- The executive director of the Vietnam Initiative for Energy Transition (VIET), was arrested on September 15, making her the sixth environmental and climate expert detained by Vietnamese authorities in the past two years.
- Authorities not only arrested Nhien but also raided the think tank’s offices, interrogating its staff.
- The German government has previously expressed concern over the detention of another prominent environmental activist in Vietnam, stressing that the success of the JETP initiative requires the involvement of civil society activists.
Vietnam has arrested the director of a think tank working on energy issues in the country – the sixth expert working on environmental and climate issues to be detained by authorities in the past two years, a rights group said on Wednesday.
Ngo Thi To Nhien, the executive director of the Vietnam Initiative for Energy Transition (VIET) was arrested on September 15, according to The 88 Project, a group that advocates for freedom of expression in Vietnam.
Police also raided and searched the think tank’s offices and questioned staff members, it said.
It was unclear why Nhien was arrested. Police said previous arrests of other energy experts were on suspicion of tax evasion.
A person familiar with the situation, who asked not to be named further out of concern for his own safety, confirmed that he had been taken into custody. Police could not be reached for comment after business hours.
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“Nhien’s detention is significant as it signals that energy policy research is now off limits,” said Ben Swanton, of The 88 Project.
When she was arrested, Nhien was working with the United Nations Development Program to help implement the Just Energy Transition Partnership, or JETP — an agreement designed to help the Southeast Asian nation phase out its use of fossil fuels by 15.5 billion dollars in support from the Group of Seven advanced economies, the advocacy group said.
The German government said in June it was concerned about the previous detention of a prominent environmental campaigner in Vietnam, warning that the JETP deal required the participation of civil society activists.
Nhien has previously worked with other international organizations such as the World Bank, the European Commission and the United Nations.
Vietnam is one of the few remaining communist one-party states that does not tolerate any dissent.
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In 2022, Human Rights Watch said more than 170 activists were placed under house arrest, barred from traveling, or in some cases assaulted by Vietnamese government agents in a little-noticed campaign to silence its critics.