Vietnam Arrests Two More Democracy Advocates

Vietnamese police have arrested two democracy activists, one an ethnic Vietnamese citizen of Australia, in an ongoing round-up of advocates for political reform in the one-party communist state, a Vietnamese dissident group said on Friday.

Nguyen Van Vien, a member of the banned Brotherhood for Democracy, and Chau Van Kham, a member of Viet Tan--an unsanctioned pro-democracy party with members inside Vietnam and abroad--were taken into custody on Jan. 13 in Ho Chi Minh City, according to a Brotherhood for Democracy statement on Jan. 25.

Security agents later arrived at Vien's family home to carry out a search and threaten Vien's wife, the Brotherhood said, asserting Vien's innocence and condemning what it called his illegal arrest by communist authorities.

Born in 1971 in central Vietnam's Quang Nam province, Vien had been active in environmental protection work following a massive spill in 2016 of toxic waste by the Taiwan-owned Formosa firm, the Brotherhood said.

The environmental disaster destroyed livelihoods across Vietnam's central coast and led to widespread protests and arrests in affected provinces.

Harassed by authorities and deprived of employment because of his activism, Vien had later moved to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, to earn a living, the Brotherhood said.

'Fact-finding trip'

Detained with Vien, Australian citizen Chau Van Kham was described in a statement Friday by political party Viet Tan as a long-time democracy activist and well-known member of the Vietnamese community in Sydney.

He had recently returned to Vietnam on a human rights fact-finding trip, entering Vietnam by way of Cambodia in early January, Viet Tan said.

Writing in an email to RFA, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it is seeking consular access to Kham, but declined to discuss further details of the case, citing privacy concerns.

No formal notifications by Vietnam of the arrest of the two men have yet been made.

Vietnam's one-party communist government currently holds more than 200 political prisoners, including rights advocates and bloggers deemed threats to national security, Nguyen Kim Binh of the California-based Vietnam Human Rights Network said in a speech on Dec. 9.

It also controls all media, censors the internet, and restricts basic freedoms of expression.

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