Former admin of Fanpage “Patriot Diary” arrested on “conducting anti-state propaganda”

Logo of Nhat Ky Yeu Nuoc

Activist Phan Tat Thanh, who is said to be a former administrator of a Fanpage with content promoting democratic and liberal values called “ Nhat Ky Yeu Nuoc/Patriot Diary,” was arrested by Ho Chi Minh City police for allegedly “conducting propaganda against the State” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code. A relative of the detainee confirmed to Radio Free Asia (RFA) on July 23.

Mr. Thanh, 37 years old, was taken for interrogation by the Security Investigation Agency (Ho Chi Minh City Police) on July 5 and was detained since July 13. However, the family has not received any documents about his detention.

According to the confirmation of his relatives (who do not want to be named for security reasons) with Radio Free Asia, Mr. Phan Tat Thanh is being held at Chi Hoa Detention Center managed by the HCM City Police Department.

According to this relative of the family, the incident began on July 5, when the local police requested Mr. Thanh to the police station to work with the reason that he was “involved in a traffic accident in Da Nang.” However, he refused because he thought he has no relation in such an incident.

Despite the refusal, the police still forced him and his younger brother Phan Tat Cong to go to the police station of Ward 14, District 3. The police only asked the younger brother minor things and sent him home late on the same day, but kept Thanh in custody.

On July 12, when the police were negligent, Thanh escaped, called his mother and brother, to make an appointment at a place in the city. After short meeting his mother and sister, Thanh went to an acquaintance’s house in Go Cong.

After meeting Thanh, the mother and Cong were summoned to the headquarters of the Security Investigation Agency to interrogate about their meeting with him. Both of them were beaten, the mother was beaten and knocked down to the floor by two policemen and the child was beaten by a group of six policemen.

After being detained for a day and a night at the police station, the mother and the son were allowed to go home after the police informed them that Thanh had been re-arrested, a family member said.

On July 15, about 20 city policemen and local officials entered Mr. Thanh’s house to search, but did not bring Mr. Thanh back to the house to witness. The police searched very carefully but found nothing but using a USB to copy data from Cong’s computer.

The police made a record of searching the house and forced the family to sign the record but did not give it to the family. The police also informed his family orally that Thanh had been arrested on charges of “making, storing, distributing or propagating information, documents and items aimed at opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117.

Six days later, on July 21, because the police did not provide information about Thanh’s detention, Phan Van Chi – Mr. Thanh’s father, went to the headquarters of the Security Investigation Agency of the Ho Chi Minh City Public Security for questioning. After a while, an officer admitted to holding Mr. Thanh at Chi Hoa temporary detention center.

When asked why they did not notify the family, the police blamed the post office and local authorities. They then gave Chi a letter of detention of Thanh for investigation on charges of “conducting propaganda against the state” with a possible prison term of five to 12 years.

When he saw the detention order signed on July 13, the father asked the police why they arrested and detained him from July 5, but the detention order was signed after nearly two weeks. When he did not get a reasonable answer from the police, he returned the document to the police and left.

The reporter called the Ho Chi Minh City Police to ask for information about Thanh as well as the family’s allegation that the police beat his mother and younger brother. The caller refused to provide information over the phone, asking reporters to come to the agency’s headquarters and contact leadership about the case.

According to family members, Mr. Chi also went to the city’s People’s Procuracy to complain about the city police’s failure to send a notice of his son’s condition to his family after more than two weeks of arrest. The prosecutor asked him to submit a written complaint to be accepted.

He also went to Chi Hoa Detention Center to ask if his son was being held here, but was told by the officer in charge that he would return next Monday with the child’s birth certificate for an answer and visitation procedures.

According to many activists in the South, Phan Tat Thanh, nicknamed Black Aaron, often made comments and produced news of the Fanpage of the Patriotic Diary, a forum that has been around since 2006 during the anti-Chinese movement infringing on Vietnam’s sovereignty over seas and islands in the East Sea (South China Sea).

In 2010, he once went to Thailand and demonstrated alone in front of the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok when all protests in the country at that time were arrested and prevented.

Some activists said that for many years, Mr. Thanh had stopped all social activities and focused on his professional work in logistics. His family members were completely unaware about his social activities.

Commenting on Phan Tat Thanh, a social activist in Ho Chi Minh City told RFA on condition of anonymity for security reasons:

Thanh is a young man who is enthusiastic about social activities, but now he is probably the object of suppression by the government even though he no longer participates in social activities. Thanh may be the subject of the investigation and torture in the recording room, which the family cannot contact to know what the real situation is.

The arrest of Thanh without following due process tramples on the laws of the Communist state of Vietnam itself.”

The Patriotic Diary Fanpage, now renamed Van Toan, used to have more than 200,000 registered members. In addition to Vietnam’s sovereignty over seas and islands in the East Sea, the Patriotic Diary’s fanpage also regularly reports on human rights violations, environmental pollution, systemic corruption and many outstanding problems of the one-party country in Southeast Asia.

During the climax of anti-China protests in Vietnam, the Patriotic Diary often offered a call and place and time for nation-conscious citizens to gather in Hanoi or Saigon to voice their will to Beijing’s expansion in the South China Sea. (Translated)