Vietnam. In January, 30 people were sentenced to death for smuggling 2 tonnes of heroin in the largest drug trial in the country’s history. That same month, the country’s largest fraud target was ended. A bank official at VietinBank was sentenced to life imprisonment for fraud totaling $ 200 million and 22 other people were sentenced to imprisonment for a maximum of 20 years.
In February, Vietnam signed as one of 40 countries under an agreement to cooperate to stop poaching and the illegal trade in, for example, ivory. Vietnam and China are the two largest markets in the world for ivory and rhino horn.
In March, Vietnam, along with several other countries, participated in the extensive search efforts for the missing Malaysian plane MH370, which ground control lost contact with shortly before it flew over Vietnamese airspace. The plane had 239 passengers on board and was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Later, information came that the plane probably swung back towards Malaysia and continued flying for several hours before the tracks stopped completely. The plane is believed to have crashed and the passengers perished.
According to Countryaah.com, Vietnam population in 2020 is estimated at 97,338,590. The blogger Pham Viet Dao was sentenced to 15 months in prison after writing critically about the government and on sensitive issues, such as border disputes with China. Just a few days earlier, another popular blogger, Truong Duy Nhat, had been sentenced to two years in prison. They were convicted under Article 258, which prohibits “abuse of democratic freedoms at the expense of the interests of the state or organizations and/or citizens”. The article has been heavily criticized by human rights groups.
In April, three well-known democracy activists were prematurely released from prison in connection with Vietnam-US negotiations on a major free trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). All three were convicted of various crimes against the state and regime. Two of them were allowed to continue their sentence in house arrest. The same month, it was reported that the authorities were struggling with an extensive outbreak of measles in the country. At least 112 people, most of them under 10, had died since January and more than 3,500 had been infected. In May, two more bloggers were arrested under Article 258. The Human Rights Watch condemned the arrest.
Relations with China deteriorated in May since China deployed an oil drilling platform on the Paracel Islands, an island group in the South China Sea that both countries claim. This led to great popular anger with demonstrations and attacks on Chinese factories in southern Vietnam. About 20 people are said to have lost their lives. Over 100 were injured and China evacuated 3,000 of its citizens. Around 19,000 workers took part in the protests. The regime initially allowed the protests to continue without intervening. However, two weeks after the conflict began, the police intervened and broke up a number of demonstrations and arrested 500 people. In Vietnam there is a historical background of suspicion against China. Just weeks later, China accused Vietnam of provocation in the South China Sea. According to China, Vietnamese vessels have hit Chinese vessels more than 1,400 times. The charges came shortly after Vietnam presented pictures of how a Chinese ship struck and lowered a Vietnamese fishing boat. Both sides have used water cannons against the other country’s vessels.
In July, the typhoon Rammasun pulled over Vietnam, causing floods and landslides in the northern provinces. At least 11 people died.
In August, 300 people participated in Vietnam’s third pride parade in Hanoi, which was the largest in the country to date. Gradual improvements have been made to LGBTQ people in recent years.
US General Martin Dempsey visited Vietnam for talks on how the countries can cooperate militarily. In October, the United States lifted a partial arms embargo on Vietnam to strengthen its security at sea. The background is the protracted conflict with China over sea borders and the rights to the island groups Spratly and Paracel in the South China Sea. Well-known regime-critical blogger Nguyen Van Hai, who in 2012 was sentenced to twelve years in prison for “anti-state propaganda”, was immediately released and flown to the United States.
In November, the Vietnamese police made a record seizure of over 1,000 dead endangered sea turtles that would be exported to China illegally. The seizure was made at the resort of Nha Trang on the south coast of Vietnam.
In December, another blogger was arrested for publishing government-critical articles.