Vietnam has detained the director of an independent energy policy think tank, a rights group said Wednesday, the sixth person working on environmental issues taken into custody in the past two years.
Ngo Thi To Nhien, executive director of the Hanoi-based Vietnam Initiative for Energy Transition (VIET), was detained on September 15, according to The 88 Project, which advocates for freedom of expression in the Southeast Asian country.
Nhien is a researcher who has worked with a number of international organisations, including the World Bank, the European Union, the United Nations and the Asian Development Bank.
She was working on the implementation plan for Vietnam’s Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP), a $15-billion G7-funded project to help wean Vietnam off fossil fuels, at the time of her arrest, The 88 Project said.
“Nhien’s detention is significant as it signals that research on energy policy is now off limits,” said Ben Swanton of The 88 Project.
“This is the latest development in a disturbing trend of the Vietnamese government criminalising policy research and activism.”
Police also raided and searched the VIET office and interrogated the organisation’s staff.
The detention comes after the arrest of prominent climate activist Hoang Thi Minh Hong for alleged tax evasion in June. Her husband told AFP Wednesday her trial was scheduled for next week.
Vietnam’s authoritarian government has jailed four environmental human rights defenders for tax evasion — Nguy Thi Khanh, Mai Phan Loi, Bach Hung Duong, and Dang Dinh Bach.
Khanh, a globally recognised climate and energy campaigner who won the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2018, spent nearly a year in jail before she was released in May.
Vietnam has committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.