(VNRN) – A prominent land’s right advocate, an activist, and a Hoa Hao Buddhist were charged with resisting the police and causing public disorder after being beaten and detained for no reason while on the road in Dong Thap province in Vietnam.
While official charging documents were only filed on Feb. 28, the decision to prosecute were verbally communicated to the three defendants several days earlier and were known to the human rights community.
Bui Thi Minh Hang (Bùi Thị Minh Hằng), an outspoken advocate for peasants whose lands were confiscated to make room for development projects, was among a group of 21 people on mopeds that were attacked by Dong Thap police on Feb 12, about 140 km of Ho Chi Minh City. The group was on their way to visit Nguyen Bac Truyen (Nguyễn Bắc Truyển), a lawyer and former political prisoner in Dong Thap.
Also charged were Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh (Nguyễn Thị Thúy Quỳnh), an activist, and Nguyen Van Minh (Nguyễn Văn Minh), a Hoa Hao Buddhist.
Minh was charged with “resisting persons in the performance of their official duties” while Hang and Quynh were charged with “causing public disorder.”
Hang’s son Tran Bui Trung (Trần Bùi Trung), in a letter of complaint sent to Dong Thap provincial police, alleged that the police beat his mother when she was being handcuffed.
“Once they stopped, my Mother and her friends were arbitrarily attacked by hundreds of personnel from Lap Vo District’s Police Department with batons and bamboo sticks; many people fainted as results of the beatings,” Trung wrote in the letter dated Feb 18. “Money, cellular phones, laptops and personal identifications were confiscated without reports.”
Hang, 50, is a widely-known activist in Vietnam who struggled for farmers’s land rights and the rights of prisoners of conscience. As a result of her activism, she was put in detention without trial several times; the last time a five-month detention from Nov 2011 in a rehabilitation camp where she was confined to a small room with inmates infected with HIV/AIDS. Upon her release, Hang became all the more vocal and direct in her activism, which puts her under constant persecution by the police and public security officers.
Hang, Quynh and Minh and the others were on their way to visit Truyen, following reports of police arresting Truyen and destroying the Hoa Hao Buddhist altar at his home.
Lap Vo district in Dong Thap province is considered a Hoa Hao Buddhism stronghold. The Vietnamese government recognizes one Hoa Hao Buddhist church but has tried to disband any other Hoa Hao organization.
Most Hoa Hao Buddhists view the government with suspicion as they believe the Hoa Hao founder was killed by the Viet Minh.
The arrest of Hang, Quynh and Minh is believed to be one among many “post-UPR” efforts by the Vietnamese police-dominated government to crack down on dissidents.