ENVIRONMENTAL rights defender Hoang Duc Binh has been arrested by the Vietnamese government for supposedly “abusing democratic freedoms” after he organised a protest to mark a year since Taiwanese steel giant Formosa caused a major environmental disaster.
According to human rights NGO Frontline Defenders, Hoang Duc Binh was violently dragged from his car and arrested on Monday by Vietnamese authorities in the northern province of Nghe An, over the protest march held early April, on the anniversary of a toxic waste spill from the Formosa plant.
The government is charging him with “resisting persons in the performance of their duties” and “abusing democratic freedoms.”
Hoang Duc Binh will reportedly be held for 90 days while he is being investigated, spurring fears of ill treatment whilst in custody.
He is a member of Viet Labour, an organisation of labour groups within and outside of Vietnam that fight for workers’ rights, as well as the environmentalist Vietnam Path Movement.
Another activist Bach Hong Quyen is still being hunted by authorities, facing charges of “causing public disorder” for his role in the demonstration. Both are active bloggers.
Human Rights Watch says “activists and dissident bloggers face constant harassment and intimidation, including physical assault and imprisonment” in Vietnam’s communist regime which “allows no challenge to its leadership.”
In 2015, at least 40 bloggers and rights activists were beaten by plainclothes agents.
A number human rights defenders have been “harassed” by Vietnamese authorities for covering the 2016 toxic waste spill, which left fishermen out of a job in four provinces by killing huge numbers of fish to die, says Frontline Defenders.
In October last year, another activist was arrested for possessing “anti-government material” linked to the Formosa spill.
Frontline Defenders called on Vietnam to, “Cease targeting all human rights defenders in Vietnam and guarantee in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and … judicial harassment.”