Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Vietnamese Dissident Arrested

I found this story in yesterday's Malay Mail and then dug around some.

Novelist and journalist Tran Khai Thanh Thuy (pen names Nguyen Thai Hoang and Nguyen Thi Hien) was arrested last weekend, according to the VietnamNews:
... for alleged activities in violation of Article 88 of the Penal Code, which makes it criminal to spread propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam.
Thuy was among eight Vietnamese writers who received the prestigious Hellman/Hammett award in February from Human Rights Watch, which recognizes courage in the face of political persecution. (Read the writers' joint statement on the censored books blog.)

Sophie Richardson, deputy director of the Asia division at Human Rights Watch, which administers the annual award said at the time that:
This is an especially important year to recognize dissident writers in Vietnam. ... Vietnam’s emerging democracy movement has become bolder, more outspoken and public, making activists more vulnerable to government reprisals. The Hellman/Hammett awards give these writers international attention and some protection. ... These writers’ works and lives embody the Vietnam that the government wants to hide, the one in which there is free speech, independent media, and open access to and use of the internet. Those who think that Vietnam’s booming economy means it is loosening up politically should look below the surface, at the plight of writers such as these.
According to PEN Canada:
Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was apparently briefly detained on 2 September 2006 for her Internet writings, followed by three weeks of daily interrogation sessions. She was again briefly detained on 11 October 2006 and interrogated about the essays 'The Grotto', 'Self-Narration' and 'Dialogue' written after her detention in September. She was also reportedly brought to an open ‘People’s Court’, in which members of the public are forced to participate in the abuse and humiliation of those accused. She is now believed to have been placed under effective house arrest and has been banned from published her writings on-line. Her case appears to be part of a pattern of organized and widespread police harassment of dissident writers and human rights activists in Vietnam ...
Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups say Vietnam's Communist authorities are involved in the most severe crackdown in decades apparently for fear of losing their power base at a time when people, emboldened by economic reforms, are searching for alternatives to the Communist ideology.

This blogger adds her voice to all those asking for Tran Khai Thanh Thuy's immediate release from detention and a cessation of harassment against other writers in Vietnam.

Because freedom of expression is a basic human right!


Kenny Mah said...

This angers me, and it scares me. It might just happen to us one day, O fellow bloggers. Freedom of expression is a basic human right, and let's not forget that! :|

Dean said...

I don't think it's a basic human right. But it certainly seems to me to be retrograde. The Vietnamese government, like its stereotype in China, is clearly frightened of liberal yearnings among its citizens.

I'm against 'rights' on principle. Developed countries should have no need of a charter of rights. Such things should be encouraged because creativity is the main spur to prosperity. The most liberal countries are also those where the citizenry enjoys the highest per capita income.

Vietnam is shooting itself in the foot by gagging this author.

Thanks for highlighting this, Sharon. you're always the first to get this type of news, and your efforts are appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Anything happening with Malaysia's PEN?

animah said...

Sharon, that anonymous person was me. In great outrage, forgot to leave my name.

bibliobibuli said...

animah, am also tired of waiting for other people to move on this. i tried to call all the orig. group for a meeting but no-one could come. those at the intial meeting have a lot on their plates. one said he didn't think it would work because he's seen similar initiatives fizzle out before.

according to hari kunzru, we need a quorum of at least 20 writers with CV's with list of publications to register a branch with English PEN/ PEN international. it shouldn't be too hard to get that. (bloggers count too but should have a minimum no. of posts)

then we need a pro-temp committee. we can have a meeting and put one together.

in the long-term though, will this work? PEN is basically a human rights organisation and are enough malaysians prepared to stand up for writers in other parts of the world? how many people here for e.g are bothered about the plight of vietnamese writers?? (this question is the acid-test because this would be a big part of out fight)

the real issues that would face malaysian PEN most immediately - censorship inc. the banned and restricted books issue, and the rights of bloggers

how many malaysians would be prepared to speak out on such issues and if necessary lead a campaign? or would there be just a few folks prepared to stick their necks out?

then there is the ground work - registering as a society first, and if that is not allowed (as it may not be), setting up a company

i would not be able to be part of the committee of a society as i am a foreigner and i don't even have PR (after 23 years here!!!!!!!!)

it's easy to say let's have PEN but there needs to be people who will be prepared to really do the work for it. it would take time, commitment and energy.

PEN of course would organise events for writers, but we could (and should) organise those even without PEN!

let's have an open meeting and see though. can you suggest a time and venue that's convenient? (suggest a saturday or sunday PM - my house perhaps ... or more neutral territory???)

if anyone reading this is interested let me know

animah said...

Completely agree. A Saturday or Sunday a couple of weeks from now? I think a neutral and easily accessible meeting place would be suitable. If we can work out time and venue, perhaps you can announce it at the MPH Blogger thing on Saturday and invite those who'd be interested. I'll be there.
Right now this is a hot issue, so surely people must be interested?!!

bibliobibuli said...

which is a hot issue? the vietnamese writers? so hot no-one noticed it here till just now even though its been going on for a long time

so anyway decide on the neutral place and we'll see what will happen.