Vietnam court sentences man over Facebook posts on deadly land protests


Authorities in Vietnam has recently sentenced a man to 18 months in jail for posting a story about the deadly Dong Tam protests on Facebook last January, the latest conviction of people involved in the politically sensitive land dispute.

Chung Hoang Chuong, better known by his nickname Lucky, was found guilty of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, lawful rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens” by the Ninh Kieu District People’s Court in Can Tho City.

Chuong was also accused of “distorting the truth about the Dong Tam protest causing influence to the state’s prestige and the interests of organizations and citizens” because he posted status updates on Facebook about the deadly incident on Jan. 09 in which three police officers and an elderly community leader lost their lives.

According to the indictment, the Ninh Kieu district police found on Sep. 15 that Chuong had also shared other offending stories that abused the party and state, and distorted the reputations of central and local government leaders. They detained him Jan. 12 according to police documents released Jan. 20.

Dong Tam village elder Le Dinh Kinh, 84, was shot and killed on Jan. 09 by police who attacked his home in an early morning assault that involved about 3,000 security officers. It was the latest flare-up of a long-running dispute over a military airport construction site about 25 miles south of Hanoi.

Though official reports said that villagers had assaulted police with grenades and petrol bombs, a report drawn from witness accounts and released seven days later by journalists and activists said that police had attacked first during the deadly clash that also claimed the lives of three police officers.

Police blocked off pathways and alleys during the attack and beat villagers “indiscriminately, including women and old people,” the report said, calling the assault “possibly the bloodiest land dispute in Vietnam in the last ten years.”

So far, 29 residents have been arrested in relation to Dong Tam, prosecuted on charges ranging from murder to illegal storage and use of weapons, and opposing officers on duty.

Facebook came under fire from Vietnamese and international rights activists last week after the social media giant publicly admitted that it had agreed to help communist authorities censor posts critical of the government.

Two Facebook employees told Reuters news agency last Tuesday that the company’s local servers in Vietnam were taken offline earlier in the year until the company gave in to the demands of the government to remove posts, a period of about seven weeks when the website was often not usable in Vietnam

Amnesty international said Facebook was complicit in the suppression of the freedom of expression. Human Rights Watch said the company had bowed to Vietnamese government extortion.

But in an email to RFA, Facebook argued that pulling out of Vietnam entirely would silence even more in the country than complying with the government’s requests. (Source: RFA)