Date return to Vietnam from the World Freedom of the Press Conference at the U.S. Inju VRNs Le Thanh Tung

Anthony Lê Thanh Tùng, VRNs

Đăng ngày: 22.05.2014


VRNs(May 22th, 2014) – Saigon –  9:40pm: I entered the entry area at Tan Son Nhat airport after more than 23 hours of traveling (including transit time in Japan) from Washington D.C. to Saigon, Vietnam. The airport at that time had more than 300 passengers including Vietnamese and foreigners waiting in-line for customs and immigration clearance. At the passport control booth, I handed my passport to the agent and after having scanned it, the agent looked at me and picked up the phone to call someone. In less than 1 minute, there were more than 20 policemen in uniforms and plain clothes rushed out and they jumped on me and attacked me, their action is not unlike a pride of lions attacking a prey.


I wasn’t sure how to respond to protect myself other than holding on to the metal rail separating the waiting lines and shout out in both Vietnamese and English “police beating people, công an đánh người”, “please help, vui lòng giúp tôi”, and “please take a picture of this scene, chụp hình cảnh này giùm tôi”, etc.. At the same time, the police continued to attack me, some of them twisted my arms behind my back, others pushed my head down, and still others picked up my legs and carried me away as if carrying an animal. One of the bigger plain clothes police officers in jean and green T-shirt kicked me twice on the rib cage which caused a severe convulsion on my body. The two violent kicks on my rib cage forced me off the arms of the policemen who were lugging me. I sweat profusely because of the pain, and the handle on my backpack was broken in half. I tried to get up and looked at the plain clothes police officer who kicked me and I told him that I would post pictures of his violent assault on newspapers, and he tried to attack me again but this time Mr. Le Dinh Vinh, the man who I later found out was a chief security officer on duty, stopped him. The policemen threw me into a room deep in a back corner and one by one, each of them shouted threats and expletives at me.


After a while, two policemen without name tags who I later found out were Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen and Mr. Le Tien Hoang, asked me to answer some questions but I refused and asked to work with the people with proper authority and warrant. At that time, Mr. Le Dinh Vinh walked in and said he’s with the airport security department and he’s responsible for this working session while the other two Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen and Mr. Le Tien Hoang belong to the police department and they will work with me on a number of issues related to my trip to the United States to attend the World Press Freedom Day. I was still reeling in pain from the violent kicks, and exhausted from hunger and thirst, however, Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen kept asking me to sit up straight and be attentive to work with them. I told them that I’m still in pain and can’t be attentive. The following is the dialogue between me the the police officers:


Le Thanh Tung


Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: Mr. Tung, I’m asking you to sit up straight to work with us.

Me: I’m in severe pain, please go ahead and ask me.

Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: I’m asking you to put your feet down to be polite.

Me: I’m not able to sit up straight.

Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: How much are you getting paid as a democracy and political activist?

Me: Uhm, funny you asked that.

Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: You’re really willing to sell out your family and yourself for a few hundred bucks?

Me: Excuse me, please be polite, is that how low you think about me?

At that time, Mr. Le Tien Hoang interrupted.

Mr. Le Tien Hoang: Mr. Tung, I suggest you tell us some basic facts about yourself.

Me: Thank you Mr. Hoang for stopping this line of incoherent and impolite questionings from Mr. Nguyen.

Me: My name is Le Thanh Tung, Dc…, SCMND…


At that time, my phone rang, and not knowing who’s on the other side, but I surmised it’s Father Thoai, so I shouted out to the phone: “Father, they detained me and beat me”, but before I was able to finish my sentence, someone yanked the phone from my hand and turned off the cell phone and removed the battery.


Taking advantage of the situation, Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen called out some expletives about Father Thoai, such as “is that how you ask for freedom of religion?”, “Don’t you see Ngoc Lan as an example?”, “Is that how you fight for freedom and democracy? Don’t you see how VH was jailed and beat up?”  <<Cau nay can check lai vi khong biet VH la ai.


Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: I ask you, do you know VH?

Me:  I suggest you speak politely.  I don’t know who the person you’re asking me is.

Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: When you’re in the USA, how much money did Viet Tan give you?

Me:  I don’t receive any money from anyone, you seems to see me pretty lowly.

Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: You’ve been out of work for more than a year, where do you get the money to pay for expenses of the trip?

Me:  The expenses of the trip is taken care of by the organizing committee and specifically EFF.

Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: Did you carry any money with you on the trip?

Me:  What do you think?  Did you think I just go empty handed?

Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: How much did you bring with you?  And where did that money come from?

Me:  I asked my wife for some money, the exact amount is $700 USD for emergency situations.

Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: As a man, don’t you feel shameful when you have to ask your wife for money?

Me:  According to you, what is considered shameful?

Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: It’s shameful if you don’t work and use your wife’s money.

Me:  Let me ask, do you give your paycheck to your wife to manage?  Or do you just keep the paycheck for yourself so you don’t have to ask your wife?  Where does your wife find money to put food on the table and take care of your children’s education?

Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: What is your opinion about the Vietnam Reform Party (Viet Tan)?   Who from the Vietnam Reform Party have you met in the United States?

Me:  I met Mr. Đỗ Hoàng Điềm. chairman of the Vietnam Reform Party, Mr. Hoàng Tứ Duy, Ms. Huỳnh Trang, Ms. Hồng Thuận and a number of others whose names I don’t know.   We met and shook hands and exchanged greetings and took some pictures together.  I think Vietnam Reform Party is a good organization, their members are courteous and very smart.

Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: Were you asked to join the Vietnam Reform Party or any other organizations in the United States?

Me:  What do you think?  Can you guess if any organization asked me to join them?

At this point, Mr. Hoang interrupted.

Mr. Le Tien Hoang: Mr. Tung, please let me know some main points about your personal history, your family, …

Me: Thank you Mr. Hoang for getting me out of this intimidating interrogation from Mr. Nguyen.  Since you asked, I’ll give you a few basic facts about me …, my wife …, my children …, my parents …, and my siblings…


At this point there were two cameramen pointing their cameras at me and continuously recorded what I said.  I took advantage of the situation and talked to the camera about the people who violently assaulted me at the entry area previously, and their lack of civility with their insults and expletives which Mr. Nguyen constantly threw at me.  I also asked them to turn off their cameras because I haven’t given them my permission to record.


Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: Did you see Mr. Quốc Quân when you’re in the United States?

Me:  I’m aware Mr. Lê Quốc Quân is currently in jail.

Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: You seem to know many things.  However, I’m asking you about Mr. Nguyễn Quốc Quân.

Me:  I met many Vietnamese expatriates there, but I’m not sure who is Mr. Nguyễn Quốc Quân.

Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: What did you speak about at the World Press Freedom Day conference?

Me:  I spoke about the issues with the Internet and Facebook in Vietnam, its development, its limitations and consequences.

Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: Other than those you’ve just stated, what else did you speak about?

Me:  I was given only one minute to speak so that was only enough time for me to speak about those things.

Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: Which organizations were at the conference and how many attended?

Me:  There were more than 100 attendees, of those attendees, I heard the names of these organizations and dignitaries:

– A number of United States congress men and women

– Vietnam Reform Party

– Radio Free Asia

– Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF)

– Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

– U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations


– Access


– other news organizations and various NGOs

Mr. Le Tien Hoang: Which congressmen attended the conference?

Me:  I don’t remember all the names but I recall these names such as

– Ms. Loretta Sanchez, – Ms. Zoe Lofgren, – Mr. Alan Lowenthal, – Mr. Ed Royce, – Mr. Scott Bussy

– …..


By about 2 A.M., there were two policemen in uniform (I don’t recall their names) brought in a citation which explains the reason why they used force to arrest me and put me into the room because I didn’t cooperate with the police.  I read the citation and returned it to them and said:  “What’s a piece of paper to you and why you didn’t present this paper so that I can walk into this office to work with you peacefully, and on the contrary, you had more than a dozen people assaulted me and lugged me into this office like a pig?  Don’t you feel shameful when you did this in front of more than 300 international passengers in the process of entering the country?  You guys represent Vietnam’s police and you behave with such barbaric manners, didn’t you hear me screaming out in both English and Vietnamese: “police beating people, công an đánh người”, “please help, vui lòng giúp tôi”, and “please take a picture of this scene, chụp hình cảnh này giùm tôi”, etc.. ?  One of the men said: “If you don’t sign this we’ll get a witness to sign it” and he took the citation and left.  All the while, two cameramen were recording the entire scene.


Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: What did Mr. Đỗ Hoàng Điềm speak about at the conference?

Me:  His speech was in English and I can’t remember all of it, however in general it’s about the Vietnamese press being under strict surveillance and control from the authority and the dire situation about serious human rights violation from the authority.

Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: What did other members from Vietnam speak about?

Me:  I don’t remember what they spoke about, but I assume they spoke about the issues with freedom of the press in Vietnam because this is the World Press Freedom Day conference.

Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: Do you know those people from Vietnam?

Me:  I’ve heard of them from Vietnam, but I haven’t had a chance to meet them so I can’t say I know them.

Mr. Le Tien Hoang: From which airport did you depart to the United States?

Me:  I departed from Mộc Bài airport on April 19th, 2014.

Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: Why did you choose to depart from Mộc Bài instead of Tân Sơn Nhất airport?

Me:  A few days prior to my departure, I’ve heard that your people have assaulted and arrested reporter Huyền Trang and since I’ve promised the organizer that I’d be in the United States to attend the conference so I had to find a way to get there by all means.

Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: There is quite a crowd waiting for you outside, they’ve also carried banners to welcome you, I truly admire you.

Me:  Is that so?  Thank you for letting me know.

Mr. Le Tien Hoang: Who picked you up in Cambodia?  Did you meet Trúc Hồ?

Me:  No one picked me up in Cambodia, I didn’t meet Trúc Hồ.

Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: How much money did Trúc Hồ give you and did he give you any gift?  Didn’t everyone get an iPad?

Me:  Wasn’t that quite contemptuous of you to ask me such question?  You’re being very rude to me.

Mr. Le Tien Hoang: You’re becoming quite famous, how did you become so famous?

Me:  Ha, am I famous really?  Why do you think I’ve become so famous?

Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: Well, because of your political activities, democracy activities, that’s why you’ve become famous.

Me:  Ha, you’ve set quite a high regard on me, thank you.

Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: How did you choose to become a democracy activist?

Me:  I hadn’t chosen to fight for democracy, I’d only chosen to fight for my own justice, but you guys have lead me to this road.

Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: Who have led you to this road?

Me:  You police people, specifically it was PA67 who led me to this road.

Mr. Nguyen Tran Nguyen: How did the police lead you to this road?

Me:  Since you’ve asked, I’ll explain in detail.  On May 6th, 2011, I accidentally participated in a gathering with many of our citizens in Saigon to protest China’s blatant act of aggression in entering Vietnam territorial sea and cut off the anchors of two Vietnam oil exploration ships – Bình Minh 02 and Viking.  For some reason, the police had noticed my presence and within a few weeks, I was summoned to appear at a police station for a working session, and on October 18th, 2012, five police officers appeared at the place where I was working and arrested me as if I was a criminal in front of many of my co-workers.  That action puzzled my fellow employees as well as Bunge’ management team and subsequently, they found a good reason to laid me off.  I was laid off quite unfairly and since then people started to pay attention to me.  Therefore, since you asked how I’d become famous and the certain answer is that I’ve become famous because you guys made me so.


By 5 A.M., I was so exhausted, I closed my eyes and breath faintly, I couldn’t even sit up straight…  Mr. Le Tien Hoang asked: “Are you able to continue?”, and I said: “I’m so exhausted, please let me take a short break”, and Mr. Le Tien Hoang said: “I’m also quite tired, why don’t we just take a break”, and with that I dozed off and woke up at about 7 A.M.  The police escorted me to the bathroom for my morning hygiene activities and afterward, Mr. Nguyen and Mr. Hoang asked me to continue with the working session.


Mr. Nguyên continued with his line of propagandizing stories and mockery questions and asked irrelevant questions such as how much money I’d received from the reactionaries (bọn phản động) and who gave me such dirty money, what do I think about the men who don’t take care of their families and spend all their times with the reactionaries to oppose the government etc…  

Me:  You’ve offended me enough, and I’m sadden by the fact that the police force has someone like you working for them.  I don’t want to continue this conversation.  


I was quite hungry by now and I’ve consumed all the chocolate I’ve with me since last night.  There were a few chewing gums but they didn’t fill my stomach in any way.  I asked if they had anything I can eat and Mr. Hoang said he had a leftover of ramen noodle from last night which is now cold, he brought the left over ramen to me and there were a few slices of meat in it but since I was so hungry, I ate all of it.  I didn’t forget to say thank afterward.


By 8 A.M. on May 18th, 2014, someone continuously called Mr. Nguyen’s phone and he left the room several times to answer his phone, and afterward he left for quite a while.


In the room at that time there were only me and Mr. Hoang, and Mr. Hoang said he wanted to share with me a few things on a personal level about the situation in Vietnam, and he hopes that I’d listen so we can gain better understanding of one another.  I responded by saying I’m honored to listen and share with him.


Mr. Hoang said, the issue about Vietnam territorial sea and the defence of the country in the face of China aggression is an issue of grave importance.  Our Party and State are very careful in considering every options to deal with this situation, and he being in the security sector, has attended many meetings to discuss and learn about this issue.  The fact that the people to the streets is a good thing and need to be promoted, but there are many who take advantage of this situation to do this and that, ….


About 8:30 A.M, Mr. Nguyen entered the room and brought with him my passport which was taken from me by the airport police.  Mr. Nguyen put the passport on the table and continued with questioning.


Mr. Nguyen:  Mr. Tung, can you guarantee that you’ll not participate in any political organization that undermine Vietnam’s national security?

Me: I’ve done this in 2011 with PA67.

Mr. Nguyen:  But at this time I want you to guarantee with me.

Me:  It’s quite funny when I have to guarantee with you.  If you would like, I suggest you provide a form from your office issued by proper authorities with red stamp and I’ll sign it for you.

Mr. Nguyen:  Why are you so cautious?  You have the gut to take action but you don’t have the gut to take the consequences?

Me:  Ha, what you said sounds so funny.

Mr. Hoang:  Mr. Tung, do you have any request?

Me:  I’m not sure I understand your question.

Mr. Hoang:  Do you have any request of the police so we can help you?

Me:  I’d like the police not to bother me anymore especially do not come to my workplace to arrest me and make me lose my job.

Mr. Hoang:  Then please write it down on a piece of paper and I’ll send it to the police department.

I wrote down:  “Request that the police to stop bothering me, don’t come to my workplace to arrest me and make me lose my job, I’ll look for a job and would like to have a stable life”

Mr. Nguyen:  Do you not dare to sign the guarantee?

Me:  I have nothing to guarantee to you.

Mr. Hoang:  Speaking to Mr. Nguyen, the questioning ends here.


By about 9 A.M. Mr. Nguyen’s phone rang again, and he went outside to answer his phone.  Shortly he came back and asked Mr. Hoang to go outside with him.  I sat alone in the room with two soldiers guarding the door outside.  A few minutes later Mr. Hoang came back and said that we should sit here until 8 P.M. to complete 24 hours because outside people are protesting and we’re concerned that if we let you out then you may lead the protest.  I said to Mr. Hoang:  “You guys set a high regard on me, thank you.”


Mr. Hoang leaned back and closed his eyes.  I said to him I’m also very tired and I’ll rest for a while, please rest too.  By 11 A.M. Mr. Nguyen returned, put my belongings, which include my passports, a few phones and other miscellany, into  a bag and carried my luggages and follow me.

I carried my luggages, Mr. Hoang also carried a backpack for me, at that time there were 6 person with me going downstair and they pushed me into an Inova van and said these men will take you home.

I was a bit concern sitting in that van because there were 6 muscular men surrounding me.  They drove me toward Phan Dang Luu street, and I thought they may put me in the jail at 4 Phan Dang Luu street, where police uses to temporarily detain suspects for further investigation.

We got to the end of Phan Dang Luu street, and I thought for sure they were taking me home, and I overheard the conversations about real estates in the area where I live and realized that these are the policemen belonging to District 9 and Ward Tang Nhon Phu B where I live.  Instead of taking me home, they brought me to the police station a Ward Tang Nhon Phu B, and they said that it’s noon now so please come in for lunch and take a nap and by the afternoon someone will take you home.

I asked these men: “It’s Sunday today, what’s happening in our Ward?  Why are we having such a big party?” and some of the men said: “Tomorrow is May 19 which is chairman Ho’s birthday therefore the Ward is having a party.”  I sat and had lucnh with these policemen, after lunch, we shared a few cigarettes which I’ve bought at japan airport during transit.  We talked openly, one policeman said: “Your son and my son go to the same school, yours is in middle school and mine is still in kindergarten”, still other said: “I really respect your two sons, they’re still young children but they can already ride bike to school by themselves.  Once I saw them on a busy street and I was so worried so I called your wife because I’m afraid they may get into an accident, poor thing”.  I was moved and expressed my thankfulness for the local police for having concerns about my family. Afterward, we went inside an air conditioned room and took a nap.


At 4:10 P.M. a police officer woke me up, he said I’m taking you home.  I gathered my belongings and get on the van with other police officers to get home.  Once I arrived home, they returned my cell phone and passport and reminded me not to go outside that night.  The door to my home was locked so I thought my wife and children have gone somewhere and I called my wife on the cell phone and learned that she and my children were still at the Tan Son Nhat airport to ask the police to release me.  She answered the phone and was extremely happy that I was already home and she complained that I didn’t let her know that I was coming home and she has only learned about my return from the web.


After talking to my wife, I called Father Thoai to inform him that I have returned home, and Father Thoai was surprised to learn that the local police has taken me home.  Father Thoai said that they have stationed at the airport throughout the night before to wait for my return, and they have said many prayers for my safety through the night.


There was a rumor that the airport police has spread the news that I was involved in a drug trade along with Ms. Trần Thị Thanh and therefore was detained by the police for investigation.


I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to the Fathers at Redemptorist, brothers and sisters, family and acquaintances inside and outside of Vietnam during this ordeal.  I am very grateful to all.


Anthony Lê Thanh Tùng, VRNs


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