Vietnamese land-rights activist Trinh Ba Phuong has been transferred to a new detention center without word given to his family, according to his wife, who attempted to visit him at his former jail this week.
“Today, March 19, I went to the Hanoi Police Detention Center No. 1,” Phuong’s wife Do Thi Thu told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Thursday. “When I arrived, they told me that my husband had been sent to another facility but would not tell me where it was,” she said.
“They also gave me what was left of the money we had given him” to buy food in the jail, she said.
“Normally, when prisoners are moved to another place, detention center staff will inform the detainees’ families, and my husband’s surplus deposit should have been moved with him,” Thu said, adding,“I don’t know why they transferred my husband so suddenly, or whether they’re going to torture him or mistreat him now.”
A well-known land-rights activist in Hanoi, Trinh Ba Phuong was arrested on June 24, 2020 with his younger brother, Trinh Ba Tu, and his mother, Can Thi Theu, on charges of “creating, storing, and disseminating information, documents, items and publications opposing the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”
The three family members had been outspoken in social media postings about the Jan. 9, 2020 clash in Dong Tam commune in which 3,000 police stormed barricaded protesters’ homes at a construction site about 25 miles south of the capital, killing a village elder.
They had also offered information to foreign embassies and other international figures to try to raise awareness of the incident. While all land is ultimately held by the state, land confiscations have become a flashpoint as residents accuse the government of pushing small landholders aside in favor of lucrative real estate projects, and of paying too little in compensation to farming families displaced by development.
‘Activities to overthrow’
Also on Friday, a court in central Vietnam’s Dak Lak province sentenced Tran Nguyen Chuan, a member of the U.S.-based Provisional Government of Vietnam, to a six and a half year prison term on charges of carrying out “activities to overthrow the People’s Government” under Article 109 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.
Chuan’s indictment charged that he had used his mobile phone beginning in 2015 to access YouTube videos with subversive content and had attended online meetings of the Provisional Government from June 2018 to March 2020.
The Provisional Government was founded in 1991 by soldiers and refugees who had been loyal to the South Vietnamese government prior to the country’s unification under communist rule in 1975. It is headquartered in Orange County, California.
In 2018, Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security classified the Provisional Government of Vietnam as a terrorist organization, and four other members—Vu Thi Kim Phuong, Le Van Lac, Nguyen Thi Kim Duyen, and Le Van Sang—were also sentenced to lengthy prison terms in March 2021 for their involvement in the group.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Chau Vu. Written in English by Richard Finney.