By: Don Le

Although the government of Vietnam has agreed to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the Obama administration in Washington has advocated as a vehicle to improve human rights in member countries, there is precious little evidence of it on the ground in Vietnam. Many of Vietnam’s greatest intellects, independent voices, and enduring spirits remain in jail or under house arrest. This repression of peaceful dissent epitomizes the Communist Party’s human rights violations.

For instance, on Nov. 16, the newly released human rights activist Tran Minh Nhat was threatened and physically attacked by police outside Lam Ha Hospital following Nhat. He was also beaten and detained for 12 hours the previous week by plainclothes police while making his way home from Saigon.

Nhat and his father were stopped by two men outside the hospital who proceeded to grab Nhat by the neck to take him to Dinh Van Town Police Station. Nhat was requested to sign documents admitting the violation of his house arrest despite informing local authorities earlier that morning.

Attempt at Forced Confession

“They tried to force me to sign documents stating that I had violated the terms of house arrest however I refused to sign,” he said. Nhat was visiting a clinic near Lam Ha Hospital for rib and lung injuries he had sustained from physical assaults on Nov. 8. He was choked and repeatedly punched in the stomach while being interrogated about his travels to Saigon.

Nhat was first arrested in August 2011 and charged with organizing “to attempt to overthrow the government” under Article 79 of the Vietnamese Penal Code. He served four years in prison before being released under house arrest in August 2015.

Since his release, Nhat’s family has lived under constant harassment from local police. Guests at his sister’s wedding in mid-September were intimidated while arriving at his house.

“We truly hope that there will be less police intimidation and harassment in the future so we are able to contribute effectively in our local community and society in general,” he said.

Repeated Vows to Clean up Act

Despite repeated vows by Vietnam’s leaders that the country’s stance towards labor negotiations and human rights will change, there are literally dozens of stories like Nhat’s. On Nov. 9 – just a week days earlier – two lawyers advising the family of a young man who died in police custody case were attacked by mask-wearing thugs in Hanoi, leaving them bloody and bruised, one of the victims told Asia Human Rights Defenders.  Lawyers Tran Thu Nam and Le Van Luan were meeting with the family of Do Dang Du —a 17-year-old who was declared dead by authorities on Oct. 10 after more than a month in detention—when they were assaulted by eight unidentified men, Luan told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.