Father Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly is a Roman Catholic priest and prominent Vietnamese dissident involved in many pro-democracy movements. Father Ly has already spent around 15 years in prison for peacefully criticizing government policies on religion and advocating for greater respect for human rights since the late 1970’s. For his ongoing imprisonment and continuous non-violent protest, Amnesty International has adopted Nguyen Van Ly in December, 1983 as a Prisoner of conscience. In November, 2000, Nguyen Van Ly gained global and official attention, when members of the Committee for Religious Freedom visited Nguyen Van Ly in his village, during US president Clinton's visit to Vietnam but he was sentenced again in October 2001 to 15 years in prison for activities linked to the defence of free speech. The sentence was later reduced several times and he was finally released in February 2004. Most recently, his support for the Bloc 8406 manifesto has led to his sentence on March 30, 2007 for an additional eight years in prison. Read full biography

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Prominent Jailed Priest Denied Bible In Vietnam Prison

HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife)-- A well-known Catholic priest and editor serving eight years imprisonment in Vietnam for alleged anti-government activity, is not allowed to have a Bible and other items of his church, according to a transcript of a prison conversation obtained by BosNewsLife Saturday, October 27.

"Even papers and pen are not allowed to keep, not to mention to Bible," the 60-year-old priest, Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly, told his sister and cousin during their October 10 visit to ‘K1 Prison Camp’ in Ba Sao commune of Vietnam’s northern Ha Nam province.

"They only allow me to read 'Law' magazine you sent me. I am still in a single confinement cell. The cell floor was refaced with new tiles, to show off to visiting delegations. But until today, there is no delegation visiting me," he said.

On Mach 30, a judge at Thua Thien Hue Provincial People's Court in central Vietnam sentenced Ly in a four-and-a-half hour trial on March 30 to eight years in prison on charges of disseminating anti-government documents and communicating with pro-democracy activists overseas.

Authorities said Ly, who already spent over 14 years in jail for his pro-democracy activities, was plotting to merge his Vietnam Progression Party with overseas democracy activists and to overthrow the government.

"The Vietnamese constitution states that Vietnam has a one-party political system," Deputy Public Security Minister Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Van Huong said in published remarks. "It's illegal if some people want to establish another party, not to mention secretly inciting other people to join their organization and aim to overthrow the existing government."
The priest has denied any wrongdoing, saying he is seeking peaceful means to fight for democracy and freedom. Viewing himself as an innocent victim of persecution by the Communist Party, he initially refused to wear a prison uniforms.

"You, sister and cousin, should not have the wrong idea that I have admitted guilt” by wearing a "black-and-white striped prison suit." However “today, I have to wear it or the jail officers will not allow me to meet you," he told his sister Nguyen Thi Hieu and cousin, identified only as Ms. Minh, on October 10, according to the transcript.

He criticized Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung for declaring during a recent visited to the United States that there are no political prisoners in Vietnam. "Why not? Living evidence is [myself] here and many other democracy activists who are currently in jail across Vietnam. I will stay in jail until Vietnam authorities admit they still keep…many political prisoners and prisoners of conscience," behind bars. . However he said life was not easy in prison. as besides a Bible he was not allowed a “bottle of wine used at Mass and a little box of communions" brought to him by two fellow priests. "Probably Father Quy mistakenly thought he is the City Council member so he is authoritative and valuable so he should be well respected by jail officers…" he said about one of the visiting priests. "This regime does not respect anybody. Furthermore, they do not respect people who follow, work and compromise with them. They respect people who dare to challenge and fight them," he apparenty added.

A key media tool for dissidents is the underground monthly magazine Tu do Ngôn luan (Free Speech) he edited, which the priest said is still distributed nationwide, BosNewsLife learned.
During the apparently emotionally charged meeting with family members, the priest asked why mail is addressed to "Mr./Brother Nguyen Van Ly" instead of "To: The Rev. Nguyen Van Ly?" His sister explained that writing the word "Priest" on a gift box is not authorized by the Vietnamese post office. "They will not send those gifts to you. The reason is this government [claims] it "does not imprison Church’s people," she said.

Ly said he had “not yet” received a Bible she sent to him, and expressed doubts that book would be handed over to him by prison authorities. He apparently managed to receive some other gifts from his family during their prison visit, but it was unclear if they would be taken away from him. He signed his gift receipt with: “The Rev. Nguyen Van Ly, prisoner of conscience.”

It comes amid fresh reports of a crackdown on activists. Dissidents told BosNewsLife that Le Thi Kim Thu, an outspoken protester whose properties “have been robbed by local authorities in Vietnam,” has been detained, while three other female activists were allegedly “electrocuted and assaulted by Vietnam police's high-voltage rods on October 11.” They were reportedly being interrogated by police for their roles of leading homeless residents to protest the government in Vietnam.

In addition Journalism student Nong van Khanh was allegedly electrocuted by a police high-voltage rod on October 10 for stealing a mobile phone, an attack activists link to her apparent involvement in freedom of speech.

More details were not immediately available, but several human rights organizations have expressed concerns about an apparent crackdown on dissent by a government they say allows more economic reforms but not the necessary political changes. At least hundreds of Christians are believed to be among detained activists. Besides priests and other church leaders, they also include less known believers and many Degar-Montanards, BosNewsLife established. (With reporting from Vietnam and other sources).

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Statement by the Press Secretary

Political Prisoners in Syria and Vietnam

The United States condemns the recent sentencings of democracy activists Anwar al-Bunni and Kamal Labwani to long terms of imprisonment and is alarmed by reports that they have been subjected to inhumane prison conditions. These developments demonstrate that the Asad regime in Syria continues to suppress dissent and crack down on those who peacefully seek to defend their rights and bring democratic reform to their country. As the President stated last year, all political prisoners in Syria should be released immediately.

We similarly deplore the increasing incidence of arrest and detention of political activists in Vietnam, such as Nguyen Van Ly, Le Quoc Quan, Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan, for activities well within their right to peaceful expression of political thought. We were particularly disturbed by the Vietnamese authorities physically preventing citizens from attending meetings at the U.S. Ambassador's residence with a Member of the U.S. Congress. As Vietnam's economy and society reform and move forward, such repression of individuals for their views is anachronistic and out of keeping with Vietnam's desire to prosper, modernize, and take a more prominent role in world affairs.

# # #

Friday, May 11, 2007

Amnesty Protests Vietnam’s Prison Sentences For Three Pro-Democracy Leaders

HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife)— International human rights group Amnesty International (AI) on Thursday, May 10, condemned the sentencing of three leading members of the anti-government People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to prison terms of between three and five years.

Thursday’s sentencing, which followed the detention of other pro-democracy activists, including Christians, was "yet another politically motivated trial in Vietnam" said AI, adding that it had turned "citizens who have only peacefully expressed opinions into prisoners of conscience."

Le Nguyen Sang, 48 years old, a medical doctor and leader of the PDP, was sentenced to five years imprisonment, while journalist Huynh Nguyen Dao and lawyer Nguyen Bac Truyen, both 39, were reportedly sentenced to three and four years in prison respectively.

The three men were charged with “conducting propaganda” against the state under article 88 of the penal code for taking part in setting up the party, communicating online with a government critic abroad, and spreading leaflets critical of the government, AI said.


The prosecutor in the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court reportedly described the ruling as a warning to other “hostile forces.” The trial, reportedly closed to international observers, lasted around four hours.

On Friday, May 11, two prominent human rights lawyers are to face trial on similar "conducting propaganda" charges as those sentenced Thursday, May 10, AI said. The Hanoi People’s Court will hear a case against Nguyen Van Dai, a member of the online pro-democracy group Bloc 8406, and Le Thi Cong Nhan, a spokesperson for the Progression Party under the penal code’s controversial article 88.

Four days later, on May 15, Tran Quoc Hien of the United Worker-Farmers Organization (UWFO) and a Bloc 8406 member, is reportedly to stand trial for apparently article 88 charges.
AI said it is "deeply concerned" about what it called a "politically motivated campaign by authorities to silence dissenting voices" which it claimed "has gradually intensified" since the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Hanoi in November 2006.


The latest trials come on the heels of the sentencing of other dissidents, including Christians such as Catholic priest Catholic Priest Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly and four associates who were found guilty of "conducting propaganda" against the state. The priest, on March 30, was sentenced to eight years in prison during dramatic proceedings in which the church leader openly condemned the Vietnamese Communist leadership.

The 60-year-old Ly who spent a total of 14 years in prison since 1983 on charges of acting against the Communist state, upset officials by resuming his political activities after he was freed from jail in a 2005 amnesty, and placed under house arrest, observers said.

Other Christian and religious leaders as well as lawyers, trade unionists, and Internet dissidents with links to emerging pro-democracy groups have also been targeted with "many" facing trial, AI said in a statement to BosNewsLife.

Independent churches have also expressed concerns over harassment. AI said it has urged Vietnamese authorities to honor their "international human rights obligations by releasing all prisoners of conscience." It estimates that at least over 20 people have been arrested and detained since November 2006 in what it called an "on-going" crackdown. "So far, eight have been convicted, six of them sentenced to prison terms."

Vietnamese authorities have strongly denied human rights abuses. (With reports from Vietnam and BosNewsLife reporting).

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Former Czech leader calls on Vietnam to release dissident priest

The Czech Republic's first post-communist president, Vaclav Havel, has backed a call by other former communist-era dissidents for the release of Fr Nguyen Van Ly, the pro-democracy priest sentenced to eight years prison in Vietnam for disseminating "anti-government propaganda".

The International Herald Tribune reports that four of Fr Ly's associates were also jailed, one to a six-year term.
Another two activists, lawyers Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan, are due to go on trial later this month.

"We are worried by this undemocratic action which we perceive as a gross violation of civic rights," said an open letter to the Vietnamese prime minister, president and parliamentary speaker, signed by Havel and dozens of other prominent Czech personalities.
"We express our solidarity with the convicts and demand an immediate release of the convicts and the arrested," the letter said.

Roman Catholic Bishop Vaclav Maly, Rabbi Karol Sidon or Senator Petr Pithart - dissidents under the former communist regime - are among the letter's signatories.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Geneva Radical Party’s General Secretary writes to WTO

Mr Pascal Lamy
Director General
World Trade Organization
Rue de Lausanne 153

May 7, 2007

Re: Vietnamese political dissidents to be tried in Hanoi on May 11

Dear Sir,

I am taking the liberty of writing to you following our meeting with the Suisse-Vietnam Committee. On May 11, the Vietnamese judiciary authorities will put on trial two young lawyers in Hanoi for “abusing democratic freedoms (sic!) and propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”

Since joining the World Trade Organization, Hanoi regime has showed an alarming increase in intensive crackdown against political activists. This is evidenced by the case of Catholic priest, Father Nguyen Van Ly who was muzzled during his trial on March 30. The images of this lame trial have been witnessed all over the world. Between November 2006 and end of April 2007, we have been informed of at least 22 arrests of political activists in Vietnam.

We have alerted the Swiss authorities who, we hope, will make sure that international observers will be allowed to attend all the trials of these Vietnamese political dissidents. We have also alerted the Human Rights Council about the numerous violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that Vietnam was a signatory since 1982.

Considering that Vietnam recently joined WTO, we will continue to inform you of all the cases that we are aware. Certainly liberalization of commercial trade will eventually come with an increased democratization; however we would like to take action so that the transition will occur with as few human victims as possible.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely yours,

Friday, May 4, 2007

Memo to Hanoi

A Catholic priest who has already spent over 13 years in prison is rearrested and sentenced to eight more years for serving as an advisor to a democracy movement and a new political party.

A woman, whose husband had recently been released from jail after serving time for spreading pro-democracy material, is hit by a car -- believed to be driven and occupied by plainclothes police officers -- in an effort to intimidate her and prevent her from meeting with the U.S. Ambassador. A lawyer who travels to the U.S. to serve as a Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy is arrested within a week of his return home, and charged with engaging in activities aimed at overthrowing the government.

While these stories sound like they were lifted from the files of the KGB, they are, in reality, all events that have recently taken place in Vietnam.

Each event, while outrageous and appalling, is also regrettably predictable. Vietnam claims to have put an end to human rights abuses, but its so-called reforms have turned out to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors. The Vietnamese government continues to carry out human rights abuses with impunity.

Earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution we sponsored to once again insist that the government of Vietnam stop playing games with human rights. Our resolution calls on the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience who have been arrested in a recent wave of government oppression.

That includes Father Nguyen Van Ly, the aforementioned Catholic priest, who was sentenced to eight years in prison merely for attempting to exercise his fundamental human right of peacefully advocating for change in Vietnam. Father Ly's kangaroo court proceedings were over before they started. Given no defense lawyer, he was left to fend for himself in a courtroom where his guilt was predetermined and his mouth muzzled as he attempted to stand up for his rights.

He is not alone. Around the same time Father Ly was hauled in, Vietnamese police arrested the principal spokesperson for the Vietnam Progression Party and the founder of the Vietnamese Labor Movement, Le Thi Cong Nhan. On the same day Father Ly was arrested -- March 6, 2007 -- Vietnamese police arrested one of Vietnam's few practicing human rights lawyers, Nguyen Van Dai.

Along with the disgraceful attempts to silence political opposition, the regime in Hanoi continues to repress religious freedom and persecute members of the Cao Dai religion, the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, Hoa Hao Buddhists and the Montagnards from the Central Highlands. Labor rights are nearly non-existent and the Vietnamese government has made little to no progress in ending the horrific crime of human trafficking in their country.

The conviction of Father Ly and the arrests of Mr. Dai and Ms. Nhan violate Article 69 of the Vietnamese Constitution and are in contravention of the rights enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Vietnam is a state party. Father Ly and the other dissidents merely want a better future for their country. They are smart, talented and kind people -- some of Vietnam's best, brightest and bravest. They harbor no malice toward, and have in no way advocated violence against, the Vietnamese government.

Much like Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa and other champions of democracy who helped bring about the peaceful end of communism in Eastern Europe, these individuals are heroes. They and their families are consistently harassed, persecuted and, in many cases, incarcerated and tortured solely because they advocate for a Vietnam where they and their countrymen can speak freely, vote in free and fair elections, and practice their faith.

Tyranny hates and fears public exposure, so we must keep attention focused like a laser beam on Vietnam's ongoing human rights violations. The U.S. House of Representatives has vigorously called for reform through passage of our resolution, giving a voice to the dissidents in Vietnam who continue to be silenced by the regime, and demanding that the government of Vietnam complies with internationally recognized standards for basic freedoms and human rights. The international community -- especially Vietnam's neighbors and trading partners -- should follow suit with a similar resolution to bring pressure to bear on the regime.

When Vietnam joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2006, membership was granted in light of assurances that the Vietnamese government was steadily improving its human rights record and would continue to do so. This recent crackdown is a significant step backward. The norms and responsibilities of joining the international community do not end with WTO membership. Rather, a constant commitment to protecting and promoting human rights should be required of all member states. If Vietnam's leaders are unwilling to live up to the obligations of WTO membership, then they are undeserving of the benefits that come from it.

Human rights are central -- and must be at the absolute core of our relationship with any government. Vietnam shouldn't be an exception.

The authors are members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Mr. Smith is a Republican of New Jersey; Mr. Stupak is a Democrat of Michigan; Mr. Wolf is a Republican of Virginia.

Thursday, May 3, 2007


Extract from the HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY Hansard of 2 May 2007

Ms CICCARELLO (Norwood): My question is to the Minister for Multicultural Affairs. Can the minister inform the house of the significance of the anniversary of the fall of Saigon to the South Australian Vietnamese community, and indicate the implication for human rights in Vietnam today?

The Hon. M.J. ATKINSON (Minister for Multicultural Affairs): I thank the member for Norwood for an important and timely question, which touches on issues of human rights. These should be the concern of every South Australian. On Monday 30 April we marked the 32nd anniversary of the fall of Saigon. It was a particularly poignant day of remembrance; 30 April 1975 was the day that the North Vietnamese forces invaded Saigon, the capital of the Republic of Vietnam, and established a communist government, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

The anniversary was formally recognised on Sunday, and I attended two functions arranged by our Vietnamese Australian community. They were both sad occasions. Our valued and hard‑working Vietnamese-Australian community, who lost so much and risked all for their beliefs, remain truly troubled and distressed about the events of 1975 and what has occurred subsequently.

The communist regime in Vietnam now rules with an iron fist. I speak with first‑hand knowledge as, together with you, Mr Speaker, and my parliamentary colleagues—the members for Norwood and Morialta—I visited Vietnam on a study tour last August. Communist Vietnam today is an elite of about 2 million Communist Party members ruling and riding roughshod over 80 million of their countrymen. Imbued with absolute paranoia, the Communist Party reacts swiftly and sometimes violently whenever it perceives that its authority is being challenged. Indeed, when the Socialist Republic of Vietnam became aware of the unveiling of the Vietnam war memorial here in Adelaide, it got in touch with Alexander Downer and made sure that no federal Liberal government officials attended the unveiling.

One of the saddest examples of this paranoia is the subject of the T‑shirt I have been wearing today and yesterday. The image is that of Catholic priest Father Nguyen Van Ly and it clearly shows the loss of human rights in Vietnam since the fall of Saigon. Members may have seen the quarter-page advertisement in The Australian newspaper last Friday alerting us to the fate of Father Ly. Father Ly is 60 years old, he is a peaceful man and has long been an advocate for religious freedom in his country. For this he has suffered periods of house arrest.

I have some first‑hand experience of this. When our delegation visited the Archbishop of Hue last year, Father Ly was confined to the archbishop's house. As we arrived, Father Ly was surrounded by plain-clothes police to prevent him from making any contact with our delegation. In February Father Ly was re‑arrested, charged with distributing anti-government material—and I can assure you that is milder than anything that is said about the Rann government on talkback radio in Adelaide—and being in contact with anti-government organisations overseas. Presumably that includes the parliament of South Australia.

On 30 March Father Ly was put on trial—a kind of trial. When he tried to speak he was gagged. This image shows Father Ly in court guarded by two soldiers. A third plain-clothes official has his arm around Father Ly's neck and his hand over his mouth, preventing him from speaking. That is a fair trial in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, apparently! Father Ly was found guilty, of course, and sentenced to eight years' imprisonment.

Sadly, many other citizens of Vietnam suffer likewise. Leaders of religious bodies not under state control, like the Hoa Hao Buddhists, journalists, independent unionists and others, are all in gaol or under house arrest for exercising what we regard as the most basic human rights and freedom of speech. There is no freedom of speech in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, nor is there freedom of association, press or religion. Those who speak out are persecuted. I encourage the house to reflect on this tragedy and injustice and to let our Vietnamese-Australian community know that our thoughts are with them.

Moreover, I call upon all members to express their concerns directly to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in Canberra. Father Ly must be released. Vietnam must be made aware that this continuing and blatant abuse of the most basic human rights will not go unnoticed.

Honourable members: Hear, hear!