A copy of the “Dong Tam Report” has just been published for the 3rd edition in late September. It is said to be the most complete version in Vietnamese-English bilingual, after the previous two editions were released on January 16 and February 9, respectively.
The Dong Tam Report, conducted by independent female journalists Pham Doan Trang and Will Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American who was arrested by the Vietnamese government during a domestic protest against the two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security in June 2018.
Journalist Pham Doan Trang gives RFA a short interview on the release of the third edition of the “Dong Tam Report“. First of all, Ms. Pham Doan Trang said about the purpose of publishing the third edition of the Dong Tam Report, after the first-instance hearing of the Dong Tam case ended.
Journalist Pham Doan Trang: The purpose of Will Nguyen and I in making this report is that we believe that the Communist Government, or authoritarian states in general, always hate the text. We joke that “The Communist regime is afraid of text.” That is, what is recorded, they hate and fear. Because, they are used to everything by mouth, verbal instructions, or by texting, verbal commands … but not in writing in a bid to easily deny the crime later. In particular, they hated their wrongdoings, and even their crimes being recorded. A record that even though never made public make them hate and fear.
That’s why we want to make this report. The first purpose is to have a storage effect. The more they don’t want to be recorded (the Dong Tam case), the more we record it. And, recorded in a popular English language to let readers around the world know about the case. At the same time, the report is also recorded in Vietnamese for Vietnamese to read. That’s the purpose of the bilingual report.
Second, we hope this can become a dossier, a tool for those who can be capable and interested can go to international advocacy for Dong Tam issue to help. Dong Tam people; at least they avoid the death penalty and put an end to the persecution and constant threats like this.
We really want the international community to be able to request the State of Vietnam to agree to the international side to open an independent investigation of the Dong Tam case. I know there are organizations in the world that can do that independently. Actually, I don’t think the Dong Tam issue needs to be independently investigated by an international expert. Because, the mistakes of the police were too obvious in the proceedings. So, even if they only need to allow an independent domestic investigation, they can find out the truth. On January 13, the Law Journal sent a questionnaire to Minister of Public Security To Lam. I think that Minister To Lam or the Ministry of Public Security that answers one of these questions honestly is also informative. That means, for independent investigation, I think technically or technically it is not difficult and international is not necessary. However, when it comes to international request, it is fortunate that the State of Vietnam still considers it, but domestically, people cannot have a dialogue with the government.
RFA: There are questions and answers in the content of the report. Why choose such a report form?
Journalist Pham Doan Trang: As I just said, we want the report to be archived and reached a large audience. We also want the report to be written in a way that ensures scientific principles, that is to be accurate based on facts, evidence … but must be written in a way that is easy to understand. That is, those who do not know anything about the law, do not need to know anything about the history of land disputes in Dong Tam, do not care about the process of whether the state has compensated … but only need to read this report and they can understand the whole case. By common perception people will be able to understand the whole nature of the Dong Tam case.
RFA: We found there was a highlight in the report that does not seem to be well known by the media. Thanks to Doan Trang for more details, through the report, when the Dong Tam incident happened on the night of January 9, 2020, what information was revealed to indicate that this is a massive plan of the Ministry of Public Security and the Vietnamese government attacking Dong Tam?
Journalist Pham Doan Trang: According to the report, we have also pointed out a point that shows that police were not going to protect the construction of the Mieu Mon fence, then the people from inside the village pulled out to attack and the police counterattacked, pursuing and destroying the subjects, and at the same time neutralizing the attack of the people in Dong Tam village. There was not real but all the so-called operational plans have been prepared by the police for a long time and they have been prepared in terms of military, weapons, number of troops and the media.
I think there has been at least one rehearsal before. On January 2, a villager in Dong Tam village captured a video clip of the police drill just like the attack on Dong Tam village. The cameraman sent the clip to the villagers of Dong Tam. Later, he was also arrested. In the indictment stated that. This clip has been sent since January 2, which means the police have rehearsed. In addition, there are many other points that show a preparation in advance. regarding the media, for example, they restricted the content of some famous Facebookers such as Bui Van Thuan and reportedly restricted the content on January 8, a day before the attack. The unusual Facebookers who often received calls for help from Dong Tam villagers like Phan Van Bach, in Hanoi or Bui Thi Minh Hang, in Vung Tau were also blocked from Facebook right before they attacked. Actually since the evening, the atmosphere was very tense, there were a lot of SOS signals from the village of Dong Tam reported and followed by the Dong Tam village website were shut down. And, from 3 am, there has been a wave of online public opinion shappers swearing at Dong Tam people. If not the public opinion shappers or the people on duty, no one will stay up at 3am. That means there was very careful preparation in advance.
RFA: From the first-instance hearing, what points does the report highlight to show that this trial is illegal?
Journalist Pham Doan Trang: At the beginning of this trial, it was not legal because it did not guarantee the right to fair trial of the defendants. Because of all the testimonies the police got thanks to coersive confessions and torture. Just because of that, the testimony has become worthless. But we also see that they still run the trial, even this is a unique trial in the history (justice) of the world because the conviction was based on a documentary film.
Right from the start of the trial, they showed a documentary film. The unit that produced the documentary reportage was not known, but it had enough cut, compose, edit, and included sound and music to describe the battle-attack of the police that night. There were also characters with unknown faces throwing something glowing from above. Then the second half of the report depicted the tragedy of 3 families of police officers who were killed with the tears of their wives and children … Basically it was a documentary report and no court in the world relied on the document report to condemn people.
Regarding the lawyer, whenever the lawyer wants to defend the defendant, people immediately show a clip pleading guilty to the defendant. Every defendant has a video confession of guilt. And they plead guilty in the form of a puffy face or a squishy, shrunken shape. Generally speaking, all have been tortured.
There is also another point we emphasize in the report that the police violated the proceedings from the beginning, specifically violated Article 49 of the Criminal Procedure Code. That is, when the police were one party to the crime, attacked the village, causing the death of Le Dinh Kinh and the police were also the investigating party.
We cannot get an accurate investigation because the perpetrator is the criminal, how can they be independent? The record made by the police is ridiculous, that is, the person who opened fire to kill Mr. Kinh is called “victim” and that person is a criminal policeman of the Hanoi Police. In general, I can’t understand why it’s so blatant and brazen!
RFA: In the report, we also find in Clause X that some things show that the Vietnamese government is violating human rights through the Dong Tam case and the trial hearing this case. Can Doan Trang give details about the evidence of violation of human rights?
Journalist Pham Doan Trang: This case is a very clear example of violation of procedural standards, a violation of the right to fair trial as well as a violation of many other rights, basic human rights from things including torture, coersive confession, solitary confinement to the so-called use of the media to attack and defame the defendants, directing public opinion from the very beginning. One of the agencies participating in the proceedings, including investigation and trial, even the party causing the crime and injustice, was evident in the trial. The court does not care, does not answer, and ignores whatever the defense attorney argued to protect their clients. They kept showing the guilty confession clips as proof that the defendants have pleaded guilty, then there is nothing more to say.
The court agreed and supported whatever said by the lawyer of the “died police officers- victims,” which means that the lawyer of the three police officers who are said to have died in the Dong Tam case.
Therefore, not only violate things about basic human rights, but also violate a so-called brazen, unfathomable violation. And September 10 is the peak day, when plainclothes police and security guards harassed and attacked defense lawyers. They pushed some lawyers from the top of the stairs to the ground.
If further analysis, there are many violations. But in our report, we only point out some basic violations of Vietnamese law as well as international law.
RFA: From the perspective of a democracy and human rights activist in Vietnam, what did Doan Trang see through the Dong Tam case and the Dong Tam trial that showed in the country of Vietnam? And, if the Dong Tam case in the coming days is not tried strictly, what will be the result?
Journalist Pham Doan Trang: The Dong Tam case, I think it is a very serious case, but not in the serious sense of the authorities said.
The authorities called it “the murder and disturbance of public order” in Hoanh village, Dong Tam commune, My Duc district, Hanoi city. That is, aim to accuse the peasants of murder and disturb public order.
I think it’s a serious case in a different way. This case is serious because the case has all signs of murder and robbery. Here, Le Dinh Kinh’s family property was robbed, especially papers related to the land dispute process between the Dong Tam people and the state. All of that documentary evidence was removed. Even the TV and refrigerator at Mrs. Kinh’s house were taken away by the police. I think this is a robbery and murder case.
It is no coincidence that they immediately and intentionally locked up the people in Dong Tam village. All 29 Dong Tam people were arrested and immediately they were held in solitary confinement in the first place. They were not permitted to contact anyone. That is, during the interrogation, they were isolated, tortured, and especially, none of them knew what the rest were like. They can only see each other at court. Of course they can’t see their families. Their lawyers are also allowed to see them only a very short time before the trial. There really is nothing a lawyer can do. It is also a violation of the proceedings because lawyers are not allowed to work on the case.
As for the long-term impact from the Dong Tam case on the political situation in Vietnam from now on, I think that the Dong Tam case has a great harm to the ruling Communist Party. That is, for them it had a good effect on the point of actually causing a fear. I believe that the whole of Dong Tam village from the moment the attack took place until now is people living in fear, people are constantly threatened and persecuted, people are divided. I think they suffer from trauma and never get rid of their fear from now to the end of their life.
For people who are not Dong Tam villagers, people in the community and the whole society in general, it is clear that this case has caused a fear, even human rights activists, I think they also scared. Because no one can imagine a state that kills people.
The Dong Tam case’s effects on the authorities did indeed cause real fear. But I think that after this case, the confidence of a fairly large part of the population in the ruling Party and in the laws of Vietnam has declined significantly. Because, the people see that the strong always win and the government always wins. Regardless of reason, the government just brought guns and handcuffs. Therefore, they do not believe in the Party and in the law no longer. There is no law dealing with people. There is no fair court for them to rely on. Or no lawyer can argue for them. In short, the confidence of a fairly large part of the population, especially the party members, has declined. That is a loss to the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam.
RFA: Thank you, Ms. Pham Doan Trang, for her time in this interview with Radio Free Asia.