Background Briefing:Vietnam Trial Slams Door onDissidents
Why?Carlyle A. ThayerJanuary 10, 2013
[client name deleted]Vietnam is holding a big trial of dissidents this week. Why now?
Vietnam obviouslyHas been putting dissidents on trial for years, and especially bloggers over the pastfew years. But why such a big trial at this time? And any characteristics of thedefendants they put on trial (activities they were involved in, geographic location,
etc) that’s of interest?
ANSWER: There are three possible but not contradictory explanations for the timingof trial. First, it is just the result of the bureaucratic process. In other words theMinistry of Public Security (MPS) had followed all the leads, gathered the evidence,and put pressure on the defendants to plead out. Eventually the MPS got what theywanted and the trail was scheduled. The second reason is that all trials are politicaltheater and their timing is politically determined. Last year embattled Prime MinisterNguyen Tan Dung pledged to take action against bloggers. The trial is a show case toillustrate his word is good. Dung will have to front the next party Central Committeeplenum and demonstrate he has taken appropriate remedial action to addresscomplaints against him. It should be recalled that when the last party plenum made
its decision not to reprimand Dung it stated it was motivated to prevent “hostile
s” from taking advantage of Vietnam’s in
-fighting.The third explanation is that the Vietnam Communist Party is experiencing renewedinternal debates over how to handle relations with China and the United States.Party conservatives argue that it is possible to resolve the South China Sea territorialdisputes peacefully with China in part because China is a socialist state. Partyconservatives oppose those in the party who wish to step up defense relations withthe United States and thereby exacerbate relations with the China. Partyconservatives are behind the push for greater U.S. contributions to address wartimelegacies of the Agent Orange and exploded ordnance issues. They are viscerallyopposed to U.S. political and diplomatic pressures on human rights. Party
conservative argue that the U.S. is behind the “plot of peaceful evolution” whereby“hostile external forces” link up with domestic human rights and religious freedomactivists to overturn Vietnam’s socialist regime. Party conservatives have pushe
d fora removal of U.S. restrictions on military sales to Vietnam. The U.S. has respondedthat there will be no change unless the human rights situation improves. On the faceof it, if Vietnam wants to stand up to China over the South China Sea, it leaders
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