As Vietnamese Human Rights Activists Fight for Religious Freedom, Fr. Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly Fights for Survival

ICC Note:

Co-founder of online pro-democracy group, Bloc 8406, Fr. Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly continues to serve-out a 15-year prison sentence handed down via a Vietnamese court in 2007. Having survived two strokes and now battling cancer of the brain, Fr. Nguyen Van Ly was allowed brief medical parole in 2011, subsequently revoked following his rearrest later that year. One of several “political” prisoners enduring tortuous sentences in Vietnamese prisons for faith-related actions and campaigns considered “subversive” to the state, Fr. Nguyen Van Ly continues to support pro-democracy movements rising up throughout Vietnam advocating protection of freedoms of religious expression and association and decrying gross human rights abuses that continue to be committed by the state, including the use of Christian minorities as human mine sweeps, one of many reasons the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom again categorized Vietnam as a “Country of Particular Concern” for “systematic, ongoing, and egregious” violations of human rights.

05/30/2013 Vietnam (Radio Free Asia) – A group of mostly former jailed dissidents in Vietnam have set up a new online group to coordinate efforts to bring democracy to the country, now under one party communist rule.

The movement, known as the “Brotherhood for Democracy,” was established about 10 days ago and the membership has grown to 70 so far.

The group wants to move away from what it calls individual- and petition-based approaches that have been taken so far to highlight the need to bring freedom to the country, organizers said.

“It is time for domestic democracy activists to gather to discuss and find the shortest path for democracy in Vietnam,” lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, a former dissident prisoner and co-founder of the group, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

“Before this, [pro-democracy] movements in Vietnam were just individual-based,” he said. “There was no coordination. That was why they were weak.”

“Now with the Brotherhood for Democracy, we can maximize the strong points of each individual, creating collective strength to fight more vigorously and, at the same time, help one another to overcome weak points. This helps to create a solidarity between us.”

Bloc 8406

The biggest online Vietnamese group pushing for democratic reforms is Bloc 8406. It was organized across the country in 2006, but many of its leaders, including co-founder Roman Catholic priest and dissident Nguyen Van Ly are languishing in prison.

Ly was involved in various pro-democracy movements, for which he was imprisoned for a total of almost 15 years. His support for Bloc 8406 led to his latest sentence on March 30, 2007, for an additional eight years in prison, where he was released and then jailed again in 2011.

Unlike Bloc 8406, the Brotherhood for Democracy is largely based in northern Vietnam, observers say.

“The democracy movement in Vietnam has reached a very high level [of momentum],” said Pham Van Troi who was among the first to sign up for membership in the new group after emerging from prison recently following a four-year sentence in October 2009 for pro-democracy activism.

“Many people want to join the brotherhood or want to establish their own groups. They are activists who fight for human rights in Vietnam everyday … We only care for our universal goal and work together toward that goal,” he told RFA.

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