Vietnam's Crackdown on Dissidents Isn't New
Kim Ngaâs nightmare began earlier this month when she received a mysterious message from her husbandâs phone saying police had arrested him in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Her husband, Ngo Van Dung, a blogger and journalist, is a member of a Vietnamese pro-democracy movement that has publicly called upon Vietnamâs government to allow freedom of the press and free access to information.
Article twenty-five of the nationâs constitution protects these civil liberties, but the Reporters Without Bordersâ Press Freedom Index ranks Vietnam 175 out of 180 countries. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have denounced Vietnamâs arrest and imprisonment of bloggers who have criticized the government, such as Nguyen Van Hoa, who was convicted of spreading anti-state propaganda and sentenced to seven years in prison for reporting on a chemical spill along Vietnamâs central coast in 2017. Earlier that year, a court sentenced blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, also known as Mother Mushroom, to ten years in prison for writing about the impact of the spill on fish. Paul Robertson of Human Rights Watchâs Asia division criticized the verdict as an example of the Vietnamese governmentâs âparanoid desire to maintain political controlâ taking precedent over âjustice and human rights.â
Observers of contemporary Vietnamese politics are speculating that human-rights violations and the suppression of dissent will mark the legacy of President Tran Dai Quang, who died on September 21 at the age of sixty-one from an undisclosed illness, according to state media. Quang assumed the presidency in 2016, and prior to that, he had led the Ministry of Public Security, which includes Vietnamâs secret police and intelligence agency. According to the BBC , Quang was a âloyal and committed communist party member and known for his hard-line approach to dissent. Scores of disside nts have been jailed under his leadership.â A New York Times report on Quangâs death declared that the president âpresided over a crackdown on free speech.â In January, Human Rights Watch reported that as many as 119 dissidents were serving prison sentences for speaking out against the Vietnamese government, joining banned political organizations, or otherwise appearing to threaten the primacy of Vietnamâs communist party.
Quang may have presided over the most recent crackdowns on dissent, but Vietnamâs authoritarianism is a legacy of Hanoiâs victory in the Vietnam War. Not long after the war ended on April 30, 1975, news of re-education camps, executions, seizures of property, and other human-rights violations gradually made its way out of Vietnam. On May 30, 1979, Joan Baez and eighty other signers wrote an âOpen Letter to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,â which the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and other newspapers published a s a full-page ad. The letter expressed concerns about re-education camps, the disappearances of alleged enemies of the state, and the forcing of average citizens to clear minefields without proper training or equipment. Disappointed, the letter noted that âwith tragic irony, the cruelty, violence, and oppression practiced by foreign powers in your country for more than a century continue today under the present regime.â From the perspective of those who had opposed U.S. intervention in South Vietnam to support an unpopular, oppressive government, hearing of the Socialist Republic of Vietnamâs human-rights abuses made it seem as though Vietnam had simply traded one undemocratic government for another.
Political repression continued into the late 1980s and early 1990s when Vietnamese activists saw an opportunity to petition for democratic reforms as the government experimented with economic restructuring. Known as doi moi, the economic reforms made room in the state-cont rolled economy for some private enterprise. In 1990, police arrested two alleged dissidents who had activist credentials dating back to the Vietnam War. Father Chan Tin, a Catholic priest in Saigon and an opponent of continued U.S. intervention in Vietnam, had publicized testimonies from political prisoners regarding the use of torture in South Vietnamâs prisons. After the war, Tin was appointed co-chair of the Central Committee of the Fatherland Front, a state-run umbrella organization of social movements. But he was arrested in 1990 for preaching a sermon on the subject of repentance, which communist party officials interpreted as a critique of the governmentâs human-rights and religious-freedom record.
Huynh Tan Mam, a former Saigon student leader who had been an undercover agent for the National Liberation Front, was placed under house arrest for writing a letter to Nguyen Van Linh, general secretary of the communist party and a supporter of the doi moi reforms, c alling for an expansion of democracy. Neither Mam nor Tin was brought to trial, but authorities ruled that they had violated article 82 of the criminal code, which forbade the dissemination of âanti-socialist propaganda.â Tin was also guilty of defying article 81, which prohibited actions or speech that caused âdivisions between the religious and non-religious and separating religious followers from the peopleâs government and social organizations.â From house arrest, Tin wrote to friends that he âalways struggled for the people under the old regime, and it was always on their behalf that I asked the State and the Party to repent their ways.â Loyalty to a government or political party had never been Tinâs reason for speaking out against injustice, and the suppression of civil liberties that turned South Vietnamese against the Saigon government did not end on April 30, 1975, when Hanoiâs military captured the southern capital.
View the discussion thre ad.Source: Google News Vietnam | Netizen 24 Vietnam