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Greetings from Huong, Ella, and Kaylee from The 88 Project! We are bringing to you news, analysis, and actions regarding human rights and civil society in Vietnam during the week of March 20-26: two more arrests under Article 88; the continued struggle of the victims of the Formosa environmental disaster; public outcry about recent pedophilia cases and the authorities’ inadequate response; and nine death sentences. Don’t miss PEN America’s interview with Trịnh Hữu Long and the article on environmental activism by David Hutt in the Diplomat. Last but not least, please remember bloggers Anh Ba Sàm and Nguyễn Thị Minh Thúy upon the one year anniversary of their trial, and take action for them.

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Bùi Hiếu Võ (left) and Phan Kim Khánh (right). Source: baogiaothong.vn

Bùi Hiếu Võ (left) & Phan Kim Khánh (right) – images on the days of their arrests as published by state-owned media.

The 88 Project, March 22, 2017: Blogger Phan Kim Khánh (Phú Thọ province) was arrested on March 21 and blogger Bùi Hiếu Võ (Hồ Chí Minh City), a few days earlier, on March 17. Both were charged under Art. 88 for “propaganda against the Socialist state.”

State-owned media, citing the Ministry of Public Security, has confirmed the arrests and charges against the bloggers. Read More

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Greetings from The 88 Project! This week, we are bringing to you updates on prisoners of conscience Nguyễn Đặng Minh Mẫn and Nguyễn Văn Đài, news regarding the precarious situations of Vietnamese refugees and asylum seekers, and incidents concerning violation of freedom of assembly. Please don’t forget to take action for POC Trần Thị Thúy!

Please share the link to subscribe to our newsletter with those who might find it useful! If you have questions or want to request more information on relevant topics, email us at the88project.mail@gmail.com.

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POC Nguyễn Đặng Minh Mẫn. Source: IJAVN

The 88 Project, March 13, 2017: “My daughter Minh Mẫn was beaten and wounded in prison, and she was held in solitary confinement in a stinky cell for 10 days.” Mrs. Đặng Ngọc Minh, mother of Minh Mẫn, shared in an interview with SBTN.

On March 12, 2017, on her Facebook, Mrs. Đặng Ngọc Minh wrote that Ms. Nguyễn Đặng Minh Mẫn was assaulted by another prisoner named Lan inside the prison; then the prison ward ordered Minh Mẫn to be sent to solitary confinement for 10 days.

Mrs. Đặng Ngọc Minh said: “In the visit on March 12, 2017, my husband called from Prison No. 5, Thanh Hóa province, to let me know that my daughter had been beaten, and she just got out from the disciplinary cell and looked thin and weak because of the harsh treatment she had received.”

Mr. Nguyễn Văn Lợi, father of Minh Mẫn, related: “When I saw Mẫn, Mẫn started telling me about the assault, then the officer interrupted and threatened to end our visit. She had been held in a dirty cell with a poor nutrition regime.” Read More

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Greetings from Huong, Ella, and Kaylee from The 88 Project! We are bringing to you news, analysis, and actions regarding human rights and civil society in Vietnam during the week of March 6-12, 2017. The biggest story of the week was of course International Women’s Day. We are incredibly thrilled about the particular attention given to female activists and prisoners of conscience in Vietnam from international human rights organizations, Vietnamese activists, and civil society organizations everywhere. For our part, we added our voice to those of Vietnamese female activists in demanding the right to adequate and free access to hygiene products for all female prisoners. Also in the news: protests, environmental activism, police brutality, reports from Vietnamese human rights defenders, the Vietnam Cyber Dialogue, and the second award ceremony of the League of Independent Vietnamese writers. Please do check out the Take Action section and sign PEN America’s open letter on behalf of bloggers Nguyễn Hữu Vinh and Nguyễn Thị Minh Thúy.

If you have any feedback for us or want us to include announcements and/or articles from you/your organization, please email us at the88project.mail@gmail.com. To stay informed and keep the conversation going during the week, follow us on Twitter and Facebook!

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With the controversial actions of the Trump administration in the weeks since the inauguration, many are wondering what four years of Trump means for minority groups and the future of the US and other nations alike. The 88 Project explores what impact Trump could have on Vietnam, US-Asia relations, and human rights in the region. Under one scenario, Trump disengages from Vietnam, and Vietnam human rights violations escalate under decreased scrutiny. Disengagement from the US could also mean more regional engagement for Vietnam and China.  There is really no scenario under which the US engages Vietnam on human rights for the sole sake of human rights promotion, but a brighter scenario could see the US pushing Vietnam on human rights, even if only minimally, to remind them that other countries are still taking notes– and to provide Trump with domestic leverage. Another possible reality, though, is that regardless of what the US under Trump or any other countries do, Vietnam’s human rights situation will continue on its current course– or worsen.

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Up until now, the US and Vietnam have been somewhat of “frenemies,” slowly moving past their troubled history together. The warming of their relationship was strong under Obama, perhaps reaching a peak in 2016 with Obama’s visit to Vietnam and ending of the decades-long ban on the sale of US weapons to the country. As lackluster as Vietnam’s human rights improvements were under Obama’s leadership, pressure from international visits and deals has helped publicize prisoners of conscience and environmental issues. But now, Trump’s “America First” rhetoric leave many wondering if Trump will have much of a relationship with or impact on Asia, and Vietnam, at all. In the following sections, we explore the complicated potentials for involvement- or lack thereof- between the U.S. and Vietnam.

The US turning inwards does not necessarily mean it will scratch out the last several years of progress it’s made in courting Vietnam, at least not intentionally. An inward-focused US could maintain friendly ties with Vietnam without being invested in outcomes there, as it is important for both countries to remain allies in their efforts to counterbalance Chinese influence. In fact, despite their outward differences, Vietnam and the US under Trump share many priorities: economic growth, fostering a pro-business environment, and orchestrating a crackdown on institutions and people that allegedly  jeopardize national security. In the US, this has been exemplified in Trump’s travel ban and increasingly forceful immigration actions. In Vietnam, this often takes the form of quelling public protest, arresting outspoken critics of the government, and silencing independent media.

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Female prisoners Standbyher graphicThe 88 Project, March 8, 2017: Blogger Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, the well-known human rights defender who has been held incommunicado since October 2016, wrote a note to her mother on the margin of a supply receipt form dated January 1, 2017: “I’ve received everything you sent. I also need shampoo, toothpaste, hygiene pads, and candies.” Yet, as of March 2017, according to fellow female activists who are close to her family, Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh’s mother has not been able to send her the feminine pads she asked for.

Hygiene pads are not commonly distributed to the women in jail in Vietnam. Former prisoner of conscience Phạm Thanh Nghiên, in our interview with her in 2013, told the story of the struggle of female prisoners to receive adequate menstrual products. While Nghiên was able to receive what she needed from her family, other women had to ask for free feminine pads from their cellmates, or work in the prison to earn money to buy pads from the prison facilities at a much higher price than in the common market. It seems that the distribution of hygiene pads to women prisoners is left to the discretion of specific prison authorities. Some authorities allow the families to send pads, some don’t. Some distribute only cheap, thin, and non-absorbent pads. Some require the women to buy them from the prison’s facilities at an expensive price. Read More