Vietnamese scholar Nguyen Quang A stopped from traveling abroad

Incident report does not explain why he was prevented from boarding flight to Thailand
By RFA Vietnamese
Vietnamese scholar Nguyen Quang A stopped from traveling abroad The grounding of Vietnamese scholar Nguyen Quang A is one of many documented instances of the government preventing activists, dissidents and others from leaving the country.
Facebook account Nguyễn Quang A

Ticket in hand, Vietnamese scholar Nguyen Quang A stepped up to the immigration counter at Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport. 

He planned to catch a flight to Thailand, and continue onward to the European Union, where he had planned to tour several countries. 

But he was stopped by police and prevented from boarding the plane.

“I told them that it was no problem and asked them to create a record about the incident, explaining why I was banned from traveling abroad,” the former director of the now-dissolved Institute of Development Studies told Radio Free Asia.

A’s grounding is one of hundreds of documented cases of the Vietnamese government preventing social activists, political dissidents or religious freedom activists from leaving the country.

The incident report did not explain exactly why A was stopped at the airport, only saying it was on the request of the Ministry of Public Security’s Immigration Department and “related to security issues,” per Clause 9, Article 36 of Vietnam’s 2019 Law on Entry and Exit of Vietnamese Citizens. 

The report said he could inquire with the department for more information.

Prior to receiving the incident report, A had been approached by two police officers from the Ministry of Public Security, he said.

“[They] told me that the Hanoi police summoned me in late 2021 and that issue hasn’t been resolved,” said A. “I told them that I had no idea about [any summons], and that they should know more about it because they are from the same ministry. I never received any notices or summons.”

A also said he was not aware that he was in any legal trouble prior to trying to leave the country. 

The police later returned his passport and gave him a copy of the record, but they tore his boarding pass, making it impossible to request a refund from Vietnam Airlines. 

The police returned his passport and gave him a copy of the incident record. However, they tore his boarding pass, making it impossible for him to request Vietnam Airlines for a refund.

“I don’t understand why they did that,” he said. “I could ask for a refund if it was still intact. In fact, I wasn’t even in the boarding area yet.”

A said he would consider asking the Immigration Department to clearly explain the reason his exit was denied, but said an inquiry might be in vain, because the laws are so vague that they could say whatever they want.

 RFA attempted to contact the Immigration Department for an explanation but telephone calls and emails went unanswered.

Targeting scholars, lawyers and activists

A said he was deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Vietnam because several scholars like himself have been arrested, and the attorneys representing them have been harassed.

In 2022, the Vietnamese government arrested two senior scholars: Hoang Ngoc Giao, the director of the Institute for Policies, Law and Development under the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations for “tax evasion,” and Nguyen Son, former director of the SENA Institute of Technology Research and Development for “abusing democratic freedoms.”

Over the past few months, the police summoned the five attorneys defending Peng Lei Buddhist Church members for alleged violations of Article 331 of the Penal Code – an article widely criticized by international communities as being vague and used to stifle dissenting voices.

In October 2018, A participated in a human rights hearing at the EU Parliament, just before the regional bloc ratified the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement. At the hearing, he requested the EU to pressure Vietnam to sign three international labor conventions, including Convention 87 which gives workers the freedom of association and to organize into independent trade unions.

Monday’s incident was not the first time he had been stopped at Noi Bai Airport. 

On Sept. 1, 2015, police at the airport took him into temporary custody after a trip to the United States, where he had participated in talks about the role of civil society in the democratization of Vietnam. He had also taken part in a summer conference in Berlin with other Vietnamese intellectuals that year. 

According to a February 2022 report by New York-based Human Rights Watch, Vietnamese authorities systematically prevented more than 170 activists, bloggers, dissidents, and their families from traveling within Vietnam or overseas. Their tactics included stopping them at airports or border gates, rejecting their applications for a passport or other travel papers.

Translated by Anna Vu. Edited by Eugene Whong and Malcolm Foster.


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