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Just Energy Transition and the Suppression of Leading Climate Activists in Vietnam!

Dissonance between Rhetoric and Action

The recent arrests of climate activists in Vietnam, despite the country's involvement in the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP), raise serious concerns about the government's true intentions and commitment to addressing the climate crisis. It appears that Vietnam's actions may be driven by a desire to project a positive image internationally while suppressing dissent and stifling any opposition to their policies.

By cracking down on climate leaders, like Hoang Thi Minh Hong and Dang Dinh Bach, who have been instrumental in making the Just Energy Transition Partnership possible, Vietnam is contradicting its own narrative of being committed to environmental protection and sustainable development.

Read on as we’re demystifying what’s happening to Climate Leaders in Vietnam and what it means for our Mekong region ⤵️

What is Vietnam’s Just Energy Transition Partnership?

🤝 In a seemingly ironic turn of events, the Group of Seven (G7) countries agreed to allocate a staggering $15.5 billion to support Vietnam's Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP). The JETP presents a critical opportunity for Vietnam to transition towards clean energy and mitigate the devastating impacts of climate change.

This ambitious international agreement with Vietnam was announced on 14 December 2022 by the UK Government along with the United States and other G7 countries, as well as Denmark and Norway. In addition, the JETP also involves various financing partners, including multilateral development banks such as the IFC and ADB, national development banks, development finance agencies, and private financial institutions.

However, behind this financial aid lies a disheartening truth: the suppression of leading climate activists in Vietnam. The shrinking civic space in Vietnam and the country’s authorities pushing back against climate activists paradoxically contradict Vietnam's expressed willingness to tackle the detrimental effects of the climate crisis.

Who are some of the Climate Leaders being Jailed?

🗣️ Hoang Thi Minh Hong: A Leading Environmental Activist & Former Obama Scholar

Hoang Thi Minh Hong, a 51-year-old environmental activist, has long been at the forefront of Vietnam's fight against climate change. Arrested by the police on 1st June 2023, in Ho Chi Minh City, she was allegedly charged with trumped-up tax evasion. Many believe these charges to be politically motivated, aimed at silencing her influential voice and discouraging grassroots efforts toward environmental conservation. Hoang is currently being held incommunicado and has been denied access to a lawyer. She is confronted with the possibility of a maximum prison sentence of seven years, and if found guilty, she may be subjected to a prison system notorious for its history of torture and deliberate neglect.

🌱 Hong's Background and Contributions

Hoang Thi Minh Hong's journey as an environmental advocate began in 1997 when she became the first Vietnamese to set foot in Antarctica. Her dedication to environmental causes led her to work for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), where she implemented numerous projects focusing on wildlife conservation and environmental awareness. In 2013, Hong founded CHANGE, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the Vietnamese community about climate change, pollution, and the protection of endangered species. CHANGE's efforts impacted millions of people and garnered support from various international entities. Hoang's most notable accomplishment was being selected in 2018 as one of the twelve individuals worldwide to be part of the first class of Obama Foundation Scholars at Columbia University. The foundation recognized her work promoting "environmental preservation through communication, education, and community organizing toward a vision of a green and clean Vietnam protected by all people."

🚨 The Closure of CHANGE and Hong's Arrest

In a troubling turn of events, CHANGE was abruptly closed in October 2022, following persistent harassment from the Vietnamese government. Hong's arrest in June 2023 further emphasizes the government's crackdown on climate activists. This wave of repression coincides with Vietnam's reception of substantial foreign funding through the JETP, raising concerns about the government's commitment to climate change responses and stifling civil society organizations.

⚖️ Dang Dinh Bach: Another Victim of This Repression

Dang Dinh Bach, another climate activist in Vietnam, was among the very first to fall victim to the government's suppression tactics. Bach successfully advocated for the decarbonization of Vietnam's energy sector, an achievement that resulted in a five-year prison sentence on false tax evasion charges. Bach is confident that his tax evasion conviction is politically-motivated. Like Hong, Bach's imprisonment highlights the politically driven nature of these prosecutions and the use of tax evasion charges as a means to criminalize climate activism.

In a public opinion dated 11th May 2023, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called for the immediate release of Bach from jail. The Working Group confirmed that Bach's arrest and subsequent detention are arbitrary and in violation of international human rights law.

On 24 June 2023, two years had passed since Bach’s unfair arrest. In protest against his unjust imprisonment, he initiated a hunger strike on 9 June 2023 until his release or “until death”. Manushya Foundation stands in solidarity with Bach and, as a global act of unity, joined the hunger strike for a single day on 14 June 2023. Join us in our fight to set Bach free by sharing and signing the petition!

Why is the Vietnamese Government jailing those whose work made the JETP possible?

The arbitrary arrests and detentions of climate leaders under trumped-up ‘tax evasion’ charges are being used as a tactic to silence activists who may challenge or criticize the government's policies, particularly those related to energy transition.

Moreover, the arrests of climate activists may serve as a deterrent to others who are passionate about environmental advocacy. This tactic aims to create fear and inhibit the growth of a vibrant civil society that plays a crucial role in pushing for progressive change and holding governments accountable.

By suppressing dissent, the authorities can maintain a tight grip on the narrative and avoid scrutiny or accountability for potential shortcomings in their climate initiatives,” said Emilie Palamy Pradichit, Founder and Executive Director of Manushya Foundation, to the Southeast Asia Globe. The contradiction of the Vietnamese government receiving aid for climate initiatives while simultaneously suppressing climate activists presents a “dissonance between rhetoric and action,” she added.

📢 International Outcry

The international community has expressed grave concerns regarding Hoang Thi Minh Hong's arrest. Germany, as one of the G7 countries involved in the JETP with Vietnam, issued a statement denouncing the arrest and calling for her immediate release. The US State Department has also publicly condemned the arrest, recognizing Hong as a prominent environmental activist and urging the Vietnamese government to respect human rights and freedom of expression. Simultaneously, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has voiced concerns about the selective use of tax evasion charges to target environmentalists and climate change activists. The UK Government also expressed concerns about Hoang’s arrest and reminded that, as per the JETP, Vietnam is obliged to ensure “environmental organisations and other advocates [are] able to contribute meaningfully to climate and environmental policy making”.

Lastly, Mary Lawlor, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders, has previously shared her concerns and condemned Vietnam in a UN communication. Recently, on 14 June, she reiterated her concerns regarding Dang Dinh Bach’s hunger strike in light of his 5-year-sentence for defending the environment, emphasizing the need for the Vietnamese government to uphold human rights standards and protect the rights of environmental activists.

But are these public statements enough?

Aren’t world leaders a little hypocritical with their recent Open Letter on ‘A green transition that leaves no one behind’, co-issued by 5 out of 7 of the G7 countries (i.e. France, Germany, the UK, the US, Japan, and the EU as an observatory member) in addition to Brazil, Barbados, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, and the UAE; and yet, Climate leaders in Vietnam are imprisoned for their climate activism! Their Open Letter did obviously not address the need to protect those at the forefront of a Just Clean Energy Transition!

The million-dollar question: How can we make sure the international community’s aid to Vietnam's clean energy transition also holds the Vietnamese government accountable for its human rights violations?

It is essential to scrutinise whether this assistance is being used to truly advance sustainable development or merely as a means to enhance the government’s image on the global stage,” said Emile Palamy Pradichit to the Southeast Asia Globe.

📍 Manushya Founder’s call for the suspension of Vietnam’s JETP ahead of its implementation

Over the past two years, Hoang has become the fifth prominent climate activist in Vietnam to face trumped-up ‘tax evasion’ charges. "How many more climate leaders will have to be jailed before the JETP is suspended?" ponders Emilie Palamy Pradichit, the Founder and Executive Director of Manushya Foundation. “There can’t be any Just Energy Transition while Climate Leaders are cast as criminals and put in jail,” she added.

Presently, the Resource Mobilization Plan (RMP) of Vietnam's JETP (its detailed implementation plan) is being developed to support the objectives and financing program of the project. The mobilization of funds will depend on the approval of this plan, which is intended to be released at COP28 in Dubai, scheduled for November-December 2023.

Several multilateral development banks, including the ADB and IFC (part of the World Bank), have already committed their support while having policies in place that promote and protect public participation in their projects. These policies, such as the World Bank's Commitment Against Reprisals and the Asian Development Bank's Position on the Importance of Civil Society Participation, directly contradict the imprisonment of Vietnamese climate activists, highlighting the discrepancy between these existing policies and the current situation in Vietnam.

"In order for the Just Energy Transition Partnership to be worthy of being qualified as Just, it is imperative to establish clear liable preconditions and guarantees that climate leaders are set free and no longer subjected to silencing through arrest and incarceration. Additionally, it is crucial to involve and protect civil society in the process," Pradichit further emphasizes.

We hope that Vietnam will recognize the importance of fostering an environment that encourages open dialogue, respects freedom of expression, and upholds the rights of climate activists. Only through such inclusive engagement can the country make meaningful progress in addressing the climate crisis and genuinely transition toward a sustainable future.

Threatening the Mekong: Vietnam's Civic Space Clampdown and its Impact for a ‘Just Clean Energy Transition’ in the Region

At Manushya Foundation, we are deeply concerned about the possible implications of the shrinking space for civil society in Vietnam and the silencing of prominent voices that bravely speak Truth to Power and advocate for climate action. There is a genuine fear that the weaponization of laws, including the unjust use of tax evasion charges, to suppress climate and environmental activists in Vietnam may spread to other Southeast Asian countries. The Mekong region as a whole could be affected by this situation, and we worry about the broader impact.

This concern is particularly significant considering the existence of Thailand’s false climate solutions and bad forest conservation laws that are being weaponized by the Thai authorities to prosecute individuals unjustly and silence their voices, as is the case for the Sab Wai peasant villagers and the Karen indigenous peoples of Bangkloi, for instance, unfair cases among many others. Given these circumstances, it is difficult to ignore the possibility of Vietnam's approach being emulated in other nations across the region.

The weaponization of laws to crackdown on activists and restrict online freedom of expression is a concerning trend in several ASEAN countries. This phenomenon has been observed in the context of curbing calls for true democracy and stifling dissenting voices, where the use of laws to suppress activism and manipulate online spaces has been worryingly hinting at a new form of digital dictatorship. Examples of such laws include Vietnam's cybersecurity law, which has been criticized for its broad and vague provisions that allow authorities to monitor online activities, restrict online speech, and target individuals critical of the government. Following Vietnam's lead, other ASEAN countries, including Thailand, have introduced similar cybersecurity laws, raising concerns about the erosion of digital rights and freedom of expression in the region.

In the present context, there is a growing concern that the weaponization of tax evasion laws is being used to target climate activists and undermine the progress towards a Just Energy Transition in the Mekong region. This trend prioritizes profit and economic interests over the well-being of the people and the environment.

In Laos, as the country aspires to become the 'Battery of Southeast Asia' through the reckless plan to build over 100 environmentally unsustainable dams along the Mekong River to supply energy to neighboring nations, individuals who dare to speak out against the absence of a just transition are being unjustly imprisoned or subjected to threats of violence and even death. Communities are left behind and Lao environmental activists like Muay, a woman human rights defender fighting harmful business practices and corruption, or Jack, a 25-year-old democracy and freedom activist, are reduced to silence, jailed or gunned down. This only confirms that the reality behind Lao dams is far from being all #green.

A Just Energy Transition cannot happen when Environmental Defenders and Climate Leaders are jailed. In Vietnam, in Thailand, in Laos, anywhere in the Mekong region. More needs to be done. World leaders and international financial institutions can’t continue to put profit over people. Our lives and the environment matter the most.

#WeAreManushyan ♾ Equal Human Beings

Our Call to Action

✊Manushya Foundation along with 65 environmental and human rights organizations, request the assistance of former President Obama in calling for the unconditional release from jail of Obama Founder scholar Hoang Thi Minh Hong. We also reiterate our joint call urging the Vietnamese government to #FreeBach from jail, and we stand against the silencing, criminalization, and persecution of climate activists!

✊ We strongly urge the G7 and the implicated founders of the JETP to refrain from providing financing for the project until Vietnam demonstrates a genuine commitment to upholding international human rights standards, #FreeClimateLeaders and ceases the silencing of climate activists!

📣 Join us in raising your voice and amplifying stories like Hoang Hong and Bach's as we demand respect for human rights in Vietnam. Let us unite in our efforts to achieve a Just Energy Transition and climate justice for all!


1. Energy Transition Partnership, Vietnam - Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) preparatory works for the DCC, available at:

2. United Nations Human Rights Council, UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, (A/HRC/WGAD/2023/22), Opinion No. 22/2023 concerning Đặng Đình Bách (Viet Nam). Opinions adopted by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention at its ninety-sixth session, 27 March – 5 April 2023, available at:

3. Manushya Foundation, #StandwithBach on the 1 year anniversary of Bach’s sentencing, (24 January 2023), available at:

4. Manushya Foundation, #StandWithBach ✊🏼Join the Hunger Strike In Global Solidarity, (31 May 2023), available at:

5. #StandWithBach ✊🏼 Manushya Joins the Hunger Strike in Solidarity with Bach and Calls For His Release, (14 June 2023), available at:

6. Manushya Foundation website, Joint Open Letter calling for the release of Bach, (24 May 2023), available at:

7. Manushya Foundation website, JOINT LETTER: Arrest of Obama Foundation Scholar From Vietnam, (20 June 2023), available at:

8. Asian Development Bank, ADB and Civil Society - Civil Society Participation, available at:

10. UK Government, Press release - International agreement to support Vietnam's ambitious climate and energy goals, (14 December 2022), available at:

11. OHCHR, Viet Nam – Detention of environmental human rights defender Hoang Thi Minh Hong, (02 June 2023), available at:

12. The Washington Post, Germany alarmed by detention of Vietnam climate activist, warns on coal phase-out pact with Hanoi, (07 June 2023), available at:

13. US Department of State, On the Detention of Leaders and Staff of Vietnamese Environmental Civil Society Organization CHANGE, (02 June 2023), available at:

14. UK Government, News story - Arrest of Vietnamese climate advocate Hoang Thi Minh Hong: FCDO statement, (14 June 2023), available at:

15. NPR, Vietnam's human rights record is being scrutinized ahead of $15 billion climate deal, (26 May 2023), available at:

16. Global Voices, #StandWithBach: Support for detained environment lawyer who is on hunger strike in Vietnam, (23 June 2023), available at:

17. Manushya Foundation, Dang Dinh Bach's Two-Year Anniversary Arrest: Calling for Justice and Freedom, (24 June 2023), available at:

18. SRDefenders, Viet Nam: Sentencing of Human Rights Defenders Huynh Thuc Vy and Dang Dinh Bach (joint communication), (19 April 2022), available at: 19. Twitter, Mary Lawlor UN Special Rapporteur HRDs: “Hearing disturbing news that HRD Dang Dinh Bach from #Vietnam 🇻🇳 has been on hunger strike since 9 June. He was sentenced to a 5-year jail term for defending the environment. Criminalisation of environmental rights defenders should end.”, (14 June 2023), available at:

20. The Guardian, ‘A green transition that leaves no one behind’: world leaders release open letter, (20 June 2023), available at:

21. Manushya Foundation, CAMPAIGNS: #StopDigitalDictatorship IN SOUTHEAST ASIA, available at:


23. ROUSE, Vietnam: Cybersecurity Law Decree Issued, (22 August 2022), available at:

24. Manushya Foundation, Thailand's False Climate Solutions with Bad Forest Conservation Laws: THAILAND'S THIRD UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW CYCLE, (13 September 2021), available at:

25. Manushya Foundation, Thailand's false climate solutions violate human rights!, (18 Janvier 2022), available at:

26. Instagram, Manushya Foundation: #SaveSabWaiVillagers ⚖️ from unfair land eviction!, (03 February 2023), available at:

27. Instagram, Manushya Foundation: The Indigenous Communities of Bangkloi in Crisis, (06 September 2021), available at:

28. Instagram, Manushya Foundation: #Laos is building dams but sacrificing local communities in the process!, (18 April 2023), available at:

29. Manushya Foundation, As Laos is building dams, local communities are sacrificed in the process!, (18 April 2023), available at:

30. Manushya Foundation, CAMPAIGN: #FreeMuay from Jail in Laos, available at:

31. Manushya Foundation, #JusticeForJack: Shot, but Not Silenced, (01 June 2023), available at:

32. Southeast Asia Globe, ENERGY - A $30 billion pledge for Vietnam and Indonesia shows pitfalls of climate finance, (5 July 2023), available at:

While you’re here… ➡️ Learn more about how we #StandwithBach and advocate for his release from jail:

➡️ Learn more about our work on Climate Justice and how we advocate for a Just Transition!


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