There are growing signs that Vietnam’s government is moving to smother dissent, as the one-party regime in recent days has labeled a pro-democracy group a terrorist organization, imprisoned a blogger critical of the government and blockaded a group of activists trying to conduct a civil society workshop, RFA reports:
It is unclear why the Vietnamese government decided to make the moves at this time, but the ruling troika of President Tran Dai Quang, Communist Party Secretary-general Nguyen Phu Trong and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc appear to be sending a message that they will tolerate little criticism.
The United States and the European Union have called on the Vietnamese government to release a popular blogger, who writes under the pen name Mother Mushroom, arrested earlier this week for alleged anti-state writing, AP reports:
Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (right), who blogs as Me Nam, was arrested Monday in the south central province of Khanh Hoa for what authorities say were her Facebook and blog posts that distorted truth and instigated the public to oppose the communist government….Quynh co-founded the Network of Vietnamese Bloggers, one of the few independent writers’ associations in a country where the news media and publishing industry are tightly controlled by the governing Communist Party.
The Network quoted her mother, Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan, as saying that Quynh “just did what the law allowed and the purpose is for the country to change and to enjoy freedom and democracy.”
In 2009, Ms. Quynh was detained for more than a week after writing about a bauxite mining project in Vietnam’s restive Central Highlands, in which investors included a state-owned Chinese company. Chinese economic influence is a politically delicate topic that the government has tried to play down. She was not charged with a crime at that time, The New York Times adds:
“It was ugly what was happening in our society,” Ms. Quynh said in a 2014 interview with the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based advocacy group. “My blog asked: Why must we agree with the government on everything? Why can’t we have different opinions?”
In 2015, Ms. Quynh was named civil rights defender of the year by Civil Rights Defenders, an advocacy group based in Stockholm. The group’s executive director, Robert Hardh [a steering group member of the World Movement for Democracy], said on Tuesday that he was saddened by her arrest.
Some 50 civil society organizations and religious groups have urged Vietnam’s Communist authorities to comply with international human rights laws by revising a draft Law on Belief and Religion.
In an Open Letter addressed to Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, President of the National Assembly of Vietnam, the concerned groups noted that religious groups that did not register with the government have no legal safeguards when conducting religious activities. Registration should not be a prerequisite for the free exercise of religion, the groups insisted.
In a further instance of the current crackdown, on 20 September 2016, land rights defender Ms Can Thi Theu (right) was sentenced to 20 months’ imprisonment by The People’s Court of Dong Da district, in Hanoi, on charges of “causing public disorder” under Article 245 of the Penal Code. Upwards of 50 of her supporters who attempted to attend the trial were rounded up and removed from the scene by police.