Vietnamese authorities ordered a local bank Friday to freeze several accounts of people involved in deadly protests Jan. 9 over the planned construction of a military airport near the capital Hanoi, including an account that had collected a huge sum in donations for the family of an elderly community leader killed in the protest.
Le Dinh Kinh, 84 was shot and killed by police who swarmed his home in a 4:00 a.m. assault in Hanoi’s Dong Tam commune that involved about 3,000 security officers from the police and armed forces.
According to an announcement from the Ministry of Public Security, the accounts were frozen because of ongoing investigations into the protest.
“In order to serve the investigation and with the aim of preventing the financing of terrorism, the Investigation Agency has proposed to credit institutions both inside and outside the country to take concerted actions in examining and freezing related accounts,” the ministry said.
The announcement also urged individuals and organizations not to give money to those claiming to be collecting donations for the residents of Dong Tam and to report them to the authorities.
Earlier in the day, the Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam (Vietcombank) announced the freeze of the account under the name Nguyen Thuy Hanh which had accumulated more than 500 million dong (U.S. $22,000).
The account’s holder told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that the sizable balance consisted of contributions from individuals offering their condolences to the family of the late community leader.
She said that she had attempted to make a withdrawal from the account Friday morning, but was denied.
“This morning I went to the bank to withdraw a large amount of money, about 524 million dong ($22,500), from my bank account, but the bank’s staff took a long time over the phone, finally telling me the account was blocked,” said Nguyen.
“I asked them to provide a reason but they did not offer any explanation,” she said.
RFA contacted the bank to inquire, but bank employees refused to supply information, citing “security of client information.”
Hundreds of donations poured in after activist Trinh Ba Phuong highlighted the family’s hardship on his Facebook account following Le’s killing.
Nguyen said the freezing of the account is a violation of human rights, because she is not a criminal.
The bank has a history of freezing the accounts of political activists at the behest of authorities
In 2011, it froze some 50 million dong ($2150) in the account of the late Nguyen Thanh Giang, a well-known Vietnamese dissident who had taken part in anti-China demonstrations.
The money was frozen until 2015 when, after many objections, the bank was ordered to repay the frozen assets to the activist.
According to Vietnamese law, bank accounts may be frozen in whole or in part if this is agreed by the account holder and relevant organizations, or at the request of authorities, or as required by law.
Australian MP wants investigation
Reacting to the Jan. 9 incident, Chief Opposition Whip Chris Hayes of Australia’s parliament Thursday penned a message condemning the Vietnamese government’s handling of the situation.
“It is certainly disheartening, if not infuriating, to see that the human rights situation in Vietnam has continued to worsen, with a crackdown on basic human rights and freedoms very much intensifying,” wrote Hayes.
“We regularly see those who speak out against the Vietnamese government are being charged under vague national security laws and are being thrown in prison without a fair trial,” he wrote.
“The Vietnamese government have shown that they are unwilling to adhere to the rule of law and are keen to oppress, jail and exile those who simply advocate for the most basic of human rights,” he added.
In the message, Hayes urged Canberra to use its seat on the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the incident.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Eugene Whong.