Unknown Attackers Step Up Assaults on Vietnamese Labor Activist

Failures by police to respond point to likely government complicity in the attacks, rights groups say.

Do Thi Minh Hanh poses with her father after her release from prison, June 27, 2014.

Unidentified assailants have stepped up their late-night assaults on a former political prisoner and her father at their home in Vietnam’s coastal Lam Dong province, cutting the power to their house this week before attacking it with noxious gas and a barrage of rocks, the woman said.

Speaking by phone with RFA, Do Thi Minh Hanh, who was released in June 2014 after serving four years of a seven-year sentence for distributing leaflets to workers at a footwear factory, said that her home was attacked at about 11:30 p.m. on July 3.

“They threw rocks into my father’s room and sprayed it with gas,” Hanh said.

“I looked for a wet towel to give him, but they kept spraying the gas, and we had to look for a place to hide,” she said, adding that the attack left her father, 76, unable to breathe.

“My own arms and feet went numb, and my face felt hot,” Hanh said.

“After the attack, I collected a big bucket of bricks that they threw into the house,” she said.

Though Hanh informed town and district police about the attack, officers showed little interest, refusing to directly answer questions they were asked, Hanh said.

“Sometimes, they hung up their phones in the middle of our conversation,” she said.

Failures to respond

Wednesday night’s attack followed other incidents including a June 26 attack in which a fire-bomb thrown at Hanh’s house failed to ignite and friends were beaten outside her house by unidentified assailants.

Police failures to respond and protect Hanh point to likely government involvement in the assaults on the labor activist and her father, Phil Robertson—Deputy Asia Director for  Human Rights Watch—said in a July 4 statement.

“There are serious issues of state complicity in the attacks, and impunity being extended to those involved in these retaliatory actions clearly designed to intimidate and silence community activists,” Robertson said.

“Lam Dong provincial police and officials should immediately stop their attacks against labor rights activist and political dissident Do Thi Minh Hanh,” he said.

Rights group Amnesty International meanwhile called on local authorities to take “urgent steps” to protect Hanh and her family “before the situation deteriorates further.”

“It’s outrageous that the police are abdicating their responsibility and allowing these attacks to happen without taking any action,” Minar Pimple, Senior Director of Global Operations at Amnesty International, said on June 2, a day before the most recent attack.

“Human rights defenders such as Do Thi Minh Hanh must be able to carry out their peaceful work without harassment or violence,” Pimple said.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Richard Finney.