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CAN calls for immediate release of Vietnamese anti-coal activist

The international environmental group Climate Action Network (CAN) has called for the release of Vietnamese anti-coal activist Nguy Thi Khanh. In a news release Monday CAN condemned Nguy’s sentencing on tax evasion charges, saying she was one of a number of environmental activists targeted by state authorities in Vietnam. Nguy leads the Green Innovation and Development Center is also chair of the board of Climate Action Network South East Asia (CANSEA).

“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,” said CANSEA director and regional coordinator Nithi Nesadurai.

“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.”

CAN said that Nguy has dedicated her life’s work to fighting against an increase in the production and use of coal and trying to promote a transition to sustainable energy sources.

The group said Nguy had succeeded in influencing the Vietnamese government to commit to a faster transition from coal to green energy. It said the Goldman Environmental Prize winner and Eisenhower Fellow was key to the implementation of the 1 million solar rooftop homes in Vietnam program.

Nguy was arrested earlier this year and her office was ransacked. CAN said the raid was part of a crackdown on climate activists aimed at protecting what it called “powerful vested interests,” which have increased the risks faced by environmental activists in Vietnam.

State media has been silent on the case but people familiar with trial said that Nguy was found guilty of tax evasion and sentenced on Friday to two years in prison.

Michael Sutton, the Goldman Environmental Prize executive director, called for Nguy’s release, saying: “We believe that the legal charges leveled against her are part of a wider effort to silence environmental leaders in Vietnam.”

CAN cited the recent murder of indigenous leader Bruno Pereira and British journalist Dom Phillips in the Brazilian Amazon as a reminder that those aiming to expose environmental wrongdoing are putting their lives on the line and that those in power will use any means possible to stop them.

 “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,” said CAN executive director Tasneem Essop.

“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.”

CAN claims to be the world’s biggest climate network, made up of more than 1,500 civil society group in over 130 countries.