A group of thugs and police officers attacked a civil society training class in Ho Chi Minh City this week, breaking up the class and beating two of the participants, RFA’s Vietnamese Service has learned.
Activist Nguyen Ho Nhat Thnanh (aka Paulo Thanh Nguyen) told RFA that thugs invaded the class, beat him up and threatened him with a gun before taking him to a police station.
“A group of more than 10 young people with tattoos all over held me down on the ground and beat me on the head,” he said. “They even took out a gun and pointed at my head. They told me ‘stay still or else I will shoot you.’”
Nguyen told RFA he was beaten so severely that he began to have trouble seeing.
“Then they covered my head and took me to a police station,” he said. At the station “they told me that I organized a training class with the purpose of overthrowing the government and that is deemed as dangerous.”
While Nguyen was under attack from the tattooed thugs, attendees to the class were dealing with a cadre of uniformed and plainclothes police.
“They escorted me to the police station,” Cao Tran Quan, a class attendee, told RFA. “They did not let me take the elevator, but forced me to use a staircase where it was very dark. They beat me.”
Police and hired thugs have often harassed activists in Vietnam, a one-party state that brooks little dissent. Nguyen told RFA that the authorities fear training programs like the one that was broken up.
‘A more democratic way’
“They think such activities are aimed at building up forces to overthrow the government,” he explained. “They said that according to the executive agencies’ opinion, this activity is deemed as a plot to topple the administration.”
While harassment and detention of activists is common in Vietnam, Nguyen and Cao say they are still determined to bring democratic change to their country.
“I want our society, our country, to change in a more democratic way and respect human rights,” Nguyen said. “I am willing to pay the price by being jailed just to speak out about freedom and pursue the cause that previous generations have sacrificed their lives for.”
Mathematics professor Pham Minh Hoang, a pro-democracy activist and former political prisoner who has organized civil society skills classes, told RFA that Vietnam is making a mistake by harassing people like Nguyen and Cao.
“Vietnam has taken a huge step back in the area of protecting human rights, when authorities harass and detain people for hours like that,” he told RFA. “I think this is a humiliation for Vietnam when it is still a member of the U.N. Human Rights Council.
The Geneva-based Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system made up of 47 States responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe.
Council members serve for three year terms and are ineligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms. Vietnam’s term expires this year.
Reported by Chan Nhu for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.