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On Sunday (10 June 2018), we came across a tweet reporting that Will Nguyen had been beaten and arrested during protests in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. Will, a Vietnamese-American, is a Masters student at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, and has contributed to New Naratif.
According to news reports, Will was one of dozens of protesters arrested by the police during protests against proposed special economic zones in Vietnam that could be leased to foreign investors. His current whereabouts are unknown; his family have been unable to find out about his physical condition.
Will’s family say that he was detained for “public disorder”. A fine was imposed by the authorities for an “administrative violation for gathering with a crowd to cause public disturbance”—although an acquaintance has paid the fine, the police have not released Will. He has not been formally charged with an offence; Vietnamese police have 10 days (from the day of arrest) to press charges. According to his family, the police have taken his laptop, passport, credit cards and a change of clothes from where he was staying in Vietnam.
New Naratif is concerned by this lack of information and clarity on Will’s situation. In our exchanges with him, we know him to be someone who has a great love for Vietnam and is deeply invested in its society and development.
We note that Vietnam ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1982. Article 21 of the ICCPR states that “[t]he right of peaceful assembly shall be recognised.” Vietnam’s Constitution also recognises the right to freedoms of speech, association and assembly.
It is extremely worrying that nothing has been heard from Will since Sunday; he should not be detained any further. We urge the Vietnamese authorities to release him and others similarly detained, so they can return safely to their families and receive any necessary medical attention.