UN Expresses Concern Over Arrest of Vietnamese Energy Expert After Biden's Visit

Nitish Verma
New Update

Arrest of Ngo Thi To Nhien


In a recent development that has drawn international attention, the United Nations human rights office expressed its concern over the arrest of Ngo Thi To Nhien, a Vietnamese green energy expert and the executive director of the Vietnam Initiative for Energy Transition (VIET). Nhien, who had previously collaborated with prominent international organizations such as the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United States aid agency, was detained by Hanoi police on September 15. This arrest occurred shortly after the US President signed business and human rights agreements with Hanoi.

Nhien's Role in Energy Transition

Nhien's arrest is significant, given her active participation in both international and national events related to energy transition. She has been part of consultations organized by the UNDP on energy transition, demonstrating her expertise in the field. Despite her arrest and the international attention it has garnered, the US embassy in Hanoi has not issued a statement or responded to requests for comments.


Pattern of Arrests

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has observed an alarming pattern in Vietnam over the past two years. Five environmental human rights defenders, including Nhien, have been arrested on accusations of tax evasion. Interestingly, these arrests have coincided with Vietnam's negotiations for international funding aimed at transitioning its energy sources away from coal. The Vietnamese government has not issued any public statement regarding Nhien's arrest and has not responded to requests for comment.

Low Public Profile, High Impact


Unlike many other activists, Nhien maintains a low public profile. She is recognized more as an expert in her field than as an activist. Her arrest, therefore, raises questions about the Vietnamese government's tolerance towards constructive criticism and its commitment to transitioning to green energy.

Execution of Le Van Manh

In an unrelated event, Vietnam recently carried out the execution of Le Van Manh, who was sentenced to death in 2005 for murder, child rape, and robbery. The European Union had previously called for a halt to the execution. Phil Robertson, the Deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, stated that Manh had a strong alibi that was overlooked, adding another layer of concern to Vietnam's human rights record.


The recent arrest of Ngo Thi To Nhien and the execution of Le Van Manh have brought Vietnam's human rights record into sharp focus. As the world watches, it remains to be seen how the Vietnamese government will respond to international criticism and whether it will uphold its commitment to transitioning to green energy.