Viet Nam: Shameful wave of arrests of activists as Obama visits

Vietnamese authorities must end their crackdown on peaceful protesters and release all prisoners of conscience, Amnesty International said today.

As Viet Nam hosts US President Barack Obama on a three-day visit, the authorities have pressed ahead with their assault on the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly by arresting six peaceful activists and orchestrating a campaign of intimidation and harassment against dozens more.

“Even as it faces the glare of global attention with the US President’s visit, the Vietnamese authorities, shamefully, are carrying out their repressive business as usual,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.

The six peaceful activists who have been arrested in recent days are: Nancy Nguyễn, Nguyễn Viết Dũng, Phạm Đoan Trang, Vũ Huy Hoàng, Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, and Nguyễn Bá Vinh.

“Before leaving Vietnam, President Obama must insist on the release of all prisoners of conscience and a commitment that peaceful protests will be allowed," said T. Kumar, International Advocacy Director for Amnesty International. "Human rights cannot be sacrificed for security and trade deals."

In addition to the arrests, dozens of activists have complained on social media that they are being prevented from leaving their homes by uniformed and plain-clothes police stationed outside.

Amnesty International has spoken to several activists in different cities around the country who are subjected surveillance and intimidation. Several activists have been physically attacked in the last week and Amnesty International is unaware of the arrests of any alleged perpetrators.

The authorities’ crackdown has included the banning of BBC journalists, and the blocking of social media sites including Facebook and Instagram.

“Vietnamese authorities must allow journalists do their job and individuals to express themselves freely,” said Rafendi Djamin.


Over the past month, Vietnamese authorities have mounted a countrywide crackdown on protests against the government’s failure to address the fallout from an ecological disaster that has devastated fish stocks in the coastal provinces.

Among those who have been swept up by the most recent wave of arrests which took place in the last week is Nancy Nguyễn, a US citizen, who arrived in the country on 17 May 2016 to join the protests. Two days later, she reported on social media that 20 security officials were outside her hotel.

Nancy Nguyễn has not been heard from since and her current fate and whereabouts remain unknown.

Nguyễn Viết Dũng was arrested on 20 May in Hồ Chí Minh City, having travelled there from his home town in Nghệ An province. He was released on 23 May after being flown back to Nghệ An.

He was only recently released in April 2016, after a one-year jail term for participating in a peaceful protest in Hanoi.

Journalist Phạm Đoan Trang and blogger Vũ Huy Hoàng were arrested in Hanoi on the morning of 23 May. The details of their arrests are unclear.

On the morning of 23 May, Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh and Nguyễn Bá Vinh were arrested in Nha Trang. Nguyễn Bá Vinh had travelled to a local beach in the early morning with a banner which read “Why have the fish died?”

He was physically attacked by a group of men in plain clothes. Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh went to the beach to help him and was also attacked. The two were arrested at around 8am local time and detained until 4pm.

None of the men involved in attacking them were arrested. This is second time in a week that Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh has been arrested. On 15 May, she was detained in Hồ Chí Minh City while attempting to join demonstrations in the city.

Rafendi Djamin and T. Kumar’s op-ed in TIME Magazine:

Obama Must Insist on Release of Vietnamese Political Prisoners