#StandWithBach: Support for detained environment lawyer who is on hunger strike in Vietnam

Dang Dinh Bach

Dang Dinh Bach. Photo from the website ‘Stand With Bach’

“The green energy transition will not succeed unless environmental defenders like Dang Dinh Bach are able to play a role.”

This is the campaign message in support of Vietnamese lawyer Dang Dinh Bach who has been in detention since June 2021 and is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for tax evasion.

Around 80 global civil society groups have signed a statement pointing out the irony of Vietnam committing to a clean energy transition even as it has suppressed the work of prominent environmental advocates like Bach.

The Vietnamese government itself has committed to net zero emissions by 2050 and accepted a [USD] 15.5 billion deal to support a just transition to clean energy. But this cannot succeed with climate leaders like Bach in jail.

Bach led the Law and Policy of Sustainable Development Research Centre for ten years in Hanoi until his arrest in 2021. He is not a member of any activist group, but his supporters said he might have been targeted for his work regarding the Son La Hydroelectric plant that displaced more than 91,000 people. He was also deeply involved with the development of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, which required Vietnam to establish a Domestic Advisory Group.

He was arrested without a warrant and held incommunicado from July 2021 to August 2022. Aside from Bach, four other environment NGO leaders were slapped with spurious tax evasion charges and denied due process.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said that Bach’s detention “had resulted from the peaceful exercise of his fundamental freedoms” as it called on Vietnamese authorities to release the environment lawyer.

Bach has been on a partial hunger strike since March 17, 2023, to protest his unjust imprisonment. He decided to stage a complete hunger strike in June, marking the second year of his arbitrary detention. His wife, Tran Phuong Thao, paraphrased a statement from Bach from prison:

I refuse the entire prison rations. I refuse all medical visits; I refuse to sign any documents; I condemn the violation of my personal rights. The prison has arbitrarily filmed me and may try to use my pictures and post personal information related to me for any purpose and without my consent.

I will go on hunger strike completely starting from June 9. I accept the consequences, even if I lose my life. I affirm this action as non-combatant, non-violent, and free from internal and external conflicts.

Bach also accused Vietnam’s government of concealing the truth about the harsh environmental impact of some mega projects.

In order to conceal the truth and threaten the voices of people, the Vietnamese authorities have arrested, convicted and unjustly detained environmental and human rights activists

Bach urged his supporters to promote his message to the world:

-Practice green living;
-Help vulnerable communities affected by environmental pollution fight for justice;
-Join him in the hunger strike and spread the message.

The Twitter hashtag #StandWithBach collates the solidarity messages shared by activists and environmentalists from across the world. Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, tweeted her concern:

In Manila, a protest was held outside the main headquarters of the Asian Development Bank, which has been funding several infrastructure projects in Vietnam.

Thailand-based Manushya Foundation has called for online support for Bach.

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