By Defend the Defenders, April 14, 2017
On April 13, two young activists, namely Tran Hoang Phuc and Huynh Thanh Phat, were kidnapped by plainclothes agents, who robbed and brutally beat them before releasing the activists in a remote area in central Vietnam, the victims told Defend the Defenders.
The assault occurred in the central province of Quang Binh, where two months ago pro-democracy advocate Nguyen Trung Ton and his friend were also kidnapped, robbed and beaten by plainclothes agents.
Mr. Phuc, a Saigon-based young human rights and pro-democracy activist said earlier this week that he and Mr. Phat came back to Quang Binh province’s Ba Don town four months after his first visit there when he participated in a charity campaign for the local residents who are facing a difficult situation due to floods and man-made disasters.
After meeting with local Catholic priests and supplying local residents with donations, Phuc and Phat went to the Xuan Truyen station to get on a bus headed back to Saigon. After arriving in the station, the duo was kidnapped by a group of eight masked men who came with a seven-seat car.
The kidnappers introduced themselves as criminals and drove the car to a remote area near the Ho Chi Minh Road of Tam Quang commune, Tuong Duong district, Nghe An province. Phat said the thugs stripped them of their clothes, covered their heads with clothes, knocked them down to the car’s floor and continuously beat the two activists with their hands and belts during the journey.
After hours of traveling, they stopped in a remote area of the newly-built road. The thugs robbed all belongings of Phuc and Phat, including cell phones and wallets with money and personnel documents and left.
Severely injured, the two young activists took hours to find people who provided them with clothes and helped them contact other activists.
Currently, Phuc and Phat are treated for their injuries by their friends.
On February 27, Mr. Ton, president of the Brotherhood for Democracy, and his friend were also kidnapped in Ba Don town and subjected to the same kind of abuse. Due to the attack, Ton’s feet were broken and he spent a month receiving treatment at a hospital. His health is still very bad.
Phuc is a political activist and businessman. Phat is a young human rights defender. Both have participated in many peaceful demonstrations on environmental issues and advocated for human rights and multi-party democracy in the Southeast Asian nation.
They have also actively participated in charity campaigns to assist fishermen in Vietnam’s central region who have suffered from the environmental disaster caused by the illegal discharge of toxic industrial waste by the Taiwanese Formosa steel plant located in the central province of Ha Tinh.
Phuc and Phat were the latest victims of kidnapping, robbery and assault by plainclothes agents in the past few years. Many activists, including Nguyen Trung Truc and Mai Van Tam from Quang Binh, Nguyen Cong Huan from Nghe An, Nguyen Van Dai and La Viet Dung were kidnapped, beaten and robbed by unidentified thugs who were supposed to be plainclothes agents.
Along with arrest, detention and imprisonment, Vietnam’s security forces have also applied a number of tricks to discourage local activists.
Physical attacks by police and plainclothes agents are on the rise in Vietnam. Nationwide, as many as 140 activists were physically attacked by Vietnam’s security forces in 2016 compared to 65 in 2014 and 125 in 2015, according to statistics of the Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience.
Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Thai Binh, Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Gia Lai and Lam Dong were the localities where the highest level of brutality and disrespect for the rule of law by local police was recorded. Police frequently resorted to arbitrary detention.
No perpetrators have been punished so far, Defend the Defenders said.