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Bloggers attacked by suspected state agents

UPDATE: Arrests, surveillance and intimidation used to prevent destabilisation (RSF, 19 July 2012)

(SEAPA/IFEX) - Bangkok, 17 July 2012 - Unidentified men harassed and attacked on 13 July a group of five Vietnamese bloggers in Ho Chi Minh city resulting in injuries to several of them.

SEAPA received information that unidentified assailants - believed by the victims to be state agents - smashed the window of a car carrying a group of five bloggers, including Vi Hoang Nguyen, Hang Bui, Lee Nguyen, Quyet Le and Mrs. Tan Thi Duong, the wife of blogger Dieu Cay. The group had just left a gathering of about 50 bloggers in a joint celebration of the birthdays of three of their fellows.

During the party, about 20 suspected state agents arrived at the venue to eavesdrop on their conversations, and take pictures of the participants. The bloggers remained calm and continued with their activities because they considered the presence of state agents monitoring their activities as 'normal'.

However when the group of five bloggers left at about 10:30 p.m., they were followed by a group of eight agents, who drove closely behind, and eventually forced their car to reduce speed as it entered Dinh Tien Hoang street in Binh Thanh district.

At that point, the men smashed the rear passenger side window of the car, which caused cuts to the victims from broken glass. Blogger Vi Hoang Nguyen suffered the most serious injuries from this attack with cuts on her arms, legs and face.

Sensing further danger, the car's driver Quyet Le decided to drive on as the attackers continued to follow them closely. Le thought it was best not to stop until they had found a police station to ask for help.

When Le stopped to ask local persons for directions to the police station, the eight men again smashed the rear window of their car.

The innocent bystanders were too terrified by the actions of the attackers to offer any help or get involved.

One of the attackers overheard one of the bloggers asking where a police station was located, and reportedly replied, "I am a police agent, just go ahead and call the police!"

The bloggers then stopped at the front gate of the Vietnam People's Army Base No. 7 headquarters in the same district to ask the guards for help. Even as the guards came out to ask the victims about what had happened, the attackers remained close by, and used their mobile phones.

After a while, the supervisor of the army base came out and told the bloggers that he had notified the police. The supervisor said that this was a matter for the police to resolve and not for the soldiers, and that they did not want to get involved in the situation. The attackers continued following the bloggers as they drove to safety to their homes.

That same night, blogger Hanh Nhan and lawyer Luat Tran Le were also followed by other agents. They drove around aimlessly until they stalkers finally gave up their trail.

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