Vietnam confirmed on Sunday the arrest of an energy policy think tank director, the sixth expert working on environmental issues to be taken into custody in the last two years.
A rights group reported last month that Ngo Thi To Nhien, executive director of the Hanoi-based Vietnam Initiative for Energy Transition (VIET), had been detained — although at the time there was no official confirmation.
Nhien is a researcher who has worked with a number of international organisations, including the World Bank, the European Union, the United Nations and the Asian Development Bank.
On Sunday, state media said an arrest warrant had been issued for Nhien on September 20 on charges of “appropriating documents”.
According to the country’s criminal code, she could face up to five years in prison.
“After Ngo Thi To Nhien was arrested, a number of foreign media agencies and a number of exiled reactionary organisations reported the news, distorting and slandering that Vietnam arrested environmental activists,” government spokesperson To An Xo said Saturday, state media reported.
“Regarding this, the ministry of public security rejected the above distorted allegations and considered it an act of interference in Vietnam’s internal affairs.”
Two other people, Le Duc Anh and Duong Quoc Viet, were also arrested on similar accusations, the spokesperson said.
Nhien was working on the implementation plan for Vietnam’s Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP), a $15 billion, G7-funded project to help wean Vietnam off fossil fuels, according to free-speech group The 88 Project last month.
Confirmation of Nhien’s arrest comes only days after Vietnam jailed leading climate activist Hoang Thi Minh Hong for tax evasion, which also sparked international criticism.
The country has committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and a group of rich nations last year pledged to raise at least $15.5 billion to help get the nation off fossil fuels.
But the government tolerates no opposition to one-party rule, with critics facing intimidation, harassment and restricted movement, and it has shown little appetite for dissenting voices on environmental issues.
Source : The Star