Đời SốngVietnam

Two Khmer Krom activists given prison sentences in Vietnam

Two ethnic Khmer Krom activists who were arrested last year on suspicion of distributing books about indigenous peoples’ rights were sentenced to prison on Wednesday by a Vietnamese court.

Nearly 1.3-million Khmer Krom live in a part of Vietnam that was once southeastern Cambodia. They have faced serious restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and movement.

The Cau Ngang District People’s Court in southern Vietnam’s Tra Vinh province convicted To Hoang Chuong, 38, and Thach Cuong, 37, of “abusing democratic freedoms” under Article 331, a section of the penal code used by the government to silence dissenting voices. 


Chuong received a four-year sentence and Cuong was given three-and-a-half years in prison, state media reported.

Last month, a court in neighboring Soc Trang province sentenced Danh Minh Quang, 34, to three-and-a-half years in prison on the same charge.

Quang was arrested in July 2023 as part of the same investigation as Chuong and Cuong.

Police in both provinces told local media that the men passed out copies of the United Nations’ “Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” which states that indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and develop their political, economic and social systems or institutions. 

Prosecutors last month said that Quang used his personal Facebook account to post comments and live-stream videos that “violated Vietnam laws.”

The indictments for Cuong and Chuong also accused them of using their Facebook accounts to live-stream videos and to post and share photos and video clips, according to the Tra Vinh newspaper.

The contents of the articles, photos and video clips “affected the national and religious unity, distorted the history of Vietnam and the authorities and insulted the prestige” of police and local authorities, according to the Tra Vinh provincial Department of Information and Culture.

‘The reality of suppression’


A Khmer Krom resident of Vietnam who follows Chuong on Facebook told Radio Free Asia on condition of anonymity that he never saw any posts from Chuong that opposed the Vietnamese government.  

“They reflected the reality of suppression against the Khmer community in southern Vietnam,” he said.

There was no information about whether Chuong and Cuong had a defense attorney present during Wednesday’s trial.

Khmer Kampuchea Krom for Human Rights and Development Association Secretary General Son Chum Chuon said the severe sentences were unfair and were particularly unjust if the two men were tried without access to a lawyer.

“These allegations are contrary to their actual activities,” he told RFA. “That is why we urged the Vietnamese government or the court to give them a lawyer.”

Josef Benedict, Asia Pacific civil space advocacy expert for rights group CIVICUS, called Wednesday’s convictions “an outrageous travesty of justice.”

“Both were targeted for their advocacy of the rights of the Khmer Krom community and should have never been brought to court,” he said.

Translated by Anna Vu and Yun Samean. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster. RFA Khmer contributed to this report.


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