Vietnam Releases Political Prisoners

Vietnam is releasing 28 anti-government demonstrators this week. Last year the Christian Montagnards from the Central Highlands protested against the Communist government regarding land rights and religious persecution. They were arrested and imprisoned. The demonstrators will be released along with 10,000 others in celebration of National Day this week.

A Vietnamese female police officer (R) talks to smiling prisoners at a prison in Ha Tay province, 20 km (12.4 miles) southwest of Hanoi August 29, 2005. Vietnam said on Monday it will free 28 ethnic minority prisoners in a special amnesty for those jailed in the restive Central Highlands after anti-government protests. Picture taken August 29, 2005. (Reuters)

Vietnam will release more than 10,000 prisoners this week in observance of the National Day Celebrations!

The government of Vietnam says it will pardon more than 10,000 prisoners to mark the 60th National Day later this week, the fourth mass release in the past two years. There were no high profile political prisoners released — just as last time — nor were any death-row inmates granted amnesty or a reduction in sentence. But 21 foreigners were on the list of those to be released, along with nearly 30 ethnic minority hill people.

The government will release minority members of the Central Highlands mainly Christian Montagnards who held demonstrations against the government last year:

The foreigners to be freed include two Chinese, four Americans, five Cambodians, three Malaysians, four Taiwanese, one South Korean and a Laotian.

The details of their offences have not been released.

Mr Tiem also says 28 ethnic minority people from the Central Highlands will benefit from the amnesty.

The tribal people were accused of organising illegal trips out of Vietnam for members of the mainly Christian Montagnards.

Authorities cracked down on the Montagnards in April last year after they held protests about land rights and religious persecution.

The action caused many to flee to neighbouring Cambodia.


A happy Vietnamese police officer (R) hands release papers to happy prisoners at a prison in Ha Tay province, 20 km (12.4 miles) southwest of Hanoi, August 29, 2005. Vietnam said on Monday it will free 28 ethnic minority prisoners in a special amnesty for those jailed in the restive Central Highlands after anti-government protests. (Reuters)

Like other oppressive regimes, Vietnam is concerned with the growing number of internet users and is having a difficult time controlling the information flow into and out of the country:

No fewer than four ministries – Public Security (MS), Posts and Telecommunications, Culture and Information (MCI), and Planning and Investment – have joined hands to “regulate and standardize the fledgling and troublesome Internet cafes business”.

Yet, while conformists and officialdom are one in welcoming new restrictions imposed last month as an effective method of combating “evil schemes”, others see in them attempts by the government to put more barriers on free access to cyberspace.

Since logging into the world wide web in 1997, Vietnam has supervised access to the global information highway. A decree affirms the government’s determination to “manage and control the Internet in Vietnam as well as services of this network, manage gateways to abroad to be able to link with Internet; control the content of information on Internet”.

But the increasing number of Internet users, including those who patronize the popular cyber cafes, has made the government’s efforts to control access to web content cumbersome.

Last year, the Vietnam Internet Center reported that the number of Internet subscribers had jumped to more than 2 million from 823,000 in 2003. Alongside, the number of web surfers at Internet cafes has doubled and now represent 7.35% of the country’s population of 83 million people.

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