There continued to be no precise estimates of the number of political prisoners. The government reportedly held more than 100 political detainees at year’s end, although some international observers claimed there were more (see also section 1.d., Arbitrary Arrest). Diplomatic sources reported the existence of four reeducation centers in the country holding approximately 4,000 prisoners.
For example, on February 8, authorities arrested Vu Quang Thuan, democracy activist and chairperson of the Vietnam Restoration Movement, upon arrival at Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City for propagandizing against the state. He awaited trial at year’s end.
On December 23, authorities arrested and detained Viet Khang (also known as Vo Minh Tri) after he composed and sang two songs to express his view on the government’s handling of the dispute with China regarding sovereignty in the South China Sea (East Sea). At year’s end his detention reportedly continued in Ho Chi Minh City.
At year’s end dissident Nguyen Ba Dang, a member of the People’s Democratic Party, awaited trial. Police had arrested him in January 2010 in Hai Duong Province for distributing antistate propaganda.
In March the Tra Vinh Province Appeals Court upheld the original sentences of three members of the United Workers-Farmers Organization--nine years’ imprisonment for Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung and seven years’ imprisonment for Do Thi Minh Hanh and Doan Huy Chuong--whose convictions were for causing public disorder to oppose the government. Police had arrested them for distributing pamphlets in February 2010 that called on citizens to advocate for democracy and freedom of assembly and to fight attempted invasions from China.
In September the Dong Nai Province People’s Court sentenced Pham Thi Phuong, a member of the Vietnam Populist Party, to 11 years in prison for activities to overthrow the government. Authorities had arrested her and her husband, Pham Ba Huy, in Ho Chi Minh City in April 2010 for reportedly planning a campaign to bomb statues throughout the city. At year’s end Pham Ba Huy continued to await trial.
In January Binh Phuoc People’s Court convicted Phung Lam from Binh Phuoc Province of propagandizing against the state and sentenced him to seven years in prison. Police had arrested him in June 2010 for alleged ties to the Democratic Party of Vietnam (DPV) and DPV chairman Nguyen Sy Binh, claiming that Lam posted articles opposing the government on the Internet. Lam had fled to Cambodia in May 2010, but police arrested him when he attempted to return to visit his family.
During a one-day closed trial in May, the Ben Tre People’s Court convicted several defendants of attempting to overthrow the government and sentenced them as follows: Tran Thi Thuy from Dong Thap Province, eight years’ imprisonment and five years’ probation; Pham Van Thong, Ben Tre Province, seven years’ imprisonment and five years’ probation; Pastor Duong Kim Khai, Ho Chi Minh City, six years’ imprisonment and five years’ probation; and Cao Van Tinh, Con Tho Province, five years’ imprisonment and five years’ probation. The other three (congregant Pham Ngoc Hoa, Nguyen Thanh Tam, and lay pastor Nguyen Chi Thanh) were each sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and three years’ probation. In August Thuy, Thong, Khai, and Tinh appealed; the court reduced Khai’s sentence to five years’ imprisonment and Tinh’s sentence to four years’ imprisonment, and denied the appeals of Thuy and Thong. Police had arrested Thuy, Thong, Khai, and Tam in July-August 2010 for alleged ties to a banned, foreign-based, prodemocracy group and for organizing and advocating on behalf of land-rights claimants in Ben Tre and Dong Thap provinces. Police had also arrested Hoa and Thanh, affiliated with Khai and the unrecognized Mennonite Church, in November 2010 for their alleged ties to the same prodemocracy group and their work with Khai.
On March 22, authorities deported foreign citizen Le Kin, whom they had arrested in October 2010 in Ho Chi Minh City for attempting to overthrow the government through his alleged involvement with overseas political organizations critical of the government.
In August an appeals court upheld the Hanoi People’s Court sentence in April of attorney Cu Huy Ha Vu to seven years in jail for antistate propagandizing. Police had arrested him in November 2010 for his Internet articles and interviews with foreign media criticizing the prime minister. In November Vu’s appeal of his sentence was unsuccessful.
In February the Hanoi People’s Court convicted Vu Duc Trung and Le Van Thanh, affiliated with the Falun Gong movement, of “illegally broadcasting information [into China] and operating information networks without a license” and sentenced them to three and two years’ imprisonment, respectively. Police had arrested them in Hanoi in November 2010 for broadcasting Falun Gong radio programs.
In March the People’s Court of Tri Ton District, An Giang Province, sentenced Chau Heng, a Khmer Krom land-rights activist to two years’ imprisonment for “deliberately destroying property and creating social disorder.” Police had arrested Heng in December 2010 as he reentered Vietnam after being denied political refugee status by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Thailand. Heng had led protests in 2007 and 2008 against local government land seizures.
Also in August the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court sentenced Pham Minh Hoang, a dual national and professor at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology, to three years’ imprisonment followed by three years’ house arrest for alleged ties to a foreign-based prodemocracy group, posting critical comments online against the government under a pseudonym in 2010, and activities aimed at overthrowing the government. Hoang admitted guilt and asked to return to a foreign country. An appeals court in Ho Chi Minh City in November reduced the imprisonment from three years to 17 months, and Hoang continued to serve his sentence at year’s end.
In March the appellate division of the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court reduced Le Thang Long’s original sentence from five years’ imprisonment to three-and-a-half years. In May the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court denied the appeal of businessman and blogger Tran Huynh Duy Thuc and upheld his original sentence of 16 years’ imprisonment. Long and Thuc--as well as prominent attorney Le Cong Dinh and DPV leader and Viet Youth for Democracy cofounder Nguyen Tien Trung--had all been arrested in 2009 and tried jointly in Ho Chi Minh City in January 2010 for involvement in a plot to create new political parties and overthrow the government. Dinh and Trung had pleaded guilty to joining political parties other than the CPV but had denied attempting to overthrow the government. During the year there were no developments in the cases of Dinh and Trung.
On August 29, the government amnestied and released Bloc 8406 member Tran Duc Thach (see section 1.d., Amnesty). Authorities had arrested Thach plus Bloc 8406 members Vu Van Hung and Pham Van Troi in 2008, convicted them in 2009 of antistate propagandizing for displaying banners that criticized the CPV and advocated multiparty democracy, and sentenced them to prison (Thach and Hung, three years’ imprisonment; Troi, four years). In January 2010 the Hanoi Appellate Court--with foreign diplomats and journalists excluded--had upheld the prison sentences.
In July authorities returned Roman Catholic priest and activist Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly to prison to complete the remainder of his eight-year prison term for propagandizing against the state. Authorities had arrested him in 2007 in connection with his role in cofounding the Bloc 8406 movement and the Vietnam Progressive Party but had granted him a one-year humanitarian release in March 2010 to seek treatment for a brain tumor following two strokes in 2009 (see also section 1.c.).
Several other political dissidents affiliated with outlawed political organizations--including the People’s Democratic Party, People’s Action Party, Free Vietnam Organization, DPV, United Workers and Farmers Organization, Bloc 8406, and others--remained in prison or under house arrest in various locations.
Authorities also continued to detain and imprison other individuals who used the Internet to publish ideas on human rights, government policies, and political pluralism (see section 2.a., Internet Freedom).
Authorities released several persons, including political activists and religious leaders, during the year, including the following:
In June authorities released activist and dissident author Tran Khai Thanh Thuy from prison, and she resettled abroad. A Hanoi court had convicted Thuy and her husband, Do Ba Tan, in February 2010 of assault and had sentenced her to three-and-one-half years in prison and him to two years’ probation following a 2009 incident in which unidentified individuals attacked them.
On July 1, authorities released democracy activist Ngo Quynh, who had been convicted and imprisoned for antistate propagandizing in 2009.
In March activist lawyer Nguyen Van Dai completed his 2007 sentence of four years in prison for posting appeals for a multiparty state on the Internet, and authorities released him to begin his sentence of four years’ house arrest.
In September Pham Ba Hai, leader of the Bach Dang Giang Foundation and a Bloc 8406 member, completed his 2006 sentence of five years in prison for antistate propaganda. At year’s end he was serving two years’ house arrest.
In February authorities released political activist and former police officer Tran Van Thieng, age 75. A court in Ho Chi Minh City had convicted him in 1991 of attempting to overthrow the government by “trying to publish a book that distorted historical information” about Vietnam and had sentenced him to 20 years’ imprisonment.
In October 2010 the Can Tho Police Security Investigation Agency and the People’s Procuracy of Can Tho released Doan Van Chac from any wrongdoing and declined any further investigation into his case. Police had arrested him in June 2010 after he had evaded arrest since participating as a juvenile in a 1983 campaign against the government that resulted in the deaths of three officials.