Green energy expert detained in Vietnam
Yasemin Beyza Uçar
South and East Asia Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
The Executive Director of Vietnam’s Initiative for Energy Transition, Ngô Thị Tố Nhiên, a Vietnamese green energy expert, was detained by the Hanoi police on the 15th of September. The UN is worried about the arrest since Ngô Thị Tố Nhiên recently collaborated with UN and US agencies shortly after Joe Biden signed business and human rights deals with Hanoi (Francesco Guarascio).
A group that advocates for freedom of expression in Vietnam (The 88 Project) also stated that the police investigated the think tank’s offices and questioned staff members (Aniruddha Ghosal).
Vietnam arrested within the last two years another five environmental human rights defenders on suspicion of tax evasion. It is important to note that these arrests happened while Vietnam was still negotiating international funding to shift its energy focus away from coal. Ngô Thị Tố Nhiên was additionally known as an expert and not an activist (Francesco Guarascio).
The reason for Ngô Thị Tố Nhiên’s arrest is still unknown, but due to the five arrests mentioned above, there is an assumption that the police arrested her based on suspicion of tax evasion. An anonymous person confirmed Nhien’s detention and further specified that the police were unreachable after working hours (Aniruddha Ghosal).
The government does not provide any public statement nor reply to any requests for explanation (Francesco Guarascio).
At the time of Nhien’s arrest, she worked together with the United Nations Development Program. She was trying to help with the implementation of the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP). It is a design that benefits the Southeast Asian nation to gradually eliminate the use of fossil fuels with around 15 billion dollars, supported by the Group of Seven advanced economies. The German government was concerned in June 2023 about the detentions of environmental activists in Vietnam, alarming that the Just Energy Transition Partnership deal needed the participation of civil society activists (Aniruddha Ghosal).
The Vietnamese green energy expert worked together with well-known international organisations before helping JETP. These include organisations such as the World Bank, the European Commission, as well as the United Nations. Vietnam is among the last remaining single-party communist states that do not tolerate diversity of opinion (Aniruddha Ghosal).
In 2022, the Vietnamese government tried to silence activists by arresting more than 170 people and restricting them from movement. In some circumstances, these critics have been assaulted by agents of the Vietnamese government (Aniruddha Ghosal).
Based on these pieces of information and Ngô Thị Tố Nhiên’s arrest, questions are raised regarding the Vietnamese government's commitment to transitioning to green energy and its dedication to human rights (Nitish Verma).
Sources and further readings:
Francesco Guarascio.(2023, September 25). UN worried about Vietnam arrest of energy expert after Biden's visit. Reuters. Retrieved September 26, 2023, from https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/un-worried-about-vietnam-arrest-energy-expert-after-bidens-visit-2023-09-25/
Aniruddha Ghosal. (2023, September 20). Vietnam detains energy policy think-tank chief, human rights group says. APnews. Retrieved September 26, 2023, from https://apnews.com/article/vietnam-energy-arrest-climate-environment-5b36b8b01ada334c3e0418c62b8d026c
Nitish Verma. (2023, September 25). UN Expresses Concern Over Arrest of Vietnamese Energy Expert After Biden’s Visit. Bnn.network. Retrieved September 26, from https://bnn.network/world/vietnam/un-expresses-concern-over-arrest-of-vietnamese-energy-expert-after-bidens-visit/