Arrest!” Vietnam, like China, has no real free media, no real freedom of speech and no real freedom of religion. The government of each nation is not accountable to the people…..

Vietnam Expels American Human Rights Activist

January 31, 2013

Vietnamese legal agencies on January 30 decided to expel Nguyen Quoc Quan from the country, realising the Vietnamese State’s humanity policy.

Quan, of the US nationality, was born in Hanoi on November 20, 1953, and is a member of the reactionary organisation in exile Viet Tan.

On April 17 last year, the Investigation Security Agency under the Ministry of Public Security arrested Quan in Ho Chi Minh City on a charge of carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration under Article 79 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.

The agency also seized many documents reflecting his illegal activities.

Quan pleaded guilty and begged for clemency so he could return to the US and reunite with his family.


Nguyen Quoc Quan
Photo: VNA

Read more:

Human rights activist Nguyen Quoc Quan with his wife Huong Mai Ngo smile during a news conference after his arrival at the Los Angeles International Airport from Vietnam on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, in Los Angeles. Quan has been released after being detained since April 17, 2012 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Vietnam frees American activist after 9 months

January 30, 2013
By CHRIS BRUMMITT Associated PressAssociated Press

Nguyen Quoc Quan

HANOI, Vietnam—Vietnamese authorities on Wednesday released and deported an American pro-democracy activist detained since April, a move that contrasts with the long prison terms given to Vietnamese activists who are members of the same U.S.-based dissident group.The release of Nguyen Quoc Quan came after U.S. diplomatic pressure and removes an obvious thorn in relations between the former enemies. Both countries are trying to strengthen their ties in large part because of shared concerns over China’s emerging military and economic might, but American concerns over human rights in one-party, authoritarian Vietnam are complicating this.

Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Quan had “confessed to his crime” and asked for leniency to be reunited with his family. His wife, Huong Mai Ngo, said she doubted this was the case, suggesting that Hanoi was seeking a face-saving way of allowing him to go home.

“I don’t believe it. They say that about everybody,” she said via telephone from Sacramento, Calif. “If my husband was prepared to do that (confess), he could have been released nine months ago.”

Given the diplomatic sensitivities around the case, most observers had expected Quan to be released and quietly deported.

Quan, an American citizen, was arrested at Ho Chi Minh City’s airport in April after arriving on a flight from the United States, where he has lived since fleeing Vietnam by boat as a young man. The 59-year-old is aleading member of Viet Tan, a nonviolent pro-democracy group that Vietnamese authorities have labeled a terrorist organization. He was detained in 2007 in Vietnam for six months, also on charges relating to his pro-democracy activities, before being deported.

Authorities initially accused Quan of terrorism, but he was later charged with subversion against the state, which carries penalties ranging from 12 years in prison to death. Earlier this month, 14 Vietnamese activists associated with Viet Tan were sentenced to up to 13 years in jail.

Ngo said she had yet to speak to her husband, who was on a plane home, but that the U.S. consulate had informed her of his release.

“I can’t believe it,” she said. “I cried over the phone when I was told.”

Asked whether she believed Quan would try to return to Vietnam again, she said: “I can’t stop him, but I hope not.”

The U.S. Embassy, which had publicly called on Hanoi to release Quan, had no immediate public response.

Quan’s supporters didn’t deny that he had come to Vietnam from his home in California to teach non-violent resistance to the Communist government. His lawyer and family members said earlier this month that his trial on charges of subversion was imminent, but then said it had been postponed for unknown reasons.

According to a copy of the indictment obtained by The Associated Press, Quan met with fellow Vietnamese activists in Thailand and Malaysia between 2009 and 2010 and discussed Internet security and nonviolent resistance. The indictment said he traveled to Vietnam under a passport issued under the name of Richard Nguyen in 2011, when he recruited four other members of Viet Tan.

Vietnam is routinely imprisons proponents of free speech and those who seek to undermine the Communist Party’s monopoly on power. Last year, the country arrested and convicted several bloggers, part of a reaction against Internet-fuelled criticism of corruption, its human rights record and handling of the economy.

U.S. officials said last year they were delaying Washington’s participation in an annual meeting on human-rights concerns because of Vietnam’s lack of progress, including Quan’s arrest. Such consultations have been held every year since 2006. Congress members with large Vietnamese-American constituencies have been putting pressure on the Obama administration to get tough with Vietnam.


Vietnam: Subversion Trial Starts

January 29, 2013

The trial of 22 people charged with attempting to overthrow the Vietnamese government has begun in the central province of Phu Yen, officials say.

The subversion trial, one of the biggest in recent years, is expected to last five days.


In recent years, dozens of political activists have been jailed in the Communist state, which forbids political debate outside party control.

Two of the defendants (wearing dark coats) in court on Tuesday
Earlier in January 14 activists were convicted on similar subversion charges

Earlier this month, a court convicted 14 activists on similar charges.

In that case, 13 people – mostly Catholics, including bloggers and students – accused of having links to the banned Viet Tan group, were jailed for between three and 13 years, while one received a suspended sentence.

State media quoted police as saying that the dissidents put on trial on Monday were part of a group with more than 300 members in several southern and central cities and provinces.

Among those on trial is the group’s alleged leader, who has been named as Phan Van Thu.

At the time of his arrest last year, state media accused him of setting up two companies and investing in an eco-tourism park as a cover for recruiting supporters.

The defendants are accused of carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the administration, which comes under Article 79 of Vietnam’s penal code.

The highest punishment for such crimes is the death penalty, but correspondents say they defendants are unlikely to face such a sentence if convicted.

There has been no public comment from any defendants or the group to which they allegedly belong.

Police have already shown total control of the area surrounding the court so no journalists can get access to any of the accused.

California man faces subversion trial in Vietnam

January 22, 2013

By Stephen Magagnini — The Sacramento Bee

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Nguyen Quoc Quan would be among the 28,000 Sacramentans marching to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this morning if he weren’t in a Vietnamese prison for practicing King’s mantra for change – nonviolent protest.Nguyen, 59, was scheduled to go on trial later today in the People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City for”activities aimed at overthrowing the People’s government,” according to his indictment.

He was arrested at Ho Chi Minh airport last April under the name Richard Nguyen – one of several trips he’d made to promote democracy in Vietnam after being barred from the country in 2008.

A devotee of King and Mahatma Gandhi, Nguyen was first arrested by Vietnamese authorities in 2007 for trying to distribute 7,000 fliers he had written about civil disobedience.After six months in a Vietnamese prison, he was convicted of terrorism in 2008, deported and ordered never to return to the country he’d escaped by fishing boat in 1981.

Reunited with his wife and two sons in Elk Grove, Nguyen told The Bee he was no terrorist, but admitted he’d written the two-page flier, “Non-Violent Struggle: The Approach to Eradicate Dictatorship, Set the Stage for Democracy.

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“The flier calls for widespread civil disobedience and urges protesters to “faithfully maintain the discipline of nonviolence.”Nguyen is a leader of Viet Tan, the International Vietnamese Reform Party, branded a terrorist organization by the government of Vietnam. It has strong support in Sacramento.After earning his doctorate in mathematics from North Carolina State University, Nguyen became a software engineer.

After moving to Elk Grove, he’d teach his sons about King and show them movies about the civil rights movement, said his wife, Ngo Mai Huong.”I remember the King march in 2009, where we started at the Oak Park Community Center and walked through the rain to the downtown convention center,” Ngo recalled.

She said it wasn’t the first time they’d marched in King’s memory.On that rainy Monday, he repeated King’s admonition that “when we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.””He loved that quote,” said Ngo.

Though he was banned from Vietnam, “he told me many times that won’t stop him. He’s been doing this for 20 years. If he quit right now, his life makes no sense.”His wife recalled a poem he wrote: Between life and death, I choose life. To protect life, I choose death.In April, he was arrested for allegedly planning to sabotage celebrations commemorating the communist victory in the Vietnam War, his wife said.

The terrorist charges were switched to subversion, and he had to stage two hunger strikes before he was finally assigned a defense attorney, said Trinh Nguyen, spokeswoman for Viet Tan in Washington, D.C. It took the government five months to issue an indictment and let him see his attorney, Trinh Nguyen said.”He has been traveling back to Vietnam and appearing at protests quite frequently since his 2007 arrest,” Trinh Nguyen said, but even his indictment accused him of promoting nonviolent protest.

The Vietnamese Embassy in Washington told The Bee it had no knowledge of Nguyen’s case or his upcoming trial, which was postponed at the last minute without explanation, his wife said.On Jan. 11, U.S. Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, Loretta A. Sanchez, D-Anaheim, Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and Gerry Connolly, D-Va., wrote David Shear, the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, asking him to take “immediate action to secure the release of Dr. Nguyen Quoc Quan.

“The representatives said they were troubled to learn that “Vietnamese state media has labeled Dr. Quan as a ‘terrorist’ for the crime of training grass-roots activists in nonviolent advocacy, and are deeply concerned by reports that Dr. Quan is being charged with ‘subversion against the state,’ an offense for which punishment ranges from 12 years in prison to death.”The lawmakers added, “Dr. Quan’s arrest is not an isolated event, but a symptom of the Vietnamese government’s ongoing crackdown on dissent.

“Human rights officials in Germany and France, along with the European Union’s ambassador to Vietnam, Franz Jessen, have called on Vietnam to stop sentencing bloggers and human rights advocates to prison for exercising freedom of expression.

 Nguyen said Nguyen’s trial may have been postponed because the general secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong, is scheduled to meet with European Union officials this week and perhaps doesn’t want to call attention to the case now.When the trial is held, it will probably be over in one day, Trinh Nguyen said. “It’s verdict and sentencing all at once.

Their evidence is essentially materials that he has and he’s a trainer and he’s been active,” she said. “There’s almost no degree of burden or proof; his defense attorney has to prove he’s innocent within the very narrow confines of the law.”We’re concerned because of the trend of the severity of the sentences over the last six months; one activist received up to 13 years on similar charges,” Trinh Nguyen said.

“The Vietnamese government is not fooling around.”In a 2008 interview with The Bee, Nguyen expressed his love for the activists in Vietnam.”Those are the true heroes,” he said. “I just follow them in my way. I hope all the Vietnamese overseas who supported me will pay attention to those willing to suffer because they’d love to have a country with freedom.”

Read more here:


Even DEEMS, editor, Academic

The Court in Ho Chi Minh City will review Dr. Nguyen Quoc Quan on July 22, 2013.

Photo courtesy of

Dr. Nguyen Quoc Quan

Not guilty

Dr. Nguyen Quoc Quan, an activist of Vietnamese Americans arrested April 17 minutes after reaching the airport in HO CHI MINH CITY and accused of the crime of terrorism for planning a protest to disrupt the ceremony to mark the April 30, 2012. He was a member of the Encyclopedia and is Ho Chi Minh City Court for trial on December 22 this month.

Although Lin had discussions with Ms. Mai Huong is the wife of DR. Nguyen Quoc Quan in order to know more about this.


Vietnam has been on a campaign to put the muzzle on people: Here Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly being restrained from talking at his own trial in Vietnam — Father Ly is one of Vietnam’s most prominent dissidents and has been a strong advocate for religious freedom and democracy for over 40 years. If his care is discussed by Vietnam’s bloggers, the communist government tries to find out who is involved so they can  punish the bloggers….


High-profile blogger Nguyen Van Hai was sentenced to 12 years in prison and Ta Phong Tan was given 10 years (AFP/File, Aude Genet)

Vietnamese government police outside court

Above: Vietnam’s usual response to reporters, cameras and recorders: “No Comment” followed quickly by “You Under Arrest!” China is only different in shades of gray… or grey!

UN human rights office concerned over convictions of 14 activists in Vietnam

January 13, 2013

11 January 2013 – The United Nations human rights office has expressed serious concern over the convictions and sentencing of 14 political activists in Vietnam for subversive activities.

In a news briefing in Geneva, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Rupert Colville, said that the 14 activists were convicted on 9 January in Vietnam’s Supreme People’s Court, in Nghe An province, for “subversion of the administration” under article 79 of the country’s Criminal Code.

According to OHCHR, the activists were accused of actively participating in and being members of a political organization known as the Viet Tan. Reportedly, the Vietnamese Government considers the exiled organization to be a militant group.

The activists received sentences ranging between three and 13 years, with three of them receiving the 13-year sentence. All had been held in custody for more than a year prior to the trial.

“Although Viet Tan is a peaceful organization advocating for democratic reform, the Government has deemed it to be a ‘reactionary organization,’” Mr. Colville said. “None of those convicted are alleged to have been involved in violent acts.”

The spokesperson also expressed alarm over the fact that that the convictions were handed down after only two days of trial, and noted that these latest convictions – as well as the arrest and detention in late December of a human rights lawyer, Le Quoc Quan – exemplify the limited space for critical voices in Vietnam.

“We urge the Government of Vietnam to review its use of the Criminal Code to imprison people who are critical of its policies, and to review all such cases violating freedom of expression and association in the country,” Mr. Colville added.


Defendants in court Photo: Nguyen Van Nhat/REUTERS

Here is a list of Vietnamese found guilty this week of “crimes against the Government of Vietnam” along with their prison terms:

1. Ho Duc Hoa (13 years in prison, 5 years house arrest)
2. Dang Xuan Dieu (13 years in prison, 5 years house arrest)
3. Paulus Le Son (13 years in prison, 5 years house arrest)
4. Nguyen Van Duyet (6 years in prison, 4 years house arrest)
5. Nguyen Van Oai (3 years in prison, 2 years house arrest)
6. Ho Van Oanh (3 years in prison, 2 years house arrest)
7. Nguyen Dinh Cuong (4 years in prison, 3 years house arrest)
8. Nguyen Xuan Anh (5 years in prison, 3 years house arrest)
9. Thai Van Dung (5 years in prison, 3 years house arrest)
10. Tran Minh Nhat (4 years in prison, 3 years house arrest)
11. Nong Hung Anh (5 years in prison, 3 years house arrest)
12. Nguyen Dang Vinh Phuc (probation)
13. Nguyen Dang Minh Man (9 years in prison, 3 years house arrest)
14. Dang Ngoc Minh (3 years in prison, 2 years house arrest)


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