Vietnam: blogger in refuge abducted and forced to return to VietnamEvent
- Viet Nam
- Initial Date
- Apr 13, 2023
- Event Description
A prominent YouTuber, Duong Van Thai was reportedly abducted in Bangkok on orders from the Vietnamese government and forcibly returned to Vietnam. The incident is believed to have occurred around April 14, 2023 — the same day that US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, arrived in Hanoi.
Duong Van Thai (who publishes under the name Thai Van Duong) was granted political refugee status by the United Nations as he sought safety in Thailand. The Vietnamese authorities had threatened to prosecute him due to videos posted on social media that revealed sensitive information about power struggles within the Communist Party.
In 2018, Duong Van Thai fled to Thailand and applied for refugee status, waiting to be relocated to a third country under the UN Refugee Resettlement program. In a statement released on April 16, Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security claimed that Duong Van Thai was arrested for illegally re-entering the country. Fellow activists and Vietnamese asylum seekers in Thailand dispute the official account of the arrest, arguing that Duong Van Thai would not have voluntarily returned to Vietnam, given the risks of persecution and imprisonment he would face.
In December 2017, Vietnamese intelligence agents abducted Trinh Xuan Thanh in Berlin. Thanh was a former Vietnamese government official who fled to Germany where he sought asylum. In February 2019, Vietnamese security abducted blogger Truong Duy Nhat in Bangkok where he was under asylum process; Truong Duy Nhat was subsequently sentenced to 10 years for “defrauding the public.”
In recent years, hundreds of Vietnamese activists and persecuted Christians have fled to Thailand. Many of them are waiting for resettlement in a third country. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees needs to grant protection to these asylum seekers and accelerate procedures to bring them out of reach of the Vietnamese security forces.
The international community needs to investigate the cases of Duong Van Thai and Truong Duy Nhat and bring to justice the people responsible for transnational repression.
On April 13, Thai, an independent journalist who posts political commentary on YouTube and has about 119,000 followers, went missing in Bangkok, Thailand, according to multiple news reports.
He had lived in Thailand as a refugee since 2020 and visited the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ office hours before his disappearance, according to those reports and Nguyen Van Hai, a colleague familiar with Thai’s situation and CPJ’s 2013 International Press Freedom Award winner, who communicated with CPJ via email.
On April 16, Vietnamese state media reported that Thai had been arrested while allegedly trying to enter Vietnam and was being held by police in the Huong Son district of central Ha Tinh province.
“Vietnamese authorities must immediately release journalist Duong Van Thai and disclose the exact details of his detention,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Vietnam has a history of targeting journalists living in exile. Thai authorities should thoroughly and transparently investigate the circumstances of his disappearance in Bangkok, and ensure that members of the press are not targeted for their work.”
Those Vietnamese state media reports alleged that Thai was arrested while attempting to illegally enter Vietnam on April 14. CPJ called and emailed Thai after his arrest was announced but did not receive any replies.
On his YouTube channel, Thai recently aired commentary critical of Vietnam’s industrial policy, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, and the country’s finance minister.
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- Transnational repression
- Rights Concerned
- Freedom of expression
- Right to healthy and safe environment
- Right to liberty and security
- Freedom of expression
- Blogger/ Social Media Activist
- Suspected state
- Monitoring Status
- Event Location
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 13 April 2023, Duong Van Thai, a Vietnamese activist seeking refugee in Thailand, was kidnapped by the government agents and forcibly returned to his home country, where he was arrested on illegal entry charges in Ha Tinh Province, Vietnam.