A Vietnamese asylum-seeker who fled his country last year after allegedly causing a state-owned petroleum firm to lose almost US$150 million was kidnapped by Vietnam’s secret service on the streets of Berlin, the German foreign ministry said yesterday.
Earlier this week, Vietnam’s ministry of public security told local state-media that Trinh Xuan Thanh had voluntarily returned to Hanoi and turned himself in to the police. This was later contested by the German government, which asserted that he was abducted in Berlin and then forcibly taken back to Hanoi.
In a diplomatic rebuke, Germany ordered the expulsion of Vietnam’s intelligence chief. A Financial Times report said that Germany had also ordered the removal of Vietnam’s ambassador, but subsequent reports said the expulsion order was limited to the Vietnamese embassy’s spy chief.
“There is no serious doubt about the participation of the Vietnamese intelligence service and embassy in the kidnapping of a Vietnamese citizen on German soil,” a German foreign ministry spokesman told international media.
Thanh, who between 2007 and 2013 served as head of the state-owned PetroVietnam Construction Joint Stock Corporation, a subsidiary of energy giant PetroVietnam, is accused of mismanagement and losing the firm millions of dollars, a crime in Vietnam. An investigation into his activities began last year following his dismissal from the National Assembly, to which he was only elected one month before his sacking.
In May, Dinh La Thang, a former general director of PetroVietnam, was dismissed from his post as the Communist Party leader of Ho Chi Minh City and from the Politburo on charges similar to the ones lodged against Thanh.
Thang’s case was rumored to be politically motivated due to his close ties to former Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, who lost a power struggle for the ruling Communist Party’s top secretary general position at a January 2016 congress. Thanh fled to Germany last summer to seek asylum and had been fighting extradition charges ever since.
According to reports, Thanh was likely kidnapped on July 23 by armed men while walking near Berlin’s Tiergarten, a central park. The day-light abduction was witnessed by several people who informed the police.
Then, when Thanh appeared back in Hanoi on July 31, the German foreign ministry gave the Vietnamese ambassador 48 hours to return him to Berlin. When the deadline lapsed, they went public with the story.
It is not known, however, how the Vietnamese secret service was able to transport Thanh out of the country and back to Vietnam. It is possible that he was flown directly out of Germany, but he could have also been moved to another country before leaving Europe.
In June, Vietnam’s president, Tran Dai Quang, made a state visit to Russia, where the two countries agreed to foster “coordination in ensuring national security and coping with non-traditional security challenges,” Vietnamese state-media reported.
Analysts now wonder why Hanoi would make such a bold and potentially costly move: Was it stupidity, arrogance or a calculated decision?
Germany’s foreign ministry spokesman said Thanh’s kidnapping was an “unprecedented and shocking” case. The spokesman added that the incident “has the potential to negatively affect relations massively.” Germany is Vietnam’s largest European trading partner, with bilateral trade worth almost US$9 billion last year.
What is perhaps most irksome for German officials is that they discussed Thanh’s case with Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc when he visited Germany in May to take part in the G-20 Summit, according to media reports.
At the time, it appeared Vietnamese-German relations were on the ascent. When Phuc met with Chancellor Angela Merkel in May they announced that the Vietnam-Germany Business Forum had just overseen the signing of US$1.7 billion worth of new trade deals.
The Vietnamese government has also placed a great deal of emphasis on pushing through a proposed free trade agreement with the European Union (EU), known as the EVFTA. It was agreed to last year but ratification, earlier expected for early 2018, has been delayed because of an EU ruling that each member nation has to agree to it.
The EVFTA is now the best free trade hope for Vietnam after US President Donald Trump withdrew America from the much larger Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would have significantly boosted Vietnam’s economy and exports.
The EU is Vietnam’s second-largest trading partner, after China, and second-biggest export market, after the United States.
Human rights lobbyists are now pressuring the European Parliament, one of the EU’s legislative chambers, and individual nation members to delay ratification and amend the EVFTA to include more explicit requirements that Vietnam improves its human rights record.
Germany, one of the most influential countries in the EU, also has the ability to lobby its neighbors into aborting the EVFTA, a fact that must have been known by whichever Vietnamese official gave the order for Thanh’s kidnapping.
In a fractured Communist Party, however, this order could have come from any one of Vietnam’s power brokers and not necessarily from the highest-office, the Party’s General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong.
Still, Trong has made strong claims about fighting corruption in recent months and has been at the foreground during the arrests of various allegedly wayward state enterprise executives.
Thanh’s abduction also comes after the Vietnamese government arrested five prominent activists in the last two weeks, in what analysts are calling an alarming crackdown on critics of the one-party state.
Tran Quoc Thuan, a former member of Vietnam’s National Assembly, said he was “surprised” by Thanh’s return to Hanoi, the BBC reported this week. He added that while Thanh could have returned voluntarily, “the possibility of kidnapping is higher.”
Just as important as the economic fallout from this incident are the political upshots. The kidnapping was carried out in “blatant violation of…international law,” said the German foreign ministry.
How Merkel responds will be important. Some pundits claim Germany has now taken over the mantle of “leader of the free world” since the inauguration of US President Trump.
While Merkel has dismissed this, she has campaigned ahead of Germany’s federal elections in September on the promise to uphold a liberal international order. Merkel hopes to win her fourth term as chancellor.
It is unlikely that Berlin will push for formal sanctions against Hanoi, analysts say. Still, the incident will nonetheless dim the view of some of Vietnam’s allies who previously backed its South China Sea claims as being integral to an international law-based global order.
“[In July] Hanoi bent the knee to Beijing, humiliated in a contest over who controls the South China Sea, the most disputed waterway in the world,” Bill Hayton, author of The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia, wrote last week in a media report.
The Vietnamese ambassador in Beijing was apparently warned last month that military action would be taken by China unless Vietnam stopped exploration and drilling with a Spanish oil company in disputed waters. Hanoi acquiesced, reportedly on the orders of General Secretary Trong.
A Vietnamese dissident who requested anonymity speculated that after Hanoi’s recent capitulation to China, it might begin forming closer ties to Beijing, turning its back on the West and the international community in the process.
That may explain the Vietnamese government’s audacity in abducting one of its nationals in the heart of a European capital.
Editors Note: A previous version (Aug. 3) of this story cited reports saying that Germany had expelled Vietnam’s ambassador. Those reports have since been corrected to say only the Vietnamese intelligence attache faces expulsion. We apologize for the mistake.”
But Germany’s active participation in the US kidnapping and torture program was apparently perfectly normal.
The act of carrying an armed kidnapping in a foreign country is unlawful, it is reminiscent of the assassination of the Russian defector Litvinenko in London perpetrated by Russian Intelligence.
This will have repercussions since after TPP was canceled by Donald Trump, Vietnam needs the EU to ratify free trade and Germany happens to a major member.
Nguyen Phu Trong, the current party head is a stooge of China. It’s him who gave instructions to the rubber stamp Parliament not to discuss chinese intrusion into Vietnamese territorial waters in 2014 when China parked the Haiyang 961 drill rig, it’s him who refused to submit Vietnamese dossier to the International Court of Arbitration as the Philippines have done. It’s him who decided to yield to China in instructing Repsol to leave the drilling area in Vietnam’s EEZ but also claimed illegally by China following China’s threat to use force in the Spratly. At the last Party Congress, it’s him who sent his aide to the chinese embassy requesting help in case of popular unrest.
Under the guise of combating corruption, he wants to bring back a former oil executive who is seeking refuge in Berlin, to dislose any incriminating evidences to get back at his former comrade opponent Nguyen Tan Dung. Most commie officials more or less have their pig snout in the trough, they are all corrupt. To try each other of corruption is to reveal internal strife, the party is about to implode. The end of the commie party is near and Vietnamese people must rejoice at that prospect.
Opinion on the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, candidate for the post of Director general of UNESCO.
Following the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’s implication in the kidnapping of a Vietnamese asylum seeker in Berlin,
the Vietnamese League for Human Rights in Switzerland and the Associated Vietnamese Writers in Exile Centre
jointly publish hereafter their opinion on the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, candidate for the post of Director general of UNESCO.
Germany accused Viet Nam, the ‘’Socialist Republic of Vietnam’’, of kidnapping asylum seeker in Berlin. ‘’An unprecedented and scandalous violation of German and international law’’, said foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer, accusing Vietnam’s secret service and embassy of snatching the man. Yet, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is candidate for the post of Director general of UNESCO. And it is known actually as the biggest prison for writers, journalists and bloggers and human rights defenders in South-East Asia. For memory, after occupying by force the South Viet Nam in April 1975, the communist regime has confiscated and destroyed several millions of literary books and sent their authors to forced labour camps. Many of these unfortunate humans of culture have never returned to their family homes.
May we take advantage of this occasion to bring to your knowledge Facts and Reality in Viet Nam today :
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is a one-party authoritarian state which maintains a tight control on the freedoms of expression, assembly and association, religion and belief. Since the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2014, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has made little, if any progress, in implementing recommendations that the state accepted in relation to these freedoms, each a cornerstone to progress in the country. Indeed, instead of bringing the Criminal Code into line with international human rights standards, the state has instead revised certain articles, making them more draconian by extending custodial sentences, such as Article 88 (conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam).
The authorities continue to closely monitor the peaceful activities of human rights defenders, regularly cracking down on peaceful protest. During widespread protests in May 2016 following mass fish kills off the coast of Ha Tinh province, the authorities cracked down on environmental activists calling for a transparent government investigation into the causes of the fish deaths.
Writers, journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders are often the targets of intimidation, threats and harassment, and brutal physical assaults by either the authorities or unidentified assailants. They also face arbitrary arrests; lengthy pre-trial detention; limited access to legal counsel; unfair trials; and lengthy prison sentences. In prison, they are confronted with torture or other ill-treatment and poor prison conditions, including inadequate medical care. Prisoners are rarely released before the expiry of their sentence, and are frequently subject to long probationary terms or released into exile, far from their families. Upon their release their harassment may not cease; writers are often subjected to re-arrest or intimidation campaigns.
We are deeply concerned by the continued imprisonment of several writers, journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders held solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association.
HOW IS IT POSSIBLE FOR SUCH A STATE (Socialist Republic of Vietnam) KNOWN AS A GREAT VIOLATOR OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND BRUTAL ENNEMY OF THE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND OPINION TO BE ELECTED DIRECTOR GENERAL OF UNESCO ?
ALLEMAGNE ACCUSE HANOI RSV VIETNAM D’AVOIR ENLEVÉ UN DEMANDEUR D’ASILE À BERLIN.
POUR MÉMOIRE ET INFO AUX MEDIAS INTERNATIONAUX :
HANOI, République Socialiste du Vietnam, est CANDIDAT AU POSTE DE DIRECTEUR GÉNÉRAL DE L’UNESCO.
GERMANY ACCUSED HANOI SRV VIETNAM OF KIDNAPPING ASYLUM SEEKER IN BERLIN.
FOR MEMORY AND INFO TO INTERNATIONAL MEDIAS :
HANOI, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is CANDIDATE FOR THE POST OF DIRECTOR GENERAL OF UNESCO.
"How Merkel responds will be important. Some pundits claim Germany has now taken over the mantle of “leader of the free world” since the inauguration of US President Trump."
Actually "leader of the free world" was Angela Merkel’s job when Barack Obama was president, because he didn’t want the job.
After the fall of Saigon in 1975, the commies dropped their mask, did not behave like liberators but more like conquerors intent on looting. South Vietnamese middle class and business people were dispossessed, driven out of cities and denied a livelihood. Their children were not allowed to attend higher education and had no future at all, that led to waves of boat people seeking safety abroad.
After years of economic disasters and bad management, finally in 1986 Hanoi started a new chapter called "Do moi" or Reform and encouraged overseas Vietnamese to return and invest in Vietnamese economy. A number has responded to the commies call and returned but soon found out they were about to be swindled of their hard earned cash. The commies are like bandits.
One Vietnamese refugee, Mr Trịnh Vĩnh Bình, has created a successful business in Holland and has responded to the commies call to return to help revive Vietnam’s economy. In 1987 he returned to invest $4millions for production facilities and properties but soon fell foul of local corrupt oficials who sought to seize what he got by accusing him of trumped up charges. He was jailed in 1998 for 13 years and ordered his properties confiscated but he was released early and he fled back to Holland.
In 2005, he started court proceedings at the International Arbitration Court in Stockholm against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam for $100Millions. As in the process of reform and opening to the world, Vietnam has signed Trade and Investment Agreements with the west. Sensing failure, Vietnam decided on out-of-court settlement in Singapore in 2006 of $15Millions damage and return of all confiscated properties. Mr Binh has stuck to his non disclosure deal but Hanoi has reneged on returning his properties.
Since Vietnam is in breach of agreement, Mr Binh has started a court proceeding in the Hague in 2015 claiming $1Billion in damage. The hearing is scheduled to open coming 21st August 2017. This shows the commies are deceitful and explains most professional overseas Vietnamese who could contribute a lot to the economy with their expertise acquired abroad but are reluctant to return as long as the commie regime is in place. In contrast, China has done a better job at attracting oversea chinese to return with their expertise.
The cases of Than and his subsequent abduction by Vietnam secret service and the sacking of Thang, both Petro Vietnam officials, must have been made on China’s instructions in order to get back on all people responsible for the Vietnam- Repsol daring oil exploration on the contested waters off Vietnam.
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