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Vu Ngoc Han

Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment (VOICE)

Vu Ngoc Han is an environmental activist from Vietnam, who is currently doing an internship with the Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment (VOICE) in Manila, Philippines.

In 2016, while she was attending a 3 month training course in Vietnam, the police raided the office, and arrested and interrogated both the trainers and the interns who were there, including Vu Ngoc Han. She was released on the same day, but on her way home she was physically assaulted by five men, who threatened her and told her to stop her work. For the following month, Vu Ngoc Han continued being surveilled. For security reasons, she moved first to Cambodia and then to the Philippines, where she started an internship at VOICE.

VOICE is an NGO founded in 1997 to help refugees, that is now supporting young Vietnamese activists who want to go to the Philippines to learn English and attend trainings on democracy, law and human rights. So far VOICE has supported more than 100 activists. It also works to support Vietnamese refugees in Thailand.

Vu Ngoc Han fears that when she’ll go back to Vietnam next year, she might be harassed by airport security officials: “They might threaten me and even beat me as they did before, and then I will be subjected to a travel ban like other activists. I do not want that to happen, but I think it’s good to prepare for the worst case scenario”.

In 2016, when the police arrested her, they illegally confiscated her household registration document, and did not allow her to register again. In Vietnam all of the procedures require a household registration book, so Vu Ngoc Han won’t be able to apply for a marriage certificate or other legal documents. Moreover, local police have called Vu Ngoc Han’s family and harassed them, asking them for her whereabouts: “My family always lives in constant fear of harassment and discrimination”.


Vietnamese authorities treat human rights defenders as “enemies of the State”. In Vietnam, there is no independent, privately-run media – domestic newspapers, television and radio stations are strictly controlled by the state. Internet communication is also strictly controlled and restricted. HRDs working for accountability and democracy receive accusations of being “foreign spies or agents”, “traitors”, or “violators of public order and peace”. HRDS are also subjected to intimidation, threats, interrogation, harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention.


Vu Ngoc Han - Hannah, Vietnam - Testimony at the 2017 Dublin Platform