Vietnamese court set to hear terrorism case against three activists


Three Vietnamese men accused of affiliation with an overseas political group that advocates for democracy, human rights, and political reformists are scheduled to have their cases heard on November 11, by the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City. Human Rights Watch is advocating for the cases to be dropped and for their release from incarceration.

Chau Van Kham, Nguyen Van Vien, and Tran Van Quyen, are accused of “terrorism that aims to oppose the people’s administration” under article 113 of the penal code. Chau, a 70-year-old retired baker from Sydney, Australia is also charged with “use of false documents” under article 341.

Police arrested Chau Van Kham and Nguyen Van Vien on January 13, 2019 in Ho Chi Minh City, and Tran Van Quyen on January 23 in Binh Duong province. All three men were accused of being affiliated with the overseas political party Viet Tan.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security officially labeled Viet Tan a terrorist group in October 2016. Viet Tan has a history of resistance to the Vietnamese communist government in the 1980s, but more recently has said it is “committed to peaceful, nonviolent struggle”.

Chau Van Kham is an Australian citizen. He served in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam prior to 1975. After the war was over, he was sent to a re-education camp for three years. He fled Vietnam by boat and went to Australia in 1983.

Nguyen Van Vien, 48, is a member of Brotherhood for Democracy, which was founded in April 2013 by the now-exiled Nguyen Van Dai and fellow activists “to defend human rights recognized by the Vietnam Constitution and international conventions” and “to promote the building of a democratic, progressive, civilized and just society for Vietnam.”

Little is known about Tran Van Quyen, 20, who is a camera installer in Binh Duong province. His brother Tran Van Cuong told a reporter at Radio Free Asia that after arresting Quyen, the police searched their house and told him to sign the search record, but did not provide any copy of the search record.

Vietnam frequently uses vaguely worded and loosely interpreted provisions in its penal code to imprison political and religious activists. As of November 2019, Human Rights Watch has documented that at least 138 people are behind bars for exercising basic rights.

Police have arrested and imprisoned a number of people for their alleged affiliation with Viet Tan, including environmental activist Le Dinh Luong, blogger Pham Minh Hoang, and pro-democracy campaigner Nguyen Van Oai. (Source: HRW)