Vietnam’s ‘Provisional National Government’ offers empty promises, lawyers say

Scores of Vietnamese have been jailed for their support of the US-based organization.
By RFA Vietnamese
2024.04.17
Vietnam’s ‘Provisional National Government’ offers empty promises, lawyers say The trial of 12 people accused of belonging to the Provisional National Government of Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City on August 22, 2018.
AFP

More than 60 people in Vietnam have been given long prison sentences for being members of the so-called “Provisional National Government of Vietnam,” since it was classified as a terrorist organization by the Ministry of Public Security in 2018.

The U.S.-based group was founded in 1991 by soldiers and refugees that had been loyal to the South Vietnamese government prior to the country’s unification under communist rule in 1975. 

But two lawyers who were called to defend the accused told Radio Free Asia they believe “Provisional National Government” followers were duped by promises that were never honored or tricked by Vietnamese security agents posing as members of the organization.

Most of the people sentenced were charged with “activities aimed at overthrowing the people's government.”

Some prosecutions have been in double figures, such as the case of 16 people convicted of planting gasoline bombs at Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport in 2017; the 12 people sentenced to prison in 2018 on charges of propaganda, inciting protests, seducing, manipulating, and enrolling members in the organization; and the 12 people convicted in 2022 on charges of conducting a referendum to elect Dao Minh Quan as president of the Third Republic of Vietnam.

Lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng defended Tran Thi Ngoc Xuan, who was prosecuted in 2022 for “activities aimed at overthrowing the people's government,” playing a leading role in the “referendum,” and writing and distributing a “Provisional Constitution,” “Constitution of the Third Republic” and “Brief Biography of Prime Minister Dao Minh Quan.”

He said she told him she supported Quan because she was dissatisfied with the communist regime and wanted a change.

“So when someone they think is their savior appears, they cling to them. Specifically, the Dao Minh Quan organization always promised them they would receive land and houses. And if anyone is passionate about power, it said they would be appointed provincial governor or colonel or lieutenant colonel in a new apparatus called the ‘Third Republic.’

“For poor people, this is a savior. When someone promises them land and houses and asks them to sign a petition supporting Dao Minh Quan to return to his country to become prime minister, they are ready to sign. They feel that signing the paper won't cost them anything,” the lawyer said. 

“But I have never seen anyone following Dao Minh Quan and receiving any benefits.”

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Nguyen James Han, an American citizen who is a member of California-based Provisional National Government of Vietnam stands trial before a court in Ho Chi Minh city on August 22, 2018. (Vietnam News Agency/AFP)

Another lawyer Dang Dinh Manh said he was called to help a number of clients, but at the last minute was unable to defend them because authorities told them they weren’t allowed a lawyer. He said Dao Minh Quan and his supporters told these people the U.S. government was about to install them in power in Vietnam and anyone who joined the government would be rewarded with stable jobs and high salaries.

“They call on people to vote online to elect Dao Minh Quan as president in order to be recognized as a person of merit to Dao Minh Quan's government. When the Dao Minh Quan government returns to Vietnam to govern, they say it will repay the favor.”

Because participants in the Provisional National Government of Vietnam often come from small provinces or remote areas, they have little awareness of politics, and understanding of Vietnamese organizations, Manh said.

He said Vietnamese authorities set traps to arrest people who are likely to join the “Provisional National Government” and regularly monitor the Dao Minh Quan YouTube channels.

“Whenever they detect channel viewers leaving emoticons or comments, they immediately approach them with virtual nicknames that match the names of people in the Dao Minh Quan organization. 

“The security officer claiming to be from the Dao Minh Quan organization invites them to join the organization. 

“When there is enough evidence and the whereabouts of the gullible people is determined, the security officer organizes their arrest. 

“In these cases, people were arrested because of security traps, but they never had actual contact with the Dao Minh Quan organization.”

Translated by RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Mike Firn and Elaine Chan.

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