Vietnam: Four Vietnamese Southern Dissidents Convicted of “Conducting Anti-state Propaganda,” Sentenced to Total 31 Years in Prison
February 3, 2018, 11:20 am

On January 23, the People’s Court in Vietnam’s southern province of An Giang convicted Vuong Van Tha, Vuong Van Thuan, Nguyen Nhat Truong and Nguyen Van Thuong guilty of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

During the one-day trial, the judge sentenced the four dissidents to a combined total of 31 years in prison. Particularly, Mr. Tha, 49, was given 12 years while his son Thuan, 28, was given seven years while the twine brothers Truong and Thuong were sentenced to six years in prison each.

In addition, all of them will face three years of house arrest after completing their jail sentences.

Relatives of the defendants and independent reporters were not allowed to attend the trial in the courtroom, like many other political cases. The defendants were reportedly not allowed to have their own lawyers.

It is worth noting that all defendants have poor education backgrounds. Mr. Tha and his son Thuan have yet to pass their primary school while the twin Truong and Thuong are illiterate. This raises the question of how well they understood the charges against them or the legal proceedings.

Mr. Tha, who served his three-year imprisonment on charge of “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 258 of the 1999 Penal Code, had made numerous live streams on Facebook calling for multi-party democracy and religious freedom in early 2017. He himself established a Hoa Hao Buddhist sect with few followers.

Due to Tha’s activities, his private residence in Vinh Hau commune, An Phu district was blocked in April-May as the local authorities deployed police and militia to isolate his family with neighbors. The water and electricity supplies were cut.

On May 17, police evicted his family and took them away. Several days later, they publicized their accusation.

The group’s trial is the first against local dissidents and human rights activists this year and one of the three trials scheduled in late January. The communist government plans to try labor activist and environmentalist Hoang Duc Binh and driver Nguyen Nam Phong on January 25 and pro-democracy campaigners Vu Quang Thuan, Nguyen Van Dien, and Tran Hoang Phuc on January 31.

The arrests of Tha and three others were part of Vietnam’s intensified crackdown on local dissent last year, the hardest campaign for many years.

With little tolerance of government critics, Vietnam arrested at least 45 activists and convicted 19 of them with severe imprisonments of between three and 16 years in 2017.

The trend is ongoing with detention of pro-democracy activist Vu Van Hung and religious freedom advocate Doan Van Dien. Police also seek to arrest labor activist Doan Huy Chuong. All three are former prisoners of conscience.

Vietnam is holding between 120 and 180 prisoners of conscience, according to local and international human rights organizations.