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March 2, 2024

Public Security Ministry orders detention of controversial academic

Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security has ordered the detention of the former director of the Southeast and North Asia Institute of Technology Research and Development following six months of house arrest.

According to a post on its website on Feb. 2, the ministry’s Security Investigation Agency arrested Nguyen Son Lo because he “showed signs of continuing to commit crimes.”

The ministry launched an investigation in July 2022, under the controversial Article 331 of Vietnam’s Penal Code for “abusing freedom and democracy infringe upon the interests of the state, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and individuals.”

Human rights groups in Vietnam and around the world say 331 is used to silence and arbitrarily detain political activists.

The ministry said it had “issued an arrest warrant for the accused for temporary detention and a search warrant for the defendant’s residence and workplace,” without saying what crimes Lo allegedly continued to commit.

The ministry has never given specifics on why Lo was being investigated, saying last July the Investigation Security Agency was “focusing on investigating, collecting documents, and consolidating evidence on the criminal acts of the accused and related individuals … according to the provisions of law.”

Lo founded the think-tank, known as SENA, and wrote many books intended to offer advice to Vietnam’s leaders, with recommendations on politics, economy and culture.

Lo’s close friend Nguyen Khac Mai, director of the Hanoi-based Minh Triet Cultural Research Center, told RFA last year the Communist Party advised him not to send his books to provincial party secretaries or National Assembly deputies but send them internally to groups such as the Secretariat and the Politburo of the party’s Central Committee.

On July 4, 2022, the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations said it had decided to suspend the operations of the institute and take steps to abolish it, saying its establishment and operations violated regulations.

Translated by RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Mike Firn.

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