Five Stories You Need To Know for February

Published February 26, 2017 in Episode 67

The shortest month of the year was no less exciting than any other. Here's a roundup of some of the big headlines:

1. In the Kim Jong-nam assassination mystery, a Vietnamese woman emerges as prime suspect.

The half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was seen poisoned on camera at the International Airport of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on February 13th.

The two women who rubbed banned chemical VX nerve agent on Kim Jong-nam’s face may be charged for murder. An Indonesian woman, Siti Aisyah, is being charged alongside Đoàn Thị Hương, a 28-year-old from rural Nghĩa Bình, Việt Nam. If convicted, they face a mandatory death sentence.

It is unclear why Hương was involved, but Malaysian authorities claim she was trained by North Korean assassins prior to the attack.

On the Facebook account she holds under the name “Ruby Ruby,” half of Hương’s friends have Korean names. Authorities also found a selfie of Hương wearing a shirt that reads “LOL” on the front, similar to the t-shirt seen in the footage.

2. Police violently attack hundreds marching to Hà Tĩnh province.

On February 14th, a group of around 700 fishermen and women were attacked while travelling from Nghệ An province to Hà Tĩnh province to submit legal complaints against Formosa Plastics due to the fish crisis. The group intended to submit hundreds of individual complaints demanding a total compensation of nearly 20 million US Dollars.

They had walked about 20 km on their way to Hà Tĩnh when they were met with police who attacked the men, women, and children.

Radio Free Asia reports that grenades and tear gas were used to intimidate the people. People captured the conflict on their phones, though police tried to stop them from recording.

Many were injured and hospitalized, according to Amnesty International.

3. Former political prisoner and human rights defender Đang Xuân Diệu testifies at the Geneva Summit.

On February 21st, Đặng Xuân Diệu, a Việt Tân member and human rights defender, spoke to an international audience at the Geneva Summit on Human Rights and Democracy. Diệu was released from prison and exiled to France last month after nearly 6 years in prison.

Diệu spoke to Loa about the emotions he experienced at the summit..  

"Having just gotten out of prison, my body and spirit were okay, but I have to say my body was affected in some way standing in the huge space of the Geneva Summit. It was so official, and the speakers before me were truly impressive. I felt empowered and that the fire inside me had been shining very bright so that I could speak out. In the end, I felt a sense of contentment.
The amount of time I was given to speak was not very long, whereas there are so many issues in Việt Nam that need to be raised. One summit alone cannot cover the breadth of these issues, and especially in one speech, one will never be able to speak of it all."

Now living in Paris, Diệu may speak out freely about the violations of human rights in Việt Nam.

4. Dozens detained for commemorating the anniversary of the Việt Nam-China Border War.

On February 17, people gathered across Việt Nam to commemorate those who lost their lives in the Việt Nam-China border war.

In Sài Gòn, security police took 10 people into custody for trying to participate in a commemoration. The security forces had blocked off the entrance to the statue of Vietnamese military commander Trần Hưng Đạo, where people were expected to gather.

In Hà Nội, over a hundred people showed up to participate at an event by the statue of Emperor Lý Thái Tỗ. Security police stood by as people lit incense and offered flowers. After the ceremony, police began to arrest participants. Unofficial demonstrations are highly restricted in Việt Nam.

Little is known about the 1979 Việt Nam-China border war, when thousands of Chinese soldiers and Vietnamese civilians were killed.

5. Two executives of Vinashinlines company receive death sentence in a corruption scandal

Giang Kim Đạt and Trần Văn Liêm of the state-run shipping company, Vinashinlines, were sentenced to death for embezzlement on February 22nd. The two executives pocketed over 260 billion Vietnamese Đồng, about 11.3 million US Dollars.

According to AFP, before toppling under debt, Vinashin had expanded into real estate and electricity and was seen as a model state-owned enterprise to lead Vietnam on a global stage.

The scandal further fueled public outrage and investor fears over rampant corruption among the state-run sector.