Three jailed for waving South Vietnam flag

The US left many loyalists behind in South Vietnam in 1975. Source: Wikimedia

Three Vietnamese women who waved the national flags of the former South Vietnam have been jailed for “anti-state propaganda”.

The defendants, all in their late 50s, were found guilty of breaching an article of the criminal code that human rights groups and western governments say is routinely used to block free speech.

The state-run media said the women had previously protested about land disputes. They were arrested in July 2014 while protesting outside the US consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, the capital of the former Republic of Vietnam.

Their trial lasted half a day. Ngo Thi Minh Uoc, 57, received four years, and Nguyen Thi Tri and Nguyen Thi Be Hai, both 58, were given three years in jail by the People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City.

They were given two or three years of house arrest upon their release, media said.

The judge said their action was “very serious, infringing on national security, distorting, instigating, causing suspicion and mistrust of the people in the party and state”.

The three women had been fined for disturbing public order by participating in illegal protests on previous occasions, state media said.

North Vietnam toppled the US-backed South in 1975 and unified the nation.

The verdict followed a similar case last year, when a protester was jailed for 15 months for “disturbing public order” when he wore a uniform of the defeated South Vietnamese army.

Last week, human rights groups and the UN condemned Vietnam’s use of criminal laws to jail two political bloggers for “abusing democratic freedom”. The United States embassy said it was “disturbing”.

Open defiance of the authorities involving waving the flags of former South Vietnam is extremely rare.

Hanoi said it only punished those who broke the law.

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