This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
Police in southern Vietnam’s Dong Nai province have launched an investigation of a 63-year-old woman living in Lam Dong province in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, accusing her of membership in a U.S.-based opposition organization called a “terrorist group” by authorities in Hanoi.
Tran Thi Hoa, a resident of Lam Dong province’s Da Lat city, is accused of activities aimed at overthrowing Vietnam’s one-party communist state under Article109 of the country’s penal code, the Dong Nai police website reported on Feb. 23, adding that police in Lam Dong have joined them in their investigation.
According to authorities, Tran joined U.S.-based opposition group the Provisional Government of Vietnam in October 2018 and worked to add the names of over 600 residents of Dong Nai’s Long Khanh city to a referendum calling for U.S. citizen Dao Minh Quan to be named president of an interim government replacing the country’s communist leadership.
The Dong Nai police report did not say whether Tran has already been taken into custody or is still being sought for arrest.
At least 27 people have now been jailed in Vietnam for involvement in the Provisional Government group, which was designated a terrorist organization by Vietnam authorities in January 2018 after group members were charged with a plot to attack Tan Son Nhat International Airport with petrol bombs ahead of a major holiday the year before.
The group’s leader, Dang Hoang Thien, was sentenced in December 2017 to 16 years in prison and five years of house arrest, while 14 other members of the group were sentenced to terms ranging from five to 14 years.
The group had earlier attempted to explode a bomb in a parking lot for impounded vehicles at the Bien Hoa police station in Dong Nai province, according to state media reports published at the time of the 2017 trial.
Call for UN action on Dong Tam
Meanwhile, a group of 15 human rights organizations and journalist and student groups, including some based in Vietnam, sent a letter this week to the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council, calling for the assignment of a special rapporteur to investigate a deadly crackdown in January by Vietnamese police during a land dispute at the Dong Tam commune outside Hanoi.
The crackdown claimed the life of community leader Le Dinh Kinh, 84, who was shot on Jan. 9 by police who attacked his home in the commune’s Hoanh village in a 4:00 a.m. assault that involved about 3,000 security officers from the police and armed forces.
Independent media organizations should also be allowed free access to interview residents of the commune, and the 27 commune residents still held by authorities after being arbitrarily detained during the raid should be immediately freed, the letter’s signers urged.
“[The] appalling police brutality in Dong Tam and the repression following reveals the escalation of human rights abuse in Vietnam,” the group’s letter said.
“The Vietnamese government continues to show complete disregard for international conventions including the UN Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Though official reports said that villagers at Dong Tam had assaulted police with grenades and petrol bombs, a report drawn from witness accounts and released seven days later by journalists and activists said that police had attacked first during the deadly clash in which three police officers also died.
Police blocked off pathways and alleys during the attack and beat villagers “indiscriminately, including women and old people,” the report says, calling the assault “possibly the bloodiest land dispute in Vietnam in the last ten years.”
The Dong Tam tragedy 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.