The Climate Action Network (CAN) has condemned the sentencing to imprisonment of Vietnamese anti-coal activist, Goldman Environmental Prize winner and Eisenhower Fellow, Nguy Thi Khanh. CAN calls for her immediate release and all other civil society activists detained by the authorities.
Ms Nguy was arrested earlier this year on charges of “tax evasion” and her office was ransacked. She is one among several environmental activists recently targeted by the state authorities in Vietnam.
Nithi Nesadurai, Director and Regional Coordinator, CANSEA, said: “It is apparent CANSEA Board Chair Nguy Thi Khanh has been imprisoned for her environmental work, especially against coal use, as part of an effort to silence dissent from environmental groups.
“Her arrest has already had a chilling effect on other environmental civil society groups advocating for environmental protection and addressing the effects of climate change, on behalf of the Vietnamese people. We call on the government to release her immediately and all those detained on the pretext of other charges for doing their work on climate protection.”
Ms Nguy Thi Khanh has dedicated her life’s work to fighting against coal expansion and advocating for a green transition and sustainable development. In the past, her work has successfully influenced the government to adopt more ambitious climate targets and commit to a faster phase out of coal. She has also actively driven implementation of the 1 million solar rooftop homes in Vietnam programme.
However, in recent years, the government has cracked down on climate activists and powerful vested interests have made activism extremely risky in the country. In 2020, Ms Nguy acknowledged the risks of continuing her work.
In a statement to media, Michael Sutton, the Goldman Environmental Prize executive director, called for Ms Nguy’s release and said: “We believe that the legal charges levelled against her are part of a wider effort to silence environmental leaders in Vietnam.”
Observers believe that the imprisonment of Nguy Thi Khanh is another example of environmental activists being targeted and even killed in their line of work. The recent murder of Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips, Indigenous leader and UK journalist while on an expedition to expose environmental crimes in the Brazilian Amazon is a cruel reminder that those in power will use any and all means possible to stifle dissent.
Tasneem Essop, Executive Director, Climate Action Network, said: “The repression, harassment and targeting of environmental defenders and civil society leaders is a dangerous trend across the world and highlights the enormous risks so many activists continue to take to simply do their work to protect people and the planet.
“There is no climate justice without social justice and the protection of basic human rights – the rights of people to protest, to challenge the status quo and the state and the freedom to engage in our work without fear of repercussions.
“We call for the immediate release of Nguy Thi Khanh and all other civil society activists recently targeted by the Vietnamese authorities. We are closely watching the situation, not only in Vietnam, but also elsewhere in the world. We stand in solidarity with all those fighting for a better, safer and just future. An injury to one is an injury to all.”