World Watch Monitor

group of 17 NGOs has called for the release of detained bloggers and human rights activists in Vietnam, the country Amnesty said last year had the highest number of prisoners of conscience in Southeast Asia.

In July, there were more than 90 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam’s jails, according to Amnesty.

The letter, addressed to leaders expected to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in central Vietnam on 10th and 11th November, highlights the cases of imprisoned activists Tran Thị Nga and Nguyen Van Oai, a Catholic, and blogger Nguyen Ngọc Nhu Quỳnh.

The NGOs, which include English PEN, the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam, Reporters Without Borders, and the Viet Labor Movement, say “the Vietnamese government has used unsubstantiated national security concerns to justify, and illegitimate charges to carry out, the criminalisation of free expression, dissemination of information, and peaceful advocacy”, as AsiaNews reports.

Nguyen Van Oai was sentenced in September to five years in jail and four years’ house arrest after his arrest in January for violating probation.

More than 20 bloggers and activists have been detained in Vietnam this year, as the communist government cracks down on dissent.

In July, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern over “the intensifying crackdown in Vietnam against human rights defenders who have questioned or criticised the Government and its policies”.

Vietnam is updating Decree 92, a religious law that is likely to be implemented in January 2018. Rights groups say the law could be used to confine, control, and create problems for the Church.

The country is number 17 on the 2017 Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian.