Vietnam, Laos Arrest Facebookers on COVID-19-Related Charges

Authorities in Vietnam and Laos have arrested several Facebook users on charges related to the coronavirus, with Hanoi punishing posts that challenge official reporting on the pandemic and Vientiane acting against a lockdown violation streamed live.

The two arrests in Vietnam come as the Communist Party government been concerned with trying to limit the spread of what it calls rumors and fake news.

One of the Vietnamese Facebook posters was accused of abusing democratic rights to infringe on the interests of others, in violation of Article 331 of the 2015 Vietnamese Penal Code.

Critics say that this article is ambiguously written and has been used often to imprison dissidents in the one-party state.

The People’s Procuracy in Can Tho province’s Ninh Kieu district detained Ma Phung Ngoc Phu, 28, because on Feb. 25, she posted a status update to Facebook under the username James Ng, that said, “We’ve just now received information about COVID-19 deaths in Vietnam. Why is state media not publishing this news?”

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RFA’s Vietnamese and Lao Services. Translated by Huy Le and Max Avary. Written in English by Eugene Whong.