Vietnamese Activist Sent Back to Detention After Mental Hospital Stay for ‘Evaluation’

2021-04-01
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Vietnamese Activist Sent Back to Detention After Mental Hospital Stay for ‘Evaluation’ Vietnamese land-rights activist Trinh Ba Phuong (center) is shown with his mother, Can Thi Theu, and his brother, Trinh Ba Tu, in an undated photo.
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Detained Vietnamese land-rights activist Trinh Ba Phuong was returned this week to his former detention camp from a mental hospital in Hanoi, where he was sent for evaluation after refusing to cooperate with police investigators, according to his wife.

Phuong had previously refused to speak to or look at police officers during questioning, leading to a 30-day assessment of his mental health, and was sent back to detention on Tuesday, his wife Do Thi Thu told RFA on April 1.

“I called investigator Nguyen The Bac this morning, and he told me that my husband had been transferred from the National Psychiatric Hospital No. 1 back to Detention Center No. 1 on March 30,” Thu said, adding that the officer didn’t share the results of Phuong’s examination or say if he would be moved to the hospital again.

Thu went to the detention center on Thursday to deposit money for her husband to buy food and other necessities at the camp canteen, and prison officers later showed her a receipt confirming Phuong had received the funds, she said.

A well-known land-rights activist in Hanoi, Phuong was arrested on June 24, 2020 with his younger brother, Trinh Ba Tu, and his mother, Can Thi Theu, on charges of “creating, storing, and disseminating information, documents, items and publications opposing the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”

The three family members had been outspoken in social media postings about the Jan. 9, 2020 clash in Dong Tam commune in which 3,000 police stormed barricaded protesters’ homes at a construction site about 25 miles south of the capital, killing a village elder.

They had also offered information to foreign embassies and other international figures to try to raise awareness of the incident.

While all land is ultimately held by the state, land confiscations have become a flashpoint as residents accuse the government of pushing small landholders aside in favor of lucrative real estate projects, and of paying too little in compensation to farming families displaced by development.

'Independent' candidates arrested

Rights group Amnesty International meanwhile called on Vietnam on Thursday to end its crackdown on independent candidates for election to the country’s National Assembly in a vote scheduled for May 23, saying two would-be Assembly members have already been arrested and charged under Article 117 of Vietnam’s Criminal Code for activities “opposing the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”

Le Trong Hung, a citizen journalist and member of Chan Hung TV—which broadcasts Facebook livestreams on social and political issues—was arrested by police in Hanoi on March 27, while blogger Tran Quoc Khanh was taken into custody in Ninh Binh province on March 10, Amnesty said.

Emerlynne Gill, Deputy Regional Director for Amnesty International, noted that while Vietnam has recently put itself forward as a candidate for membership in the U.N. Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, “[Vietnamese] authorities are engaging in blatant and widespread human rights violations at home.”

“Viet Nam is obliged to respect, protect, promote and fulfill human rights including the rights to freedom of expression and association, as well as media freedom,” Gill said, adding, “Authorities must ensure that election candidates—along with everyone else in Viet Nam—are treated equally and without discrimination.”

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Chau Vu. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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