RFA’s Vietnamese Service
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 December 2011 02:40 Written by RFA15 Wednesday, 14 December 2011 05:19
Thank you for visiting RFA’s 15th Anniversary site. This month we’re featuring RFA’s service to Vietnam. Since its beginning in 1997, RFA’s Vietnamese service has been successfully breaking stories and providing thorough coverage of news and information important to people in Vietnam and Vietnamese people living around the world.
Please scroll down to explore the unique features of RFA Vietnamese, including its robust multimedia features, exclusive coverage, and listener comments.
You can also view major news events and story highlights as well as awards won by RFA Vietnamese journalists.
First broadcast: Feb. 5, 1997
Coverage: 2 hours of programming per day, 7 days a week
Distribution: Radio, Internet and satellite. RFA Vietnamese can be heard on five diversified frequencies.
English Language website: http://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam
Special Programming: In addition to news, RFA’s Vietnamese service provides its listeners with guides to popular blogs and online media, along with blogger interviews; health programming; listener forums; arts and literature discussions; economic roundtables assessing Vietnam’s economy and impact of global markets and trade; political commentary; cultural series including traditional music; and a café roundtable featuring opinions and voices of the service’s younger listeners on a wide array of topics.
Target Audience: Vietnam’s population of 86 million, as well as Vietnamese people living around the world.
RFA Vietnamese’s first broadcast was 30 minutes long and aired at 9 a.m. on Feb. 5, 1997, a day before the lunar new year. The Vietnamese government wasted no time in criticizing the fledgling news service and attacked then-service director Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Bich through a series of articles in state-controlled press. Within a month, RFA began receiving letters of encouragement from listeners in Vietnam and the region who were tuning in daily.
Awards and Recognition
Broadcaster Khanh An’s three-part series “A New Form of Women Trafficking” won a gold medal at the 2010 New York Festivals International Radio Broadcasting Awards (NYF) in the category of Best Human Interest Story. The series, which aired in March 2010, documented a case in which a Vietnamese woman was trafficked to Europe.
Viet Tien Nguyen received a finalist award in 2000 for his report on events in Jakarta, Indonesia. RFA Vietnamese also received a finalist award in 1999, for the story “The Three Kitchen Gods Go To Heaven,” which aired in RFA Vietnamese’s original broadcast in 1997. The award was presented in recognition of outstanding achievement in the International Competition for Radio Advertising and Programming.
Media and Human Rights Environment in Vietnam
About four decades after the end of a war that left Vietnam ravaged, the country has rebounded with economic reforms that have led to it being one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia. However, admirers of Vietnam stop short when it comes to the country’s record on human rights, particularly in regards to free speech and free press, as well as religious freedoms and pro-democracy advocacy.
All media remains under the control of the state, with the exception of Vietnam’s numerous bloggers and the rising use of online media. Technology thrives in Vietnam with its abundant Internet cafes and availability of mobile devices. Nearly a third of the country’s population of 86 million is online with Internet use continually growing. Yet, because of the numerous cyber attacks on online media, shutting down of social networking sites such as Yahoo360 and Facebook, restrictions on Internet providers, and severe punishment doled out to bloggers, international media rights group Reporters Without Borders named Vietnam in its “Internet Enemies” list. The report states, “This use of the Internet by young democrats alarms the authorities, who are still often ready to use force to silence these cyber-dissidents.”
Freedom House’s 2011 Freedom of the Press Index categorizes Vietnam as “Not Free” and the Vietnamese government increased restrictions on journalists throughout 2010. As the index states, “Attacks on internet dissidents intensified, with bloggers who addressed politically sensitive issues facing arrest or physical harassment. Vietnam now imprisons the second-largest number of bloggers in the world, with at least 16 behind bars by year’s end.” The Internet remains both the most accessible space for disseminating opposition views and the main target for government crackdowns.
Conditions for cyberactivists and online journalists continue to deteriorate. Bloggers are frequent targets for arbitrary detention, interrogation, and arrest. Five bloggers were imprisoned in 2010, a dramatic increase from just one in 2009. After a high-profile trial in January 2010, three cyberdissidents were convicted under Article 79 of the country’s criminal code for supposed national security violations, with sentences ranging from 5 to 16 years in prison. In August 2011, blogger Phạm Minh Hoàng was arrested and held for six weeks for public statements on bauxite-mining issues, then charged with 30 counts of terrorism and intent to overthrow the government. In October 2010, authorities arrested bloggers Phan Thanh Hải, for blogging about mining and Chinese border issues and in April 2011 the French-Vietnamese professor and blogger was sentenced to three years in prison for “undermining national security.”
In its 2011 Annual World Report on human rights in Vietnam, Human Rights Watch said that the Vietnamese government tightened controls on freedom of expression during 2010, including harassing, arresting, and jailing dozens of writers, political activists, and other peaceful critics. The report states that “Cyber-attacks originating from Vietnam-based servers disabled dissident websites and the government introduced new restrictions on public internet shops while continuing to restrict access to numerous overseas websites. Public protests over evictions, confiscation of church properties, and police brutality were met at times with excessive use of force by police.”
In addition to severe violations against freedom of expression, information, association and religion, the report cites ongoing corruption in the criminal justice system as well as widespread police brutality—including torture and fatal beatings—which was reported in all regions of the country.
At considerable personal risk, a number of activists and former prisoners of conscience in Vietnam continued to publicly denounce ongoing rights abuses in 2010. After his release from prison for medical reasons in March 2010, Father Nguyen Van Ly issued a series of public reports detailing torture in prisons. In August 2010, Ho Chi Minh City police detained and questioned another former prisoner, Nguyen Bac Truyen, after he publicly advocated on behalf of peaceful dissidents serving long prison terms.
RFA Journalists Targeted
In July 2010, RFA Vietnam’s Deputy Director Nguyen An was confronted in Bangkok by Vietnamese authorities after filing an investigative report on the Con Dau Parish followers who fled to Thailand. He was transferred to Washington to avoid possible problems.
The Vietnamese Embassy in Washington also denied a journalist’s visa to RFA reporter Nguyen Khanh in 2000, preventing him from accompanying U.S. President Bill Clinton on a diplomatic trip to the country.
Online Multimedia and Innovations
RFA Vietnamese has taken advantage of online media as a way to reach its audience in Vietnam, breaking news about environmental and mining issues, land grabs, official corruption, crackdowns on online media and pro-democracy groups, and religious persecution. RFA continues to broadcast on shortwave as well for the many rural Vietnamese without Internet access.
RFA Vietnamese began broadcasting online in March 1999. Since then, web traffic has rapidly increased; just last year alone the number of page views each month is up to 8 million. RFA’s Vietnamese website is the most popular of RFA’s nine language sites, despite severe Internet censorship inside Vietnam.
The website also makes available instructional videos and information, supplemented by radio tutorials, on the use of Web circumvention tools to bypass Internet censorship and restrictions. Information on how to use proxies is also provided, as well as the creation and management of blogs. Particular attention is given to Vietnam’s younger generation of readers. With a 50 percent use of Internet by urban youth, RFA focuses on serving their appetite for current cultural and interactive content.
In November 2007, the service launched a message board in Vietnamese and RFA’s audience was quick to pick up on this opportunity to dialogue with our broadcasters. One month later, there were already more than 40 posts, receiving more than 6,000 views on issues such as constitutional and legal reforms, land rights, and the merits – or not – of the capitalist system for the economy.
At the same time, RFA Vietnamese’s videos posted on YouTube drew increasing comments on topics such as the sovereignty dispute over the Spratley and Paracel Islands, and the contested China-Vietnam border. Three amateur videos – two weeks after their posting – received no less than 33,500 views and drew more than 450 comments, witness to a passionate debate among both the expatriate community and Vietnamese people living inside Vietnam.
Ever since, citizen journalists have been sending RFA their eyewitness videos and photos of events. The service now routinely publishes user-content on the site, as illustrated by stories on wage strikes in Danang or demonstrations in Hanoi to recover the grounds of a confiscated Catholic church.
The Vietnamese website has seen a steady maturing of its audience on the Web, from just listening to the broadcast online to watching multimedia content and to taking part in the actual news production process. The RFA site now features interactive maps and slideshows of images and people respond by visiting the multimedia section in priority and sending their own thoughts and reports.
In addition, there are daily video webcasts via RFA Vietnamese’s YouTube channel. More than 65 percent of our webcast viewers are from Vietnam. As of November 2011, the number of viewers has reached more than 1.8 million. Online articles, as well as webcast videos, are frequently reposted and embedded on websites, blogs, forums and social networks.
In a first for RFA Vietnamese, its webcast featured a video report direct from Hanoi. The report came from blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh’s and was on the attempt of Catholic parishioners to recover church property. Nguyen Huu Vinh, known online as “John the Baptist,” was beaten unconscious by police in November 2010 when reporting on the same topic for his blog.
Social Media and Citizen Reporting
In November 2010, RFA Vietnamese launched a new project calling on Vietnamese women to share their thoughts and experiences on the RFA website.
According to a joint study by the Vietnamese government and the United Nations, more than half of all Vietnamese wives are the victims of physical, sexual or emotional abuse by their partners. At the same time, Vietnamese authorities said a two-month crack down on human trafficking identified more than 1,200 victims of traffickers in Vietnam. An overwhelming majority of them are women.
The project is discussed on air during the women’s weekly show, as well as on the Vietnamese service’s Facebook page.
In May 2011, RFA Vietnamese unveiled a hub page focusing on Vietnamese women: The lives of Vietnamese women: butterflies yet warriors with an accompanying video on YouTube. The special multimedia feature was the result of a collaboration between the Vietnamese service, multimedia editor Minh-Ha Le, an intern and a stringer in Ho Chi Minh City.
Special attention is given to domestic violence but also includes documentation and reporting on the status of women in modern society. Vietnamese women have a very high level of participation in the economy and political life of their country. The feature leads to a Vietnamese Facebook page about domestic violence where women can share their experiences and find resources to get help. A “wall” of portraits of women from all walks of life in Vietnam complement the reporting.
What Listeners Say
“How can I thank you? You are absolutely the voice of the voiceless.” – A female asylum-seeker in Thailand, originally from Con Dau, Da Nang
“I like to listen to RFA, because it provides information from many sides. Unlike RFA, Vietnamese channels only presented the news from one side.” – Male listener, 33, construction engineer
“I have been a loyal listener to RFA and I will continue to listen in the future. Thanks to RFA, I know more information and more supplemental news. The news will help me keep up with the current information technology era. I will have more issues to discuss with my friends. RFA’s programs are also one of the topics my father and I can discuss when we listen together to in the evening, because my father is also a loyal RFA listener.” – Male listener, 28, student
“I may miss my coffee, but can’t miss listening to your morning broadcasts.” – A Vietnamese reporter, Ho Chi Minh City
“Recently, I’ve heard Radio Free Asia talking about democracy in Vietnam. One reason the Vietnamese communist government gives for rejecting democracy is that it will create chaos. I hope that RFA will keep on interviewing dissidents who fight for freedom of Vietnam. So your listeners will be happier.” – Email from a listener
“I was very happy when I could finally reach RFA’s Web page in Vietnam. Thanks to your instructions, I was able to get through the firewalls. Now, after waiting for many days, I can see RFA’s logo appear before me, and I passionately read one news item after another … I was also able to find and print out documents on how to combat jamming. I later distributed those documents to people in the countryside who want to listen to your programs. I have done this quietly and on my own … My uncle, who lives in a remote area, once complained to me that he couldn’t hear RFA clearly. I gave him the document, and he introduced it to many others.” – Email from a listener
“Thanks to RFA for giving us an opportunity to see Vietnam and the world more clearly and truthfully which is something that news outlets inside the country could not give to us. With the world of technology today, the truth will come to light with the voices from your station. Wish you always success in completing your job.” – Email from a listener
Major News Events and Story Highlights
RFA has regularly interviewed Father Ly, one of Vietnam’s most well known dissidents, and covered the continued persecution of the followers of international peace activist and Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, an advocate for greater religious freedoms and tolerance in Vietnam, as well as crackdowns on Catholic parishioners and land grabs of church property.
In addition, RFA’s Vietnamese service has reported on the harassment of pro-democracy groups and advocates and curtailing of free speech. Major news sources, including The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Reuters, have cited RFA’s breaking coverage, including a recent 2011 incident in which a U.S. embassy official was roughed up by Vietnamese guards when he was trying to visit Father Nguyen Van Ly under house arrest.
Police Attack US Official
RFA broke the story of Vietnamese police attacking a U.S. diplomat close to the home of rights advocate Father Nguyen Van Ly. RFA was tipped off by a citizen reporter who sent an email to the service, then gave an account of events so RFA reporters could confirm the incident with Father Ly. The United States lodged a “strong protest” with the Vietnamese government after policemen attacked and injured Christian Marchant, a political officer with the U.S. embassy in Hanoi. Marchant attempted to meet with the dissident Catholic priest, under house arrest after being released from jail on medical parole in March 2010. A U.S. State Department official told RFA’s Vietnamese service, “We are aware of and deeply concerned by the incident and … We plan to raise the issue with [Vietnamese] Ambassador Phung in Washington.” After the reporting of this incident, a bill was introduced in the U.S. Congress barring Vietnamese officials complicit in human rights abuses from coming to the United States and doing business with U.S. firms.
Dissident Detained for Reform Calls
RFA’s Vietnamese service interviewed Nguyen Dan Que, a 69-year-old physician and activist who has spent a total of 20 years in prison or under house arrest on three separate occasions since 1978. Que told RFA that Vietnamese activists had been inspired by the recent overthrow of authoritarian regimes in the Middle East following massive popular uprisings. In late February, Que admitted to police that he was the author of a letter calling for people to “take to the street to fight against the communist government—to establish a new democratic government in Vietnam.”
On Feb. 26, Que was arrested at his home in Ho Chi Minh City and accused of being in possession of “anti-state” documents allegedly calling for the overthrow of the one-party Communist regime. State-controlled newspaper Tuoi Tre reported that Que had been allowed to leave the police station where he had been held because of his poor health and because he had cooperated with investigators. His wife, Tam Van, confirmed in an interview with RFA on Feb. 27 that Que was suffering from health problems. “They let me take him home to rest, but he has to be available whenever they want to question him,” she said.
Fuel Prices Surge
Fuel prices in Vietnam jumped by 18 percent at the end of February, threatening to further increase already high inflation following devaluation of the country’s beleaguered currency. Ngo Tri Long, former deputy head of the Market and Price Research Institute under Vietnam’s Ministry of Finance, told RFA that the government was forced to hike the price of gas to bring costs in line with the rest of the world.
Montagnards Ordered Repatriated
A group of Vietnamese refugees, most of whom had fled Vietnam because of religious persecution, faced repatriation after the Cambodian government closed a U.N.-operated refugee center in Phnom Penh. Several members of the Montagnard ethnic group said they fear reprisals upon their return to Vietnam’s Central Highlands, where they have suffered land confiscation and repression by the government.
Illicit Baby-Breeding Scheme Exposed
RFA’s Vietnamese service reported that authorities in Thailand uncovered an illegal operation using Vietnamese women as surrogate mothers, but investigations may face hurdles due to legal issues. Thai police raided a Taiwanese-owned company, Baby 101, allegedly offering commercial surrogacy services in Bangkok. They also picked up 15 Vietnamese women, seven of them pregnant, linked to the scheme, described by Thailand’s Public Health Minister Jurin Laksanawisit as “illegal and inhuman.” The women, who were promised U.S. $5,000 for every baby they produced, are at present being held at the Kredtrakarn Protection and Occupational Development Center in Thailand. Some of them were forced to carry the babies, they said, adding that the company received orders online or through marketing agents from childless couples.
Vietnam Arrests Award-Winning Publisher
The Vietnamese service reported that Vietnamese authorities arrested a local underground publisher on his return home after he received an international award for upholding the freedom to publish. The Geneva-based International Publishers Association (IPA) said Bui Chat, who was awarded the Freedom to Publish Prize in Buenos Aires, was held over a weekend in June. His award and prize certificate were confiscated.
Hmong Stage Mass Protests
RFA’s Vietnamese service reported that minority ethnic Hmong in Vietnam staged mass protests calling for land reforms and religious freedom, resulting in a military crackdown. A local government official told RFA in a telephone interview, “There was a gathering among Hmong people expressing concern over land issues. He then said, “I cannot talk any further, as police have installed secret devices in our communication system.”
Anti-China Protests in Vietnam
Hundreds of people in Vietnam protested in front of the Chinese diplomatic missions in Hanoi and in Ho Chi Minh City against what they saw as Chinese incursions in Vietnamese territory in the disputed South China Sea. Protesters sang patriotic songs and carried banners in Vietnamese, Chinese, and English, with slogans such as “We Oppose China Creating Instability,” and “The Spratlys and Paracels Belong to Vietnam.” Others carried the national flag of Vietnam. Around 400 protesters marched to the Chinese embassy in Hanoi, gathering in front of it until the crowd was dispersed by police.
French Professor Sentenced
RFA’s Vietnamese service followed the trial and sentencing of Pham Minh Hoang, a French-Vietnamese professor and blogger, who was accused of ruining the nation’s image through his critical writings. Hoang was arrested by Vietnamese police in August 2010 for having ties to Viet Tan, a U.S.-based party pushing for reforms in Vietnam. Hoang’s lawyer Tran Vu Hai said that his client confirmed to the court that he had joined Viet Tan in 1998 while he was living in France as a French citizen. “Viet Tan was never banned in France. His political activities are legal according to the U.N. Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which Vietnam ratified,” Hai said.
Prominent Dissident Dies in Jail
RFA’s Vietnamese service reported that Truong Van Suong, a former military officer in the South Vietnamese Army, died in Nam Ha prison in Ba Sao at the age of 68. He had served more than 30 years of a life sentence for his role in a failed attempt to overthrow Vietnam’s communist government. One of his sons, Truong Tan Tai, told RFA that his father’s death was due in part to medical complications.
Under Fire Over Falun Gong Jailing
Vietnam has drawn scathing criticism from international rights groups for imprisoning two Falun Gong activists who beamed radio broadcasts into China, as Hanoi’s human rights record came under scrutiny in two days of talks in Washington. Le Van Thanh, 36, and his brother-in-law Vu Duc Trung, 31, were sentenced by the Supreme People’s Court of Vietnam to two and three years in prison respectively for “the illegal transmission of information on a telecommunications network” into China, according to Hanoi’s criminal code.
Police Surround Thai Ha Parish
The local government of Dong Da sent a force of around 300 to surround the Thai Ha Parish, blocking citizens from stopping the new Wastewater Treatment Plant construction project which residents oppose. The construction project is happening on land that the government had borrowed from the parish for over 50 years, and has yet to return. The priests of Thai Ha Dong Da Hospital had a private meeting to try to resolve the matter peacefully. But the local government mobilized all its forces to carry out construction in the night.
Dissidents Get Stiff Sentences
RFA’s Vietnamese service covered the trial of four Vietnamese dissidents who were found guilty of “activities aimed at subverting the people’s administration.” They were accused of being in collusion with “overseas exile reactionary organizations” and using the Internet to try to overturn the government. The dissidents – human rights lawyer Le Cong Dinh, 41; French-trained computer expert and blogger Nguyen Tien Trung, 26; Internet entrepreneur Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, 43; and Le Thang Long, 42 – were each handed sentences of up to 16 years. The case sparked concern in Europe and the United States, and among a global association of lawyers, human rights watchdogs, and press freedom groups. Diplomats and rights organizations denounced the trial as an example of increased repression of dissent in Vietnam. RFA produced several features on this case and interviewed family members, lawyers, law experts, and human rights activists before and after the trial.
Trafficking Fight Lacks Political Will
Vietnam has stepped up a campaign against human trafficking, with nearly 5,000 victims identified over the last six years. However, experts say political will is still lacking in the fight against the illicit trade. Authorities said nearly 1,200 people were smuggled from Vietnam in recent months, mostly to China, despite agreements signed between Vietnam and China and other countries to combat trafficking. Christina Arnold, founder of Prevent Human Trafficking, an American NGO, said the Vietnamese government has not tried hard enough to complement actions by local social groups tackling the crisis. “I think, in some cases, there is a lack of political motivation from the government, but the Vietnam Women’s Union, indeed, has worked very well. They build shelters and develop impressive training programs,” she said. The Vietnam Women’s Union is actively involved in highlighting problems of girls being trafficked from Vietnam’s southern delta and highland provinces into China for prostitution, domestic work, or marriage.
Vietnam’s Street Children
RFA’s Vietnamese service did an in-depth report on Hanoi’s estimated 1,600 street children. The children come to Hanoi from many different provinces to make a living, often because there is no one to take care of them at home. The children, who range from pre-schoolers to teenagers, often work as shoe polishers, newspaper sellers, lottery ticket sellers, trash collectors, and beggars. Often, they are trained by adults to pick pockets, steal, and offer sexual services. Some sleep on the streets or under bridges, but most live together in cheap rented rooms. RFA interviewed representatives from various Hanoi-based social agencies, including the Red Cross and the IV Social Security Center, who said that society does not have much sympathy for the children, so they are rarely protected. They are often orphans, HIV infected, and turn to crime and drugs to make a living. Some private and religious enterprises, however, have begun initiatives to teach the children a trade and to give them housing.
Trafficked Workers ‘Live in Terror’
RFA aired a three-part series on Vietnamese workers in Europe who were trafficked illegally on foot or by truck, often through the Czech Republic and France. RFA interviewed two women who described deaths, beatings, and rapes at the hands of trafficking gangs. The majority of Vietnamese human trafficking victims come from rural areas in the north and central regions of Vietnam. The victims usually make initial contact with the trafficking network through a local middleman, saying they wish to go overseas to look for work. The networks have connections with travel companies and other private companies that provide fake documentation and procure legal visas for the first port of entry into the European Union. One woman told RFA that she traveled under the guise of a “market observer,” although others are taken out of Vietnam as “tourists.” Those trafficked can pay between U.S. $8,000 and $25,000 depending on the middleman.
Exodus from Hue: 35 years After The Fall Of Saigon
On April 30, RFA published a special multimedia coverage of the 35th anniversary of the fall of Saigon in both Vietnamese and English. Thirty-five years after the fall of South Vietnam, an ex-war correspondent releases for the first time his photos of terrified refugees fleeing North Vietnamese troops who would only weeks later control the entire country. The package includes three slideshows of historical photos, a timeline covering Vietnam’s modern history, and an expert interview about the geostrategic balancing act of Vietnam with China and the United States. RFA published a slideshow of never-before-seen photography by then war correspondent Khiem Tran. The black-and-white pictures show terrified refugees fleeing North Vietnamese troops.
RFA Interview With Father Ly
The Vietnamese service broke the news of the release of father Nguyen Van Ly, 63, three years before the end of his sentence. The Roman Catholic priest, who was a founding member of Bloc 8406, a pro-democracy movement launched in 2006, also gave his first interview after his release to RFA.
Clash Over Cemetery
Dozens of Vietnamese Catholics were injured and dozens more detained as they tried to bury the remains of an elderly woman at a cemetery near the city of Danang. In mid-April, authorities had posted a sign barring burials at the cemetery, because the land was to be transferred to make way for an eco-tourism project. The authorities they told the family of Ho Nhu, who died May 1, not to bury her there. Witnesses told RFA that 62 people were beaten by local police and what appeared to be hired thugs, and that police had confiscated the coffin containing the woman’s remains.
Professor Held for ‘Subversion’
Vietnamese authorities arrest an academic with alleged ties to a U.S.-based opposition group. Police arrested a mathematics professor on charges of “subversion” after questioning him about his relationship with an opposition group based in the United States, the man’s wife said. Meanwhile, authorities released a founding member of another banned group after his completion of a four-year jail term. Le Thi Kieu Oanh said she and her French-educated husband, 55-year-old Pham Minh Hoang, were interrogated at a police station in Ho Chi Minh City on Aug. 11. “I didn’t know what the reasons were, but … the police came to the house and asked me and my husband to accompany them to the station,” Oanh said.
Police Target Refugee Families
RFA’s Vietnamese service reported the aftermath of an incident in Con Dau parish, when Catholic worshippers tried to bury a fellow parishioner in a cemetery which developers planned to take over. Parishioners were beaten by anti-riot police, and 40 people fled to Bangkok, where they now seek refugee status. The families of these parishioners are now being subjected to visits and intimidation by authorities, with police checking the residence registration cards of Catholics in central Vietnam.
Vietnam Under Rights Scrutiny
RFA’s Vietnamese service reported that Vietnamese authorities have sentenced two people to jail for up to a year following bloody clashes with police over a land dispute that highlighted alleged police brutality and religious persecution. In another case, three labor activists were ordered jailed for up to nine years for “causing public disturbance,” reflecting what some rights groups said is Hanoi’s increasing intolerance of worker rights. The convictions, together with the arrest of two bloggers within a week, came as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prepared to fly to Hanoi for a regional summit.
Toxic Spill Causes Bauxite Rethink
Vietnam’s lawmakers have joined ranks with environmentalists and others in calling for a review of bauxite mine operations in the country following a recent toxic spill in Europe, despite a recent crackdown on the industry’s critics. RFA reported that the representatives called on the government to scale back or suspend bauxite mining in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, arguing that harmful side effects and potential dangers would outweigh any profits exploration might bring.
Activist Lawyer Held
Vietnamese authorities have arrested and searched the home of a prominent rights lawyer who had recently sued the country’s prime minster, according to the man’s uncle. Cu Huy Ha Vu, the Hanoi-based son of a famous Vietnamese poet and late minister of agriculture, was picked up by police in southern Vietnam on Nov. 5 and accused of soliciting a prostitute, Cu Huy Chu said in a telephone interview.
Minister Alleges Police Beating
A prominent minister and rights advocate in central Vietnam says his wife is in critical condition after a beating by police outside their home. Nguyen Cong Chinh said he tried to intervene when police beat his wife June 6 outside the family home in Hoa Lu commune, Pleiku, in central Vietnam.
Vietnam Arrests Lawyer
The United States voiced deep concern at Vietnam’s arrest of lawyer Le Cong Dinh, saying it contradicted Hanoi’s commitment to human rights and calling for his immediate release. “Vietnamese officials have stated that Dinh was arrested because of his defense of pro-democracy activists and his use of the Internet to express his views,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said in a statement.
Exclusive Interview with U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam
RFA’s Vietnamese service hosted an exclusive interview with U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Michael Michalak. The ambassador said that his goal is to double the number of Vietnamese students coming to study in the United States.
Vietnam Archbishop Defends Land Protesters
Vietnamese Catholics get high-level support for protests calling on the government to return expropriated church land. A top Catholic church leader in Vietnam has defended peaceful protests by hundreds of Vietnamese Catholics for the return of church lands seized by the Communist government in the 1950s, following the arrest of several demonstrators.
Top Vietnamese Buddhist Slams Detentions amid Ongoing Crackdown
A top dissident Buddhist leader in Vietnam has spoken out against the detention in Ho Chi Minh City of a Norwegian woman who came to present him with a prestigious human rights award, amid signs of a tough new crackdown on dissent.
Hackers Bring Down Vietnam Democracy Web Site
Less than a month after its launch on International Human Rights Day, a Vietnamese pro-democracy website has been forced to close following an apparent hacker attack. Visitors to the “Voice of Democracy” site were confronted with a notice very similar to those displayed when overseas websites are blocked by government filtering systems.
50 Years On, Vietnamese Remember Land Reform Terror
Vietnam this year marks the 50th anniversary of a little-known political campaign known by the innocuous-sounding name of “land reform,” in which hundreds of thousands of people accused of being landlords were summarily executed or tortured and starved in prison.
Authorities were wary of dissident group Block 8406, which unveiled the 2006 Declaration on Democracy and Freedom for Vietnam. The document was signed by 118 of its members.
Mob Attacks Home of Vietnamese Dissident, Family
Dozens of people armed with wooden sticks and rotten food attacked a prominent 84-year-old Vietnamese dissident, while police allegedly looked on and later refused to take a report. “About 50 people, maybe more, maybe less, gathered in front of our house,” former Communist Party intellectual Hoang Minh Chinh said. “They encircled me and harassed me. They shouted, ‘you bastard, what did you do? You went abroad and said bad things about the government.’”
Hanoi Tells Buddhist Leaders “Expect Arrests At Any Time”
In a phone interview with RFA, a prominent Buddhist dissident, Thich Quang Do, reported that public security officers in Ho Chi Minh City warned him and two others that they can anticipate arrest at “any time.” Thich Tue Sy, the newly appointed Secretary General of the Unified Buddhist Church (UBC), was notified of this during a “work session” that he was sent to by the public security people of Go Vap District, Ho Chi Minh City.
RFA Interviews Hoa Hao Leader Accused Of Espionage
RFA conducted an exclusive interview with Le Quang Liem, a long-standing leader of the Hoa Hao Buddhist Church in Vietnam. RFA recently learned that the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) has accused him of espionage on behalf of unnamed foreign powers. RFA contacted Liem in Ho Chi Minh City and spoke with him on the morning of Aug. 28.
Vietnamese Police in Midnight Raid on Pastors House
More than two dozen Vietnamese police and officials conducted a midnight raid on the Ho Chi Minh City home of a jailed Mennonite Christian pastor, evicting Christian boarders and videotaping as they searched, according to witnesses. Le Thi Phu Dung, wife of jailed pastor Nguyen Hong Quang, told RFA’s Vietnamese service that around 30 police, security officials, and administrative personnel came to the house at around midnight Nov. 16.
Former South Vietnam PM Offers To Help Hanoi
Former South Vietnamese Vice President Nguyen Cao Ky who is currently on a reconciliation visit home for the first time in three decades has said he is willing to help the Vietnamese government, formerly his bitter enemies, in the work of building his country’s prosperity, RFA’s Vietnamese service reported.
Vietnamese dissident Nguyen Dan Que Arrested
Que, 61, an endocrinologist who has already spent nearly two decades in detention, was taken into custody at his home in Ho Chi Minh City on March 17, according to sources in Vietnam and the United States who spoke on condition of anonymity. He had already been under house arrest since being freed from a labor camp in 1998.
Three Vietnamese Dissidents Sentenced
Three Vietnamese dissidents related to jailed Catholic priest Nguyen Van Ly have received sentences of up to five years for “abusing democratic freedoms,” Ly’s nephews, Nguyen Vu Viet, 27, and Nguyen Truc Cyong, 36, were sentenced to five and four years respectively. Their sister, Nguyen Thi Hoa, 44 and a widow with four children, was sentenced to three years in prison.
Vietnamese Cyber-Dissident Sentenced to 7 Years For Espionage
Vietnamese cyber-dissident and journalist Nguyen Vu Binh has been sentenced to seven years in jail for criticizing border agreements between Vietnam and China, RFA reports. Binh, 35, was arrested in September 2002 following the Internet publication of an article titled, “A Reflection on Sino-Vietnamese Border Agreements.” The article accused the communist government in Hanoi of giving land to China and landed him in trouble with Vietnamese authorities as a result.
While much has changed at RFA since we began in 1996, our mission has remained the same: to advance the principles of the fundamental right to the free-flow of information and the right to seek, receive, and impart information.
Please take a moment to explore this webpage where you can revisit important milestones, accomplishments, and moments from RFA’s early days to the present.
—Libby Liu, President of RFA
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