Vietnam Court Upholds 11-Year Sentence For Music Teacher Who Posted Online Criticism

Nguyen Nang Tinh, 45, wrote and shared critical posts and videos on Facebook for seven years.

Vietnam Court Upholds 11-Year Sentence For Music Teacher Who Posted Online Criticism

An appeals court in Vietnam on Monday upheld a lower court’s verdict in sentencing a music teacher to 11 years in jail for posting online criticisms of the one-party communist state and the government, the convicted man’s lawyer told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

Nguyen Nang Tinh, 45, who teaches at a provincial arts and cultural college, was arrested in May 2019 after he was found writing and sharing what authorities deemed anti-state posts and videos on his Facebook account for seven years.

The posts included protests against Vietnam’s law on special economic zones that many Vietnamese fear will favor Chinese investment in the country, and demonstrations against a Taiwanese company that dumped toxic waste into the ocean that caused an environmental disaster off the country’s central coast in April 2016.

The Council of Judges of the People’s Court in north-central Vietnam’s Nghe An province upheld the 11-year sentence plus five years of probation with restricted movement that teacher Nguyen Nang Tinh was handed for the series of Facebook posts published between 2011 and 2018.

The presiding judge said the sentence serves as a warning to those who want to capitalize on the rights to democracy and freedom by opposing the state, contradicting achievements in Vietnam’s progress with reform.

“At the appeals trial, Nguyen admitted to using Facebook accounts to share stories but affirmed that those stories were not aimed at opposing Vietnam’s government,” said defense attorney Dang Dinh Manh.

“I think this is an unfair sentence to give Nguyen, based on the defendant’s right to freedom of expression and on guarantees provided in the U.N.’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that say everyone is entitled to express their own points of view.”

Vietnam is a signatory to the multilateral treaty that commits its parties to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including the rights to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights, and rights to due process and a fair trial.

Dang noted that in writing the online posts, Nguyen had exercised his right to free speech guaranteed under Vietnam’s constitutions and had contributed to improving state policies.

Hunger strike to resume

The teacher had been on a hunger strike while in prison between March 13 and April 17, during which time he was not allowed to pray, read religious books and meeting with Catholic priests, Dang said.

Though the music teacher ended the hunger strike when he was informed about an appeals trial, he will resume it now that the process is over, the attorney said.

Dang said that he and another attorney, Nguyen Van Mieng, spent two days traveling by private car from Ho Chi Minh City to Nghe An to take part in the trial.

Nguyen’s wife, Nguyen Thi Tinh, could not attend her husband’s trial on account of lockdowns in Vietnam’s to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which on Monday registered 268 confirmed cases but no fatalities.

On April 18, Vietnamese police arrested another social media user, Dinh Thi Thu Thuy on charges of “smearing leaders,” state media reported.

The resident of Nga Bay in the southern province of Hau Giang has been charged under Section 117 of Vietnam’s Penal Code for making and spreading antistate information and materials.

Dinh had created many Facebook accounts since 2018 to edit and share hundreds of posts and other materials opposing the state and smearing the Communist Party’s leaders, state media said.

Vietnam police reported in June 2018 that Dinh was also present at a demonstration outside Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica in Ho Chi Minh City to protest against what was then proposed laws on the creation of special economic zones and on cybersecurity. The cyber law imposed restrictions on the internet that gave the state greater surveillance and censorship powers.

Another Dong Tam arrest

Police also have arrested another resident of Hoanh village in the rural commune Dong Tam, where about 3,000 security forces conducted a violent early morning assault on villagers during a land protest in early 2019 outside Vietnam’s capital Hanoi, an activist said.

On April 19, authorities picked up Nguyen Van Chung, son of Bui Thi Duc, a woman who is among the 28 other villagers arrested during the bloody clash on Jan. 9, activist Trinh Ba Phuong told RFA on Monday.

The others who were apprehended following the incident have been charged with committing murder, illegally possessing weapons, and opposing officers on duty.

Nguyen was arrested in Ho Chi Minh City, also called Saigon, where he was working as an assistant truck driver, not in his home in Dong Tam, he said.

“Last night, he was arrested and beaten cruelly in Saigon,” Trinh said. “Those who witnessed the arrest questioned police about it, but they said that Nguyen is a dangerous person and had to be arrested.”

During a meeting with Hanoi authorities in the same day as the arrest, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc told officials to resolve Dong Tam issue, consolidate the political system and develop new rural policies.

The Dong Tam clash was the latest flare-up of a long-running dispute over a military airport construction site about 25 miles south of Vietnam’s capital Hanoi.

A report drawn from witness accounts and released seven days after the Jan. 9 clash with security forces said that police had attacked first during the deadly incident that claimed the lives of the Dong Tam village chief and three police officers.

Though all land in Vietnam is ultimately held by the state, land confiscations have become a flashpoint with residents accusing the government of pushing small landholders aside in favor of lucrative real estate projects and of paying too little in compensation.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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Myanmar Army Grills Dozens of Rakhine Villagers Over Alleged Rebel Ties

A village administrator is among nearly 40 men held for questioning before 33 are released.

Myanmar Army Grills Dozens of Rakhine Villagers Over Alleged Rebel Ties

Myanmar soldiers detained nearly 40 villagers on Sunday, but later released most of them, about a week after government forces hit their community with artillery shells amid the larger armed conflict with rebel Arakan Army troops in war-torn Rakhine state, a local lawmaker and a resident said.

Government forces killed seven young men and one woman and injured more than a dozen others, including two children, during the Apr. 13 assault on Kyauk Seik village in Ponnagyun township. The shelling forced many other residents to flee.

Six days later, soldiers detained 39 male residents between the ages of 18 and 55, including a village administrator, to determine if they had ties to the AA, but in the evening released 33 of them, Oo Tun Maung, a lawmaker from Ponnagyun township told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

“I assume they were taken to Battalion No. 55, but I can’t say for sure,” he said prior to the release of some of the men. “I am waiting for details about the situation and will do what I can after I know where they were taken to.”

A Kyauk Seik resident, who declined to be identified out of fear for his safety, also said that Myanmar forces took away the 39 men.

“A government army unit came into the village and asked all men to gather at the village head’s house,” he said. “After that, they took away the village head and 38 men.”

Oo Tun Maung told RFA late Sunday that 33 of the detainees had been released.

Myanmar military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun said soldiers had detained the men because of suspected ties to the Arakan Army (AA), a mostly ethnic Rakhine force that has been fighting the government army for the past 15 months in a quest for greater autonomy in the western state.

“We took 38 men because they are suspected of having connections with the AA,” Zaw Min Tun said prior to the release of some. “They are under investigation, and the army will take action accordingly based on the investigation results.”

AA spokesman Khine Thukha said that it was possible the men were being detained because they informed the media about government army’s Apr. 13 attack on their village.

“This kind of action by the government army is a war crime,” he added.

Following that assault, villagers said they found a shell cover with markings indicating that it belonged to the Myanmar Army, though the military later denied it belonged to its forces.

In March, the Myanmar government declared the AA an illegal association and terrorist group.

The AA and two other ethnic armies declared a unilateral truce during the month of April while the country battles the spread of the contagious coronavirus, but the pact has not held up in Rakhine state.

Fighting between Myanmar and Arakan forces meanwhile continues in other Rakhine townships with the conflict displacing more than 160,000 civilians since early 2019, according to the Rakhine Ethnics Congress, a local relief group.

About 86 civilians died and more than 200 were injured amid the hostilities between Feb. 26 and April 20, according to a tally by RFA.

Paletwa gets rice

More than 10,000 residents and internally displaced persons (IDPs) affected by the conflict in remote Paletwa township of neighboring Chin state have received a week’s worth of food aid for the first time in six weeks, local authorities said.

About 830 bags of rice and some dried rations were sent by ferry and cargo truck from Samee to Paletwa town which has been facing a severe food shortage since early March amid the ongoing hostilities in the region.

Local authorities said there was enough rice to provide two cups to each of about 3,700 IDPs for three weeks or enough for only a week if the supply was distributed to all 7,000 residents of the town.

In the meantime, Paletwa authorities said they would continue to ration food supplies for the next three months.

The rice was distributed immediately to those living in IDP camps and to working-class residents of Paletwa as part of the government’s coronavirus relief efforts, said Soe Htet, Chin state’s minister of municipal affairs, electricity, and industry.

“We got a telegram yesterday telling us to distribute the rice to all residents, government employees, and IDPs for a week,” he told RFA, adding that another 1,500 bags of rice are waiting to be transported.

“If the situation is stable, and the roads are accessible, we will transport these rice bag,” he added.

Though Paletwa is accessible by road from Samee after crossing the Kaladan River Bridge, the rice is now being transported by both road and river because of concerns of armed attacks along the way.

‘Not everything we need’

Myanmar’s Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement has secured about 6,000 bags of rice, or a three months’ supply, for Paletwa township residents and stored them at a facility in Rakhine’s capital Sittwe. Another 3,300 bags from donors are stored in the town of Samee.

The conflict between the AA and government military in the region has disrupted road transportation, preventing rice supplies from reaching Paletwa on a regular basis.

The first batch of 850 bags transported from Samee by 11 trucks in mid-March reached the town because they were guarded by military troops along the way.

Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun this measure will continue to ensure the rest of the bags of rice reach Paletwa.

“We were only guarding the trucks, while local authorities, civil society organizations, and religious leaders received the rice bags,” he said.

“As far as I know, we will continue transporting these rice bags until local authorities have enough rice supplies for at least three months,” he added.

Chin state parliamentarian Salai Myo Htike, who represents the Paletwa township constituency, said authorities and resident alike were pleased about getting the latest food shipment.

“We are glad that the rice supplies finally arrived in Paletwa,” he said. “But this is not everything we need, so we hope the remaining transports go well.”

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service, Translated by Khet Mar and Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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