Vietnam gives activist 6-year sentence for trying to start new political party

His vision for Prosperous Vietnam Party was to eliminate power inequality under Communist Party
By RFA Vietnamese
2023.07.03
Vietnam gives activist 6-year sentence for trying to start new political party Vietnamese activist Phan Son Tung wears a cap reading “For a Prosperous Vietnam.”
Luân Lê Facebook

Vietnam on Monday sentenced activist Phan Son Tung to six years in prison for advocating the formation of an opposition to the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam, his lawyer told Radio Free Asia.

Tung, 39, was arrested in August 2022 on anti-state propaganda charges for calling for the formation of the Prosperous Vietnam Party, which would work toward eliminating inequality in political power by removing communist party leadership.

Also related to his charges were his demand for citizens to have the freedom to establish associations and political organizations, and his social media content, which authorities said was “anti-state.”

According to the indictment, Phan Son Tung created and managed three YouTube channels, namely “For a prosperous Vietnam,” Phan Son Tung and Son Tung TV, and a Facebook page under the name David Phan. He had posted around 1,000 video clips on these channels, generating more than 148 million views with 530,000 followers.

The indictment also accused him of creating and disseminating 16 video clips with fabricated and confusion-creating content, six of which contained information promoting psychological warfare. Another 17 pieces of content distorted, slandered or insulted the prestige of organizations or the honor and dignity of individuals. 

The indictment also acknowledged that he had been remorseful, cooperative and sincere in his confessions, and had paid a fine of 27 million dong (US$1,149), the total revenue generated from advertising income and from selling merchandise emblazoned with the words “For a Prosperous Vietnam.”

‘Full of social evils’

According to a Facebook post by attorney Le Van Luan, Tung used to work on the Project Management Board of Vietel Real Estate Firm but then moved out to establish his own company. 

It was then that he learned that Vietnam is a society “full of social evils,” and he began to advocate for a stronger Vietnam with a “clean government” that is free of corruption, with each person playing their role. 

During Monday’s trial, which began at 8:30 a.m. and ended at noon, Tung acknowledged every action he was accused of. But he maintained that none of those were crimes, his lawyer Ngo Anh Tuan told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

"He reaffirmed that his acts were not unlawful and the defense lawyers also proved this,” Tuan said. “However, the prosecutors still stuck with their viewpoint.”

Tuan said he was expecting a shorter sentence because during the trial the prosecution did not demonstrate how his actions deserved a greater sentence. But because he had multiple violations, the judge decided to hand down the minimum sentence proposed by the prosecution, said Tuan.

Tung has become the sixth activist charged with “anti-state” propaganda under Article 117 since January 2023.

Amnesty International has described the law as a means to suppress legitimate dissent and “a favored tool of the authorities to arbitrarily imprison journalists, bloggers and others who express views that do not align with the interests of the communist party.” 

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

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