BANGKOK – The vocal Vietnamese journalist and activist Fame Don Treng knew that it was only a short time before his arrival for the police.
He wrote a letter last year and gave it to an American friend With instructions to release it upon his arrest. In the letter, she asked that her friends not only campaign for her freedom but use her for free elections and fight for single-party rule in Vietnam.
“I don’t just want freedom for myself; It is very easy, “wrote Ms. Pham, 42, who has gone through hardship since the police beating in 2015.” I want something else: independence for Vietnam. “
Just before midnight of 6 October, police raided her apartment in Ho Chi Minh City and arrested her on charges of propagating and carrying out propaganda against the Vietnamese state. He is facing up to 20 years in prison.
Ms. Pham is one of the most prominent critics arrested in recent years by Vietnam’s Communist regime, who has long practiced harassing, beating and jailing activists who have been harassed.
The widespread use of smartphones and the Internet in Vietnam means that courageous activists and journalists such as Ms. Pham can freely publish stories in which they highlight corruption or expose malfunctions. But it also puts a big target on their back.
“He is a prolific writer and thinker, the Vietnamese government does not want to be free,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch. “They are going to throw the book at him and he is not going to compromise.”
The Communist Party has long feared that free speech would loosen its grip on power, and it has created a larger mechanism to spread dissent. Activists say the possibility of Ms. Pham’s arrest was revealed in January by the party’s upcoming Congress, which takes place every five years.
At a time when Vietnam has distinguished itself as a strategic US ally and a significant global manufacturing hub, officials are poised to innovate on dissatisfaction with little fear of consequences. They have also been rejected by the US administration, which has largely ignored human rights abuses.
Human Rights Watch estimates that Vietnam has jailed at least 130 political prisoners more than any other country in Southeast Asia.
Four years ago, then President Barack Obama gave priority to human rights in Vietnam. During the 2016 visit, he invited Ms. Pham and other dissidents to meet him publicly. But the police Kept him from participating By closing it.
but The Trump administration has not prioritized human rights in Vietnam in the same way. Actually, The police arrested Ms. Pham hours after the two governments held the 24th annual “Human Rights Dialogue”.
After Amnesty International, Committee to Protect Journalists And with other groups calling for her release, the State Department on Saturday pressured Vietnam to free Ms. Pham.
Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights Robert A. “The United States has condemned the arrest of author, democracy and human rights activist Pham Doen Trung,” said Destro. Statement. “We urge the Government of Vietnam to release him immediately and drop all charges.”
Ms. Pham began her career as a journalist, but faced restrictions in a country where most of the media is controlled.
In his 2019 book “The Politics of a Police State,” He wrote about the persistent harassment of a decade as a writer and activist.
Police once applied glue to the locks of his apartment door so that he could not leave. They put her under house arrest, publicly posted intimate photos taken of her computer and stole her identity card.
She left the country in 2013, but she was not happy in exile.
“It’s really hard to see what happens in Vietnam from the outside,” he said at the time. “It makes me feel helpless.”
She returned to Vietnam in 2015, And kept hiding since 2017.
Ms. Pham’s arrest last month has also been indicated by a report challenging the official account of a fatal police raid near Hanoi.
In Vietnam, all lands are state-owned, and officials have the power to seize prime parcels and give them to their cronies or foreign companies, a practice that promotes corruption. Such land graves are a sensitive issue, and some important activists have been imprisoned.
The dispute in Dong Tam village began when authorities transferred 145 acres of land to the country’s largest telecommunications company, the government-owned Viettel Corporation, but residents refused to give their land. During a confrontation in 2017, villagers hired 19 police and security officers Captive for a week.
In January this year, around 3,000 officers raided the village. The 84-year-old village head, Le Dinh Kinh, a lifelong Communist Party member who led the protest against the land seizure, was shot and killed by police. Three police officers were also killed.
In her report, Ms. Pham and her co-authors challenged the official claim that Mr. Le Hand was holding a grenade when the police shot him. In fact, he wrote, he was holding a cane.
Since the release of the report, three contributors have been arrested, activists said. The second author, American activist Will Nguyen, was deported from Vietnam in 2018. Television confession.
It was Mr. Nguyen who released Ms. Pham’s letter last week confirming her arrest.
Via email Mr. Nguyen said, “Trang has been a thorn in the government’s side for a long time, and officials have been hunting him since 2017.”
“At heart, he has an intense sense of justice and a deep love for Vietnam,” he said. “She wishes for it to get better, even if it means her freedom and sacrifice of herself.”
Ms. Pham also reported on A 2016 environmental disaster caused when a Taiwan-owned steel factory discharged toxic waste into the sea in a part of Vietnam’s central coast.
Other activists who wrote about the disaster were Nguyen Nkok Nhu Quinh, a blogger known as Mother Mushroom.
In a 2016 interview With The New York Times, Ms. Pham predicted that authorities’ attempts to intimidate activists by imprisoning Mother Mushroom would fail.
Ms. Pham said, “He has a lot of supporters.” “Many of them will change him or walk his path.”
Perhaps she was already thinking ahead to the possibility of her own clutter.
In his letter, titled “I have been imprisoned in the case of the bus”, he told friends that if they claimed they did not believe the police.
She asked not for a “free trang” but for a movement to “liberate Trang and ensure free and fair elections.”
“Nobody wants to sit in jail,” he wrote. “But if prison is unavoidable for freedom fighters, if prison can serve a pre-determined purpose, we should gladly accept it.”