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Vietnam News in English 20.10.2014 13:00
Vietnamese Communist Police Officer beats Taxi Driver for Not Running Red Light!
24.03.2011 22:11

 Vietnamese deputy police chief attacked and threatened to shoot a taxi driver for refusing to run a red light, a report in state-controlled media said Thursday.

Cabbie Do Quoc Thai said his passenger twice asked him not to stop at traffic signals and, when he insisted o­n obeying the lights, seized the steering wheel and threatened to shoot him, Tuoi Tre newspaper's website reported.

He said the man then used a belt to attack him during the alleged altercation o­n Sunday night in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho.

Running red lights is a routine practice among Vietnamese motorists.

The incident happened outside a local police station whose officers invited the pair in for questioning, Tuoi Tre reported. It identified the passenger as Major Bui Minh Thang, second-in-command of Hau Giang province's traffic police.

"Thang threatened the police and asked o­ne official in the room to kneel and apologise to him," the report said.

Tuoi Tre reported that it interviewed Thang who said he had been drinking wine and beer before calling the cab.

Both the traffic police in Can Tho and neighbouring Hau Giang provincial police -- which are reportedly led by Thang's father -- declined comment to AFP.

Vietnam's traffic police are regarded by citizens as notoriously corrupt.

In a report last year the US-based Human Rights Watch urged Vietnam to investigate "widespread police brutality". The group said it had documented 19 incidents of reported brutality by law enforcers over the previous year, resulting in 15 deaths.

Vietnamese police attack Catholics because they were praying

Hundreds of Vietnamese security forces attacked recently 100 Degar Catholics while they were worshiping, including women, children and elderly, leaving 22 injured and o­ne crippled.

The attack occurred in Ploi Kret Krot, a highland village in Gia Lai province bordering Cambodia. This is the third attack o­n Christians in the province, the other two occurring in Ploi Kuk Kong and Ploi Kuk Dak villages, Montagnard Foundation reported.

Villagers were threated with arrest if they told media overseas. Vietnam has, of late escalated a crackdown o­n Catholics and Christians, some say in light of its pending congress (its first in five years) to meet in January.
Others blame the crackdown o­n internal party struggles amid strengthening relations between Vietnam in the U.S. Several human rights groups have asked that Vietnam be placed o­n the U.S. annual list of Countries of Particular Concern for its violations of religious freedom rights. (See http://theundergroundsite.com/.//2010/12/christian-watchdog-seeks-release-of-two-pastors-in-vietnam-14706\).

Electric prods, batons

In the latest attack Degar Catholics were holding an open prayer service when local police told them to leave. When the Christians said they were not committing a crime, the police confiscated their crosses, pictures of Jesus and the virgin Mary and other religious artifacts, Montagnard Foundation’s website said.

The website reported the police also beat the worshipers with electric prods, batons, kicks and stomps including women, children and the elderly. Nine were rendered unconscious, while others escaped into the forest.

Those rendered unconscious ranged in age from 24 to 60. They were beaten several times o­n the head with batons after which they were kicked and stomped o­n. o­ne of them, A Bom, 50, may be crippled, the website said.

The website listed those who were beaten to unconsciousness as A Kat, 45, A cuun, 27, A Li, 31, A Cur, 43, A Liu, 24, A Sung, 24, A Khin, 46, and A Hlai, 60.

Those who managed to escape were hit o­n the back and thighs rather than o­n the head. The website said they are A Wung, 29, A Sinh, 27, A Yil, 30, A Gyun, 28, A Raih, 26, A Do, 30, A Kinh, 31, A Bop, 35, A Ngo, 34, A Mun, 22, A Wung, 17, A Yim, 16, and A Blun, 28.

Many who fled are now in hiding, while the police are hunting them down, patrolling the village and disallowing villagers to leave their homes, according to the website.

There are about 1 million Degar, nearly half of whom are Protestant and 200,000 Roman Catholics. Degar tribes who reside in the highlands do not share the language and culture of Vietnam.

Last month, at a General Assembly of the People of God, Bishop Cosmas Hoang Van Dat, secretary general of the Vietnamese bishops’ conference said, “Vietnamese Catholics are Vietnamese citizens. Our people have contributed to the development of the nation, in culture, education, society and the defense of the country. In particular, good pastors have consolidated and strengthened the Church in Vietnam in the context of contemporary society. We need to have dialogue and cooperation with the government. Above all, we trust in the Vatican and are in commUNI0N with the pope,” Spero News reported.


Vietnamese policeman jailed for death of motorcyclist
File image of motorcycle riders in Hanoi, Vietnam Nguyen Van Khuong was stopped by police for failing to wear a motorcycle helmet

Related Stories

A Vietnamese policeman has been jailed for seven years following the death in custody of a man detained for not wearing a motorcycle helmet.

The court in northern Bac Giang province sentenced Nguyen The Nghiep, 25, for "causing death to a person in the performance of official duties".

Nghiep had arrested Nguyen Van Khuong, 21, o­n 23 July last year who, within hours, was dead.

His plight sparked the province's biggest anti-government protests.

Ten villagers, allegedly among the several thousand who had been part of the protests, face charges for causing a public disturbance and assaulting officials. Their case will be heard next month.

Nghiep is barred from returning to a police position after serving his prison term.

He also volunteered to pay US$7,380 (£4,533) in compensation to the Khuong family.

Abuse claims

The Vietnam News, an English language daily, reported that Nghiep had asked Mr Khuong to come into the police office to write a statement about the alleged helmet violation.

It said Mr Khuong had refused, so Nghiep "pushed him into a chair, gave him a pen and paper, struck a blow to the back of his head and ordered him to write the statement".

Another policeman subsequently found Mr Khuong unconscious o­n the chair; he was taken to hospital for emergency treatment but died about 30 minutes later.

The case prompted calls from international rights groups for a re-examination of cases of police brutality.

Human Rights Watch said that in many cases those who died in custody had been arrested for minor offences, like traffic violations or petty thievery.

It said it had documented 19 cases of police brutality a year, which had resulted in the deaths of 15 people.

It said its findings raised concerns that the abuses were systemic.

In May last year, a 45-year-old man and a 12-year-old boy were shot and killed in Thanh Hoa province when police tried to disperse crowds protesting against a government industrial project

Vietnamese Fight Back Against Cop Corruption

As Tran Cong Tien tells it, he was mad as hell and he wasn't going to take it anymore. Pulled over by a Hanoi traffic cop a few weeks ago for driving in the wrong direction down a o­ne-way street, he says he tried to be reasonable. Tien claims the $6 bribe offered was more than fair, but the officer wanted more to ignore the traffic violation. Words between the two escalated. Insults flew. And then Tien snapped. "I grabbed his neck and pushed hard," he says. "I have never dared challenge the police. I'm fed up with corruption and at that moment I was just so frustrated!"

Tien was eventually let go when another officer came along and defused the situation. But he is not alone in his rage. In southern Kien Giang province in December, angry villagers threw flaming gasoline canisters at police commandeering their property and briefly held three of them hostage, forcing o­ne to disrobe. Last year, farmers in Hung Yen province battled authorities trying to seize their land and resell it to developers. "Men, women and children fought back with their bare hands, with mud, with anything they could grab," said Nguyen Dinh Liem, who was working in his rice paddy when police arrived. "I had never seen that kind of thing before." (See pictures of the Vietnam-China border war.)

Corruption in Vietnam is nothing new. Last year, Transparency International ranked Vietnam 121st out of 180 o­n its Corruption Perception Index. But it was perhaps easier to overlook occasional shakedowns from officials when Vietnam's economy was doing well and incomes were doubling every few years. That's no longer the case. People being squeezed by the economic downturn are increasingly frustrated by the nation's enduring corruption, says Trinh Hoa Binh, head of environment and health at the government-run Institute of Sociology in Hanoi. Officials are maintaining their special privileges while the economic position of ordinary Vietnamese is becoming more precarious. They are incensed, he says, that corrupt officials are rarely punished for taking bribes.

The anti-police backlash playing out around the country is unusual considering that Vietnam is a relatively efficient authoritarian state where dissent is rarely tolerated. In two recent incidents, motorcycle riders pulled over by police set their own bikes alight rather than let them be impounded. Last month, a car dragged a Hanoi policeman 15 feet before racing off. An angry crowd seeing a cop roughing up a driver in the southern province of Dong Nai used bricks to smash the officer�s motorcycle.

The incidents have garnered o­nly limited attention in state-run media, which dismiss most as the work of criminal minds or hooligans. But witnesses, who have posted videos and camera-phone shots o­nline of burning motorcycles and farmers battling police, say the spurt of violence is a sign that the public has finally had it with corruption.

The government won't confirm whether attacks o­n police are o­n the rise, but it is concerned enough that the Ministry of Public Security held a conference late last year to address the issue. Colonel Huynh The Ky, the director of security in southern Ninh Thuan province who attended the conference, attributed the increase to "teenagers who lack proper education and are corrupted." Ky said he would like to see police provided with more sophisticated equipment in order to protect themselves, but he added that the "attitude of some police officials sometimes is not appropriate. Police have to work in the spirit of serving the people. They must have proper behavior."

Vietnam's working classes have risen up against authorities before — with results. The most famous farmers' revolt took place in the northern province of Thai Binh in 1997. Burdened by excessive taxation and illegal fees, thousands of villagers challenged local officials over the course of several months. When their demands to be heard were ignored, they stoned Communist Party cadres, attacked their offices and homes, and held officials hostage for days. The national government eventually took charge, disciplining local officials and sending some to jail, along with some of the farmers. The following year, a national law known as Decree 29 was passed, allowing for more participation in local decision-making and giving citizens more opportunities to vent their grievances to commune-level officials.

The past decade of stunning economic growth in Vietnam helped to ease these frustrations. But 10 years o­n, with o­nly marginal improvements in transparency and with corruption still rampant, patience is wearing dangerously thin again — a fact that Vietnam's leadership recognizes. "There is corruption and abuse of power in local areas," concedes Nguyen Minh Thuyet, a senior member of Vietnam's National Assembly. Though he does not condone the recent attacks o­n government property, Thuyet says he understands the anger and agrees that the government must do more to improve transparency.

As jobs continue to vanish and inflation eats away at wages, it is not going to be as easy to placate those who are being hit the hardest when police attempt to extort them for petty cash. "The police are even more corrupt than they were before," Hanoi taxi driver Nguyen Van Cuong says bitterly. "In o­ne day, I can be stopped several times." And where 100,000 dong, or about $6, might have been enough a few years ago, now nothing less than 200,000 will do. "It means some days I work for nothing, as they take everything I make," Cuong says. "How can you not get angry?"



Why Vietnam Won't Fall

By Carl Robinson

Long-time Vietnamese dissident Dr. Nguyen Dan Que has no doubt enjoyed his few moments of worldwide attention. Inspired by events in the Middle East, the physician published an Op-Ed piece in The Washington Post last week calling o­n Hanoi’s diehard Communist regime to become “free and democratic.” Almost immediately, the police arrested and charged him with calling for the overthrow of the government.  But just a couple days later, doubtless after a word from Washington, he was released o­n bail and allowed to return to his home in southern Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon.

The 68-year old must be quite chuffed at poking Hanoi’s hornet nest—and seemingly getting away with it.  (“Let’s dismantle the Politburo” and “assemble in the streets,” he said recently o­n the Internet, according to AFP.)   He’s been sniping away o­n human rights and political pluralism since 1978, three years after the collapse of South Vietnam.  He's been arrested four times and spent 20 years in prison.  In 1998, Dr Que was amnestied o­n condition he migrate to the United States.  But he refused to leave.  Not many Vietnamese would turn down an offer like that.

But just how concerned should Vietnam’s ruling communists be about a contagion from the Middle East suddenly striking their country?  After all, their political pre-eminence is guaranteed by the country’s constitution.   In early January, Vietnam’s Communist Party Congress re-affirmed that supremacy and vowed never to introduce political pluralism. Hanoi gets lectured o­n a human rights o­n a regular basis by Washington and groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International keep a close eye o­n dissidents with the latter “adopting” several, including Dr Que.

After traveling extensively around Vietnam over the past 18 months, I can report that Hanoi doesn’t have much to worry about.  Quite simply, Vietnam isn’t going to follow Tunisia, Egypt and perhaps Libya into collapsing any time soon.  And the reason?  Why, perversely, for the very same reasons the old South Vietnam fell to the hard-line, no-compromise communists from the North in 1975.  Nobody wants to fight.  They have better things to do.  

After nearly 60 years of Communist Party rule in the North and over 35 years in the South, all of Vietnam today is extremely individualistic.  Instead of a common sense of purpose and unity, it’s every person for him- or herself, the sauve qui peux mentality that led to the South’s sudden collapse and later desperate escape of the Boat People.  The best analogy is to a church-run boarding school where rules are made to be broken or for others to follow, not me.  Everyone is treated like children and receive regular religious teachings in the form of constant slogans, anniversaries and grandiose dreams.  When I complained about the dreadful echo of the early morning propaganda loudspeakers to a group of Vietnamese in a coastal town recently, o­ne laughed and said, “That’s just political noise. I don’t hear or see anything!”

Basically, the Vietnamese are satisfied enough with their lot with average incomes steadily rising towards $2000 a year.  Sure, 12 precent inflation is a problem, but three years ago it was running close to 30 percent.  Everyone makes do, skimping and scrounging, while hustling a bit harder at work.  No o­ne has forgotten how tough life was after 1975.  Hanoi’s failed socialist economy experiment morphed into today’s free-for-all “market economy" and no o­ne is ready to risk putting where they are today in jeopardy.  And their children are totally obsessed with materialism and having fun.  I simply cannot imagine any circumstances under which the Vietnamese would rebel and overthrow the communist regime.

Of course, nobody really likes the government.  In fact, they are quite united in their dislike, which provides a constant source of conversation—and jokes—over coffee, both a constant of Vietnamese life.  Young people easily crack through the firewall around Facebook and post as inanely as their counterparts in the West.  With its constant challenges managing a diverse country now over 80 million people, compared to o­nly 30 million at war’s end, the government is a soft target for ridicule as people simply get o­n with their lives.

Corruption is indeed a serious problem and, within certain bounds, a topic the government-controlled media is allowed to explore.  Big scandals erupt with regularity.  But in their day-to-day lives, everyone is complicit, starting with $15 bribes to avoid speeding tickets or something under the table to speed up that application for a home extension.  The money comes back around when these same corrupt officials, whose average wage is o­nly $150 a month, sit down in a local restaurant to spend their hard-earned bribes.  Everyone is o­n a fiddle of some kind.  With so many privately-owned businesses, tax avoidance is rife.  Outside the depressing statistics, Vietnam has a huge and thriving secondary economy that runs o­n US dollars and gold bars.

And so, Vietnam’s dissenters continue to get the headlines.  And in the absence of government and business transparency bloggers continue to peddle hearsay.  But everything takes place under the watchful eyes and ears of Vietnam’s internal police.  Occasionally, they swoop in—but always very selectively, reserving a special ire for former communists who’ve left the tent to call for more pluralism or democracy.  The people get the message.

Of course, even o­ne political prisoner is too many.  But realistically, Vietnam has fewer than 100 dissidents in jail or house arrest.  o­ne rarely hears of systematic torture as in other hard-line regimes.  Plus, the regime has been able to export its potential malcontents, first as Boat People and, as the price of normalizing relations with the United States in the 1990’s, visas for the thousands of former South Vietnamese military who spent time in re-education camps after 1975.  Another price Washington demanded was freedom of travel, and today, Vietnamese can travel overseas.  Some never return, but usually for economic rather than political reasons.

In urging his hard line against the communist regime, Dr Que pointed out in his Post piece that “Hanoi needs Washington much more than Washington needs Hanoi,” especially as tensions rise over Chinese hegemony into the South China Sea and disputes over two island archipelagos.  Hanoi complains vehemently when Washington raises human rights issues, particularly in the State Department’s annual reports.  But then Vietnam has modified its behaviour, particularly when it comes to religious freedom.  Overall, Vietnam is much more open and less restrictive than 15 years ago.  Gradual rather than dramatic change is the way things happen in Vietnam. 

Barring some monstrous and unforeseen stuff-up, I believe Vietnam will continue down the path of gradual change.  The long docile National Assembly has started flexing its muscles in recent years, halting a high-speed North-South rail link o­n cost grounds and speaking out o­n a Chinese-run bauxite mining project.  The selection of candidates for next year’s election will be interesting to watch.  Authorities are also paying closer attention to public opinion, such as cancelling a huge fireworks display last October marking Hanoi’s 1000th birthday after ravishing floods struck central Vietnam.  And when people do get angry enough to take to the streets, such as the death of a motorcyclist in police custody in northeast Vietnam last year, the government does respond.   After all Vietnam’s upheavals of the past 60 years, another revolution—even rebellion—is simply not in the cards.

Carl Robinson was an Associated Press correspondent in Vietnam during the war.  He now runs the Google Group “Vietnam Old Hacks” for former correspondents and others who worked in South Vietnam during the war. Living in Australia since the war, he is also the author of Mongolia: Nomad Empire of Eternal Blue Skies.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr user Noodlepie



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