Vietnam: Anti-corruption journalist kidnapped in Thailand charged for “propaganda against state”
Three months after anti-corruption journalist Duong Van Thai’s kidnapping in Thailand, the Vietnamese regime has officially charged him with "propaganda against the state". Reporters Without Borders (RSF) denounces the absurdity of this accusation and calls for his immediate release.
Duong Van Thai, a Vietnamese anti-corruption journalist, has recently been charged with "propaganda against the State" under Article 117 of the Criminal Code for which he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, his family revealed after receiving a letter from the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security in July.
The journalist was kidnapped on 13 April 2023 in central Thailand, where he had been living as a refugee since 2019. Three days later, Vietnamese police announced his arrest for an alleged “attempt to enter the country illegally from Laos”, but later failed to provide updates on his case after the maximum nine-day temporary custody period was up, as required by law.
"Cross-border kidnapping, blatant disrespect for the criminal code, and indictment on absurd grounds: the Duong Van Thai case illustrates the Vietnamese regime's abysmal contempt for press freedom. We call upon Hanoi's major economic partners, namely the United States, South Korea, the European Union, and Japan, to impose targeted sanctions to obtain the release of this journalist and the 42 other press freedom defenders detained in the country.
In addition to his investigations on government corruption and power struggles within the party, Thai was also a member of the outlawed Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam. Although he was awarded refugee status by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Bangkok in 2020, he remained concerned for his safety in Thailand, his friends reported.
This is not the first time a foreign journalist is being been forcibly “repatriated” with the apparent complicity of the Thai authorities. Truong Duy Nhat, a contributor to Radio Free Asia’s Vietnamese service, was kidnapped in Bangkok in January 2019 and later was sentenced to ten years in prison in Vietnam under trumped-up charges.
In October 2015, Swedish publisher of Chinese descent Gui Minhai was also kidnapped in Thailand and reappeared a few months later making a forced confession on China’s state-owned CCTV channel and was sentenced in 2020 to ten years in prison for “illegally providing intelligence” to foreign countries.
Vietnam ranks 178th out of 180 countries and territories in the 2023 RSF World Press Freedom Index and is among the world’s worst jailers of journalists.