Major General To An Xo, chief of the Office of Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security, just told the public that: It is very normal to reward a number of police officers in Trinh Xuan Thanh’s case. At the same time, he condemned some opposing organizations for using images of unknown origin to worsen the image of police officers and cause public misunderstanding (1).
In the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, such a declaration and condemnation by a general on behalf of the Ministry of Public Security is … normal because the Vietnamese political system and public administration system are not in accordance with both moral and legal common sense! Even reactions to universal principles in international relations were considered unusual!
The case of “intentionally violating the state’s regulations on economic management and causing serious consequences” related to Trinh Xuan Thanh was prosecuted by the Vietnamese police in September 2016 when Trinh Xuan Thanh fled Vietnam and was temporarily residing in Germany, waiting for the German authorities to accept long-term residency in Germany.
On July 31, 2016, Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security announced that Trinh Xuan Thanh had given up at the headquarters of the ministry’s Investigation Security Agency. At the same time, some international media announced that the German judicial system had gathered some evidence that Mr. Thanh was kidnapped on July 23, 2016 (2) …
In early August 2016, the German Foreign Ministry summoned the Vietnamese Ambassador to Germany to protest the Vietnamese organization of kidnapping Thanh – violating both German and international law, and expelled Mr. Nguyen Duc. Thoa – an attaché of the Vietnamese Embassy in Germany and said Germany would consider other punishment.
After an investigation that lasted about two years, in July 2018, the German judicial system prosecuted and sentenced Mr. Nguyen Huu Long – a Vietnamese who lived in the Czech Republic for three years and ten months in prison for espionage and participation in the kidnapping of Mr. Thanh. Mr. Long appealed, but in February 2020, his appeal was rejected by the German court (3) …
The scandal of kidnapping Trinh Xuan Thanh not only poisoned the relationship between Vietnam and Germany but also tarnished the relationship between Vietnam and Slovakia. Because there is enough evidence that the Vietnamese police sneakily took Trinh Xuan Thanh from Germany to Slovakia and Mr. To Lam used the name of the Vietnamese Public Security Minister to borrow a Slovak plane to take Mr. Thanh from Slovakia to Russia and then continued. On bringing Mr. Thanh from Russia to Vietnam, Germany asked Slovakia to investigate. The Slovak Prime Minister promised the Slovak people and the German government that he would request an investigation to see if then Slovak’s Interior Minister was deceived by Mr. To Lam or complicit with Mr. To Lam (4) …
After Germany, it was Slovakia’s turn to summon the Vietnamese Ambassador to Slovakia to protest against the use of territory and to borrow Slovak vehicles to carry out the plan to kidnap Thanh. Like Germany, Slovakia decided to expel an attaché of the Vietnamese Embassy in Slovakia. This diplomat was asked to leave Slovakia for 48 hours (5) …
Thanh’s kidnapping not only puts Vietnam’s diplomatic agencies in a stuck position when implementing the policy of making friends with the world. The very clumsy kidnapping plan also illuminates many of the dark areas that the Vietnamese intelligence system has built-in foreign countries. Through the public trial of the German court, people not only know Minister of Public Security General To Lam and Deputy General Department of Security Lieutenant General Duong Minh Hung were the main figures of the abduction but also revealed many diplomats and “patriotic overseas Vietnamese” doing espionage activities in Germany, Czech, and Slovakia (Nguyen Duc Thoa, Le Anh Tu, Vu Quang Dung, Nguyen Huu Long, Dao Quoc Oai, etc.).
In addition to the immaturity that caused agents to go to prison like Nguyen Huu Long or be closely monitored by the judicial system in their country of residence, or deported like Nguyen Duc Thoa, … events of high officers such as Duong Minh Hung who was prosecuted in absentia (6) becomes an indelible stain, making Vietnam dirtier…
After the scandal just mentioned, Vietnam constantly expressed its goodwill to compensate for very harmful consequences for relations with Germany in particular and the EU in general, … including the release of a number of prisoners of conscience that Vietnam at the request of Germany (7).
However, the kidnapping of Trinh Xuan Thanh flared into a new scandal after some media agencies in Germany and in Slovakia discovered that Vietnam was both struggling to prove its willingness, and honoring 12 police officers who participated in Project VT17 – which, according to them, is the code name of the kidnapping campaign (8).
In the summer of July 2020, one of the top suspects – Mr. Le Thanh Hai, a Vietnamese diplomatic officer in Germany, when he retired suddenly became … a police lieutenant colonel – posted on Facebook: Being retired, but I was still given the Third Class Victory Medal of the State President (9) …
Both Germans and Slovakians viewed the awarding of those Victory Medals to 12 police officers as a provocative action. The spokesman of the Supreme Procuracy of Slovakia announced that the agency would reopen an investigation into the kidnapping of Trinh Xuan Thanh and use the means of the Slovak public system to carry out the kidnapping plan (10).
At a regular press conference last week, answering questions of DPA reporter – a German news agency: Has Vietnam kidnapped Trinh Xuan Thanh or not? The spokeswoman of Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: The case of Trinh Xuan Thanh violating the law has been brought to a public and transparent trial in accordance with the provisions of Vietnamese law. Currently, Trinh Xuan Thanh is in the process of serving a judgment according to a court judgment and ruling … Although the answer was not directed at the question, the state-controlled media in Vietnam have reported on the dialogue between Spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang and DPA reporter about the kidnapping of Trinh Xuan Thanh voluntarily removed this content. (11)
Mr. To An Xo did not deny that Vietnam has rewarded a number of police officers in the Trinh Xuan Thanh case, he only condemned some organizations for using some photos of unknown origin to defaming the police forces and causing people to misunderstand.
One of those photos of unknown origin was displayed by Senior Lieutenant Colonel Le Thanh Hai on his Facebook page on the occasion of his being awarded … Third Class Victory Medal. As good as the Vietnamese police, he could find the origin and origin of the photo, even when Mr. Hai had voluntarily removed it.
The German judicial system is no stranger to Mr. Hai. So do many media outlets in Germany and Slovakia. They even checked and determined that Nguyen Duc Thoa – an attaché of the Vietnamese embassy in Germany, who was expelled four years earlier by Germany for his involvement in the kidnapping of Trinh Xuan Thanh – was awarded the Medal of Victory First class.
The answer that the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson to the DPA was deliberately deleted by the state-controlled media in Vietnam may be because Vietnam is afraid that this answer will be considered another provocative act. If that was the case, could the statement of To An Xo not be provocative?
Maybe Mr. To An Xo – a character who used to be “Vietnam news reporter permanently residing in Washington DC” for many years, then suddenly … changed his job and became the representative of Vietnam Consulate General in Houston (Texas), when he returned to Vietnam, he “stood up to shine” again as a senior security officer of the Ministry of Public Security – watching professional diplomats such as Nguyen Duc Thoa and Le Thanh Hai Suddenly changing themselves to become security officers like him, although participating in kidnapping, but being awarded the Victory Medals is normal, but surely people don’t think so.
Vietnam’s willingness to make friends and be friends with all is the right of Vietnam, but after it is open to acting contrary to both international morality and law, the international community cannot treat Vietnam as a friendly regime.