Wives of jailed Vietnamese activists claim constant harassment

They say police and local authorities are targeting them because of their husbands’ ‘crimes.’
By RFA Vietnamese
2024.02.20
Wives of jailed Vietnamese activists claim constant harassment Facebook user Bui Van Thuan, who was detained for 'anti-state propaganda.'
Facebook: Trinh Nhung

While Vietnamese activists Bui Van Thuan and Bui Tuan Lam serve long prison sentences, their wives have told Radio Free Asia they face constant harassment by local authorities.

Trinh Thi Nhung, wife of Bui Van Thuan, said she was questioned by police in Thanh Hoa province about a Facebook account which used her husband’s photo as her profile picture.

Her husband was arrested at the end of August 2021 for a series of Facebook posts, in which he wrote about the internal fighting of state officials, which he dubbed the “dog fighting ring.”

Thuan is serving an eight-year prison sentence for “propaganda against the State.”

On Feb. 16, the police of the ward where his wife Nhung lives with her young children summoned her to the station without saying why.

On arriving, the police told her they had discovered a Facebook account with an avatar similar to her husband and they suspected she had used that account to write an article “that was not true,” she told RFA on Tuesday.

Nhung said that she told a security officer of Nghi Son Town Police named Hoang Anh she hadn’t used the account.

It was created a few days earlier and contained two fabricated articles containing content that, according to her, “could be handled under Article 331” of the criminal law for “abusing democratic freedoms.”

When the police asked her to give information about her parents and sign a police statement, she refused because she felt she had nothing to do with the fake account.

“I hope that in the future I will not be summoned for reasons that are not convincing enough,” she said. “If this happens again, I will not go.”

She added in the past week, many strangers had been waiting outside her house day and night, following her every time she went out.

RFA Vietnamese called Nghi Son Town Police to verify the information provided by Nhung, but they declined to comment on the phone.

Business supporting Bui Tuan Lam struggles

Bui Tuan Lam, known as “Onion Bae” for making a satirical video imitating a celebrity chef and mocking Vietnam’s public security minister, was arrested on Sept. 7, 2022 on charges of “propaganda against the State.” The following year, he was sentenced to 5 years and 6 months, and is serving his sentence at Xuan Loc Prison.

BUI.jpeg
Activist Bui Tuan Lam before his arrest. (Facebook: Le Thanh Lam)

In order to have money to raise three small children and provide supplies for her husband, his wife Le Thanh Lam, sells foodstuffs including seaweed, dried jackfruit and soy sauce. The labels are printed with the slogan, “Supporting Bui Tuan Lam.”

On Feb. 2, the Da Nang city police and market officials seized goods with a value of about US$80 accusing Ms. Lam of “selling contraband goods without invoices.”

On Feb. 19 officials fined her $50 for the “crime.”

She said she believes she is being victimized because, on the day of her husband’s trial a police officer pointed at her and said, “I will not leave you and your mother alone.”

“I have three small children and support  my husband in prison and I run a small business to scrape together every penny,” she wrote on Facebook.

“The dishes I sell are just snacks, regional specialties of farmers, dishes made by the hands of determined people.

“I make money from honest sweat and effort like any other woman would do for her family, her husband and her children. However, they won't leave me alone.”

The reporter called the Da Nang mayor’s management department to ask about Le Thanh Lam's case, but no one answered the phone.

Translated by RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Mike Firn and Taejun Kang.

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