Little Saigon (11-02-2012) – At a press conference in Little Saigon today, Vietnam Human Rights Network (VHRN) announced that Ms. Pham Thanh Nghien, Blogger Ta Phong Tan, and Ms. Huynh Thuc Vy are the winners of the Human Rights Award for 2012. They were selected from a list of 24 nominations received from Vietnam and abroad.
The Vietnam Human Rights Award was founded in 2002 with the purpose of giving recognition to outstanding works in the defense of human rights in Vietnam. It is also an opportunity to show solidarity with and support for those involved in the relentless struggle for basic rights and justice for the people of Vietnam. Since 2002, the award has been given annually to distinguished human right activists in Vietnam, such as the Most Venerable Thich Quang Do, Reverend Nguyen Van Ly, Blogger Dieu Cay Nguyen Van Hai, Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh, Mr. Doan Huy Chuong, Ms Do Thi Minh Hanh, and Dr. Cu Huy Ha Vu…
This year, the award will be presented in Montréal, Canada on the 64th Anniversary of the International Human Rights Day. The event is being organized by VNHRN in collaboration with the Vietnamese Community in Canada – Montréal region and other community-based organizations.
The following are brief biographies of the award winners:
1. PHAM THANH NGHIEN
Pham Thanh Nghien was born in 1977, and is currently living in the city of Hai Phong. She joined patriotic activists in Hanoi to protest against Chinese occupation of Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands. In 2008, she traveled to the province of Thanh Hoa to visit the fishermen who had been attacked by Chinese naval patrols off the coast of Vietnam. Her investigative report exposed the Chinese invaders’ crimes and the Vietnamese communists’ inaction. She held a sit-in protest in front of her house to oppose the 50-year old letter by then Prime Minister of North Vietnam, Pham Van Dong, recognizing Chinese sovereignty in the South China Sea. She was arrested in September 2008, and was sentenced to four years in prison and three years under house arrest because she did not plead guilty and refused to ask for clemency before the court as well as through the police questioning. She was released in September 2012.
2. TA PHONG TAN
Ta Phong Tan was born in 1968 in Bac Lieu, Southern Vietnam. She was a former Communist Party member, and a former officer of the security force. She was the author of several articles criticizing the Communist Party policy and exposing corruption and injustice in Vietnam’s legal system. For this, she was expelled from the security force and the party. In 2006, she moved to Saigon, where she started her own blog under the title “Truth and Justice.” She was among the few bloggers at that time who dared to write and comment on political news events that have long been considered off-limit by the authorities. It was the beginning of a new breed of citizen journalists in Vietnam that by now number in the thousands. In 2007, together with blogger Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay) and blogger Phan Thanh Hai (aka Anhba Saigon), she founded the Club of Free Journalists, which soon became a target of the government. She was arrested in September 2011, and was held for more than a year before being brought to trial together with the two other bloggers. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison and two years under house arrest for “conducting propaganda against the state.”
3. HUYNH THUC VY
Huynh Thuc Vy was born in 1985 in Quang Nam, Central Vietnam. Her father is also a writer who was sent to prison when she was 6. In 2008, she started writing articles and commentaries on the political system. For this, she and her family became victims of harassment and intimidation by the security force in the province of Quang Nam. The most severe was a civil penalty of 270 millions dong (US $14,000) that was levied on her family in 2011 for “using information technology to conduct propaganda against the Social Republic of Vietnam.” In the summer of 2012, she traveled to Saigon and took part in the protest against Chinese policy in the South China Sea. Among the hundreds of protesters, she was singled out to be arrested by state security agents. Afterward, she was escorted by force back to her home province, where she remains under closed surveillance. She continues writing from home, and is currently one of the most followed writers among her generation.