Third Vietnamese Charged For Facebook Connections With US-Based Exile Group

Vietnamese authorities on Friday arrested and charged a woman with “carrying out activities to overthrow the government,” making her the third person this year apprehended for joining a U.S.-based exile Vietnamese organization branded by Hanoi as an overseas terrorist force, state media reported.

Le Thi Kim Phi, 62, used a Facebook profile under the name “Phi Kim” to connect with members of the Provisional Government of Vietnam, a U.S.-based opposition group, said the investigation division of the An Giang Police.

Based in Orange County, California, the Provisional Government of Vietnam was founded in 1991 by former soldiers and refugees loyal to the U.S.-backed government of South Vietnam that was overthrown and absorbed by North Vietnam in 1975.

The Vietnamese government designated the group a terrorist organization in January 2018 after group members were charged with a plot to attack Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport with petrol bombs ahead of a major holiday the year before.

The group had earlier attempted to explode a bomb in a parking lot for impounded vehicles at the Bien Hoa police station in Dong Nai province, according to state media reports published at the time of the 2017 trial.

Le Thi Kim Phi of Long Xuyen city in An Giang province applied to join the Provisional Government of Vietnam on Jan. 1, investigators said.

As a member, her job was to “propagandize, promote the organization’s profile, and engage others to join the organization,” they said.

Authorities also said they seized six videos and 440 pages of materials against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on the woman’s Facebook account.

Tran Huu Duc, 57, of Nghe An province and Ngo Cong Tru, 33, of Phu Yen province were also arrested this year for using Facebook to connect with other members of the Provisional Government of Vietnam.

On Aug. 16, Nghe An People’s Court sentenced Tran Huu Duc to three years in prison for activities aimed at overthrowing the country’s one-party communist government, according to state media reports. Five days later, Phu Yen People’s Court handed Ngo Cong Tru a 10-year jail term on the same charge.

Over the past years, Vietnam has continuously arrested and imprisoned many people for their involvement in the Provisional Government of Vietnam.

RFA has contacted the organization many times for comment, but never has received a response.

In 2017, Lisa Pham, who was accused by Vietnam’s communist government of being involved in the organization and the plot to blow up Tan Son Nhat International Airport, told RFA that she had nothing to do with the detainees or the accusations of inciting terrorism in the country.

The group’s leader, Dang Hoang Thien, was sentenced in December 2017 to 16 years in prison and five years of house arrest, while 14 other members of the group were sentenced to terms ranging from five to 14 years.

RFA has reported about two-dozen cases in which Vietnamese citizens have been convicted and jailed for political offenses over social media posts since the beginning of this year. Among those serving sentences for Facebook posts are journalists, bloggers, and an ordinary citizen who posted complaints about coronavirus policies.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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