On July 30 Dang Thi Kim Lieng set herself on fire outside the Bac Lieu People's Committee building. She was protesting the trial of her daughter Ta Phong Tan for propaganda against the Vietnamese state. She died before she arrived at the hospital.
Ta Phong Tan, Lieng's daughter is one of three bloggers belonging to the website Free Journalists' Club. All three face trial for "distorting the truth, denigrating the party and state" and under the Vietnamese criminal code could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
In March this year Reporters Without Borders published a list of countries with the worst record of internet freedom. Topping (or bottoming perhaps) the list was the People's Republic of China but next on the list was Vietnam. Vietnam not only jails bloggers but also poets and novelists among others. As the appended video shows Vietnam even jails those with ties to their own revolutionary elite if they are too critical of the government.
Vietnam often fails to even follow their own laws. The court barred both family members and their families from the trial while both are allowed in criminal trials.
The three charged are Ta Phong Tan a former policewoman who blogged about police abuses, Phan Thanh Hai a law school graduate who has blogged about bauxite mining and Dieu Cay a human rights activist..
The most recent blogger jailed is Le Thanh Tung. His crime was propaganda against the state. He posted material on line calling for democracy and on behalf of a banned Freedom and Democracy Movement. He was given a five year sentence plus a further four years under house arrest. Tung called for pluralism and multi-party democracy in Vietnam as well as amendments to the Vietnamese constitution.
Earlier on Thursday blogger Dinh Dang Dinh a former teacher was sentenced to six years in prison on similar charges. Human Rights Watch said Vietnam showed an "intolerance for free speech." According to the group just this year 11 activists have been sentenced to long prison terms and at least 7 more are on trial. As with many other countries Vietnam still faces a long struggle just to obtain the right to free speech.