Communist Regime Arrests Third Member of IJAVN in Effort to Eradicate Free Press
Defend the Defenders | June 14, 2020
In a bid to demolish the unsanctioned organization Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN) and take full control of the press ahead of the 13th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam, the security forces have detained IJAVN’s third member named Le Huu Minh Tuan and charged him with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code.
On June 12, the security forces of Ho Chi Minh City reportedly arrested Mr. Tuan who uses Le Tuan pen name in his numerous articles about the country’s issues and took him to Chi Hoa temporary detention center where IJAVN’s President Dr. Pham Chi Dung and Vice President Nguyen Tuong Thuy are held for investigation on the same allegation. Dr. Dung was arrested in November 2019 and his deputy was detained six months later.
It is expected more members of IJAVN to be arrested in the coming weeks as the police in HCM City want to make the case bigger to eradicate the free press in Vietnam which is worsened in the last several years. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Hanoi held 12 journalists under the bar for their journalism activities as of 2019’s end while the Reporters Without Border (RSF) has placed Vietnam at the bottom of its annual free press indexes in recent years.
So far this year, Vietnam has arrested at least 12 activists, nine of them for their writings. Vietnam is also among the biggest prisons of prisoners of conscience in Southeast Asia, with around 280 activists being kept behind bars.
This week, the Hanoi Police Department released its investigation conclusion about the Dong Tam incident in which the Ministry of Public Security and the capital city’s police deployed thousands of riot policemen to attack Hoanh village, Dong Tam commune, Hoai Duc district in early hours of June 9. During the assault, police killed 84-year-old local spiritual leader Le Dinh Kinh and arrested nearly 30 land petitioners. The police said three police officers were burned during the massacre and blamed the local land petitioners for killing them although the authorities have yet to show pictures and necessary documents for their death.
In their investigation conclusion, the Hanoi police proposed to prosecute 25 land petitioners, including two sons, one adopted daughter, and two grandchildren of elderly leader Kinh, on allegation of murdering the three police officers. Remaining four land petitioners are proposed to be prosecuted of “resisting on-duty state officials.” It seems that after killing communist member Kinh in a brutal way and beating his wife and sons, the communist regime is willing to impose harsh sentences for land petitioners who challenged the communists’ power by objecting their land grabbing which occurs nationwide.
The family of political activist Chau Van Kham, a Vietnamese Australian who is serving his 12-year imprisonment in Vietnam, has no information about him in the last four months. His relative’s effort to visit him in prison was denied while the Australian diplomatic mission in Vietnam has not been permitted to contact him. Mr. Kham, 70, was convicted of terrorism just because he is a member of the California-based Vietnam Reform Party (Viet Tan), a pro-democracy group of Vietnamese labeled as a terrorist group by the Vietnamese communist regime.
On June 10, the US Department of State released its report on the world’s religious freedom in 2019, in which the US slams Vietnam’s suppression on the freedom of religions, especially against the unregistered religious groups. Numerous followers of the unsanctioned religious groups have been harassed, arrested, beaten, having properties confiscated and the rights of free movement violated.