Vietnam has designated a US-based opposition group a “terrorist organisation” following an alleged plot to detonate bombs at Ho Chi Minh City’s airport last year.
The public security ministry said that the Provisional National Government of Vietnam, based in Anaheim California, had been behind the foiled attacks on Tan Son Nhat airport in April last year.
15 alleged supporters of the group were sentenced to prison terms of up to 16 years following a brief trial last month.
They were accused of attempting to set off petrol bombs in and around the airport in order to disrupt celebrations for the anniversary of North Vietnam’s 1975 victory over the South.
Vietnam has repeatedly described another US-based opposition group, Viet Tan, as a terrorist group, and has recently stepped up rhetorical attacks on what it describes as overseas based subversives.
The authorities are trying to convince the public that recently jailed independent bloggers and human rights activists are a danger to national security, portraying them as them as instruments of shadowy subversive forces based overseas.
Punished in accordance with the law
Viet Tan says that it has renounced violence and only sponsors peaceful democratic change in the country.
The Communist authorities have only infrequently resorted to anti-terrorist legislation to silence their domestic critics.
However the public security ministry said that, from now on, anyone found promoting or colluding with the PNGV would be punished in accordance with the law.
The judge in the airport case said that the plot had been ordered and financed from abroad. The indictment named the self-styled “prime minister” of the provisional government, Dao Minh Quan, and an associate, Pham Lisa, as having orchestrated the planned bombings.
The PNGV was established in 1991 by California based exiles, including former officials from the defeated South Vietnamese state.
Mr Dao has attempted to bring international criminal charges against Vietnam’s Communist leaders, including the current General-Secretary of the party, Nguyen Phu Trong.
He accuses them of crimes against humanity, including genocide.
The group describes the Communist government as an illegitimate regime and calls for free and fair elections.