Vietnam arrests bloggers in attempt to rein in criticism of Communist Party

Pham Viet Dao is among 46 arrested this year as state tries to rein in web criticism

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 June, 2013, 1:51am


Vietnamese police have arrested one of the country's best known bloggers for posting criticism of the communist government, intensifying a crackdown against internet-fuelled dissent in the authoritarian one-party state.

The arrest of Pham Viet Dao, 61, indicates the level of concern in the Communist Party over the threat posed by internet activism. Until a few years ago, the party had a monopoly on information. Now, scores of blogs and Facebook accounts report gleefully on its failings and internal feuding, reaching millions of people and helping spread anger at its rule.

When somebody is weak and wants to appear ... strong, he does things like this

So far this year, 46 bloggers or democracy activists have been convicted and jailed, more than the number of people locked up for violating national security laws in the whole of 2012. Foreign governments, led by the United States, have criticised the crackdown and called for the activists' release, but have little leverage to force Hanoi to change tack.

Dao was arrested at his home in Hanoi on Thursday for the offence of "abusing democratic freedoms", the Ministry of Public Security said on its website. That violation carries a penalty of up to seven years in prison.

Dao, a former government official and member of the Vietnam Writers Association, ran a website where he had written posts critical of Vietnamese leaders. The site was not available yesterday, apparently blocked by the government.

In a speech Dao gave on the media last year, he said social media in Vietnam were "making up for the shortcomings and handicapped official media in the country", which only portrayed a "smooth and perfect society in an artificial way".

The government is under pressure because of its mishandling of the stuttering economy.

Economist Nguyen Quang A said Dao's arrest was a bid by the government to get everyone to "shut up". "When somebody is weak and wants to appear to be strong, he does things like this."