Vietnamese Police Pose as Health Workers to Arrest Dissident Blogger
Police disguised as medical workers gained entry to the house by saying they needed a 'health statement' from the blogger and his family.
By Giang Nguyen
Vietnamese police this week arrested a Facebook user for criticizing the government online, posing as medical workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in order to gain quick entry to his house, sources said.
Bui Van Thuan, 40, was taken into custody on Aug. 30 by a large number of police officers after police cut power to his house in the Huu Nhan hamlet of Nghi Son town in northern Vietnam’s Thanh Hoa province, Thuan’s wife told RFA on Wednesday.
“The power went off at around 8:15 a.m., and the whole area was blacked out,” Trinh Thi Nhung said. “I then saw three people wearing medical clothes standing at our front gate, and they asked me to let them in to take a statement on our health because we are from another region and only have temporary registration in the area.”
“They said they were in a hurry and urged me to open the door quickly so that they could go to see others, so I invited them to come into the living room,” she said, adding that the disguised officers wanted to know how many people were living in the house and asked to see her husband, who was sleeping.
One of the male officers then asked to use the restroom, Nhung said.
“After I showed him the way to the restroom, he broke into the bedroom and restrained and handcuffed my husband just as he had woken up and was about to come out,” she said.
Thuan was then formally arrested for “using his Facebook account ‘Thuan Van Bui’ to store materials and publications against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam under Article 117 of Vietnam’s Criminal Code,” Nhung said.
Police then carried out a search of the house, handcuffing both Thuan and Nhung and assigning an officer to comfort their daughter, who began crying when she could not find her parents after she woke, Nhung said.
Both knew that Thuan could be arrested at any time, and were not frightened when the moment came, she said.
“Those who raise their voices against what is bad and evil can be arrested at any time,” she said. “I knew that my husband often speaks out about human rights, so I was mentally prepared and am not afraid of any force sent against us.”
“I trust him and still hold my head high,” she said.
Many officers deployed
An unusually large number of police officers, both in uniform and in plain clothes, had been deployed to secure Thuan’s arrest, a nearby farmer who witnessed the incident told RFA.
“While working in the paddy field in front of my house, I saw three or four cars in front of Thuan’s home, and dozens of other cars were parked along the road. Nearly a hundred people surrounded the house, while those who stayed farther away rode motorbikes and didn’t wear uniforms, ” he said.
Thuan had never been affiliated with any political parties or groups, a friend said, speaking to RFA on condition of anonymity. “But because he spoke up so strongly, some people advised him to keep quiet for a while or to escape to another country.”
“However, he always said no,” his friend said, adding that Thuan felt he would lose his legitimacy as a dissident voice if he left. “He said, ‘I’d rather let [the authorities] hate me than have them look down on me.’”
“He raised his voice because he was upset with social injustices, and what made him special was his level of speaking up. Thuan is famous for his so-called ‘dog-fighting bulletins,’ which revealed many hidden stories from the [government’s] inner sanctums.”
In a Sept. 1 report, the Public Security newspaper of Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security said that police searching Thuan’s house had seized “six computers, three iPads, three mobile phones, and many documents and other items related to his criminal work.”
They also left with a jar of lime-flavored honey and a copy of The Handbook for Families of Prisoners, published by Pham Doan Trang, a human rights activist who was arrested by government authorities in October 2020, Nhung said.
“Our family refused to let them take the honey jar, as it had nothing to with their investigation. But the police said that they would take it anyway, and that was that,” said Nhung.
According to the California-based Vietnam Human Rights Network, Vietnam is currently holding around 300 political prisoners in the country’s prisons, jails, and detention centers.
As of 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Vietnam has recorded 473,530 cases of COVID-19 infection in the country, according to data tallied by the CDC, WHO, and other sources. Total number of deaths now stands at 11,868.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Richard Finney.