Vietnam. A Vietnamese court in January sentenced 14 regime-critical bloggers to between three and 13 years in prison for attempting to overthrow the government. According to the judgment, the bloggers belonged to the banned exile group Viet Tan. All 14 had written for Vietnam Redemptorist News, which monitors government harassment against the country’s Catholic minority as well as disputes between the government and rural residents. According to Countryaah, most convicted were Catholics themselves. In May, an appeals court lowered the sentence for four of those convicted. Among other things, the person sentenced to 13 years in prison had his sentence reduced to four years.
In February, 22 people were sentenced to prison for between ten years and life imprisonment for attempting to overthrow the regime. In May, two students in southern Vietnam received six and ten years in prison, respectively, for propagating against the state. They were both accused of being members of the dissident organization Patriotic Youth. In June, two well-known opposition bloggers were convicted of similar crimes. Dozens of dissimilar writers on the Internet had been arrested since Prime Minister Nguyễn Tân Dung in September 2012 gave orders for a strike against “reactionary” bloggers.
At the beginning of the year, the General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party, Nguyễn Ph迆 Trong, made a tour of Europe and met with other EU representatives. A number of cooperation agreements were concluded on, among other things, trade, investment and security. In July, President Tru’o’ng Tân Sang visited his American counterpart Barack Obama in Washington. It was the first visit by a Vietnamese president to the United States since 2007. The two countries found that they stood far apart in the view of human rights. During the visit, cooperation agreements were signed in a number of areas.
Tensions in relations with China increased as the tone of the conflict over the right to a number of islands in the South China Sea increased. In March, Vietnam accused China of firing sharply against four Vietnamese fishing vessels in the Paracel Islands, which both China and Vietnam claim. According to Vietnam, one of the fishing boats would have started to burn. China denied the incident and said that only warning shots were fired.
The conflicts surrounding the state’s confiscation of land also aimed at allowing companies to build on it continued. The confiscations often meant that locals had to move from the area, which led to protests. In May, the environmental organization Global Watch published a report in which two Vietnamese rubber companies, one state and one privately owned, would have been behind the takeover of 200,000 hectares of land in Laos and Cambodia. According to Global Watch, it led to locals being forced to relocate, to illegal logging and other environmental problems, and to many people finding it difficult to get enough food.
In June, the National Assembly held for the first time a vote of confidence in the country’s highest politician. The polls were used to try to show the residents that the country’s legislators held government members accountable for the way they held their offices, thus responding to the popular dissatisfaction with corruption and abuse of power within the Communist Party. President Sang received high points, while Prime Minister Dung proved to have relatively low confidence among the members.
In August, information came out that an 82-year-old man and his son, 41 years old, had been found in Quang Ngai Province where they have stayed away from humanity in total isolation since their family was killed in a bombing during the Vietnam War of 1973. The men were reported to have problems with to communicate with other people after they have been found.
In September, a new Internet law came into force that stipulated that Vietnamese users of social networks and blogs were now limited to only sharing “personal” information with each other. The law made it illegal to share information from news sources.
In October, one of Vietnam’s best-known regime critics, the lawyer and blogger Le Quoc Quan, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for tax offenses. He denied the crime and said the verdict was politically motivated.
The same month, General Vo Nguyễn Giap, 102 years old, passed away. Vo Nguyễn Giap became legendary when he first led Vietnam’s communists to victory over the colonial power of France’s army in 1954 and then commanded the so-called Tễt offensive, when the Communists defeated the United States forces in 1968. The general held a number of high political positions later in life, including as Minister of Defense and Deputy Prime Minister.