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Vietnamese Doctor Arrested for Posting Democracy Pamphlet on Internet - 2002-04-18

Vietnam has arrested a doctor who translated a U.S. government pamphlet on democracy and posted it on the Internet. Dr. Pham Hong Son is the third so-called Internet dissident jailed by the communist government this year.

The pamphlet titled "What is Democracy?" is freely available on the State Department's official Web site. But when Dr. Pham Hong Son decided to translate it from English into Vietnamese and publish it on the Internet, he raised the ire of his government.

According to the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, Vietnamese security forces searched Dr. Son's home in late March, interrogated him and seized his computer. He was arrested March 29 and remains in custody.

Vincent Brossel, is a spokesman for Reporters Without Borders and has followed the case closely. He said the Vietnamese government also has questioned Dr. Son about any contacts he has with overseas political groups.

"The first thing they asked him is about his translation in Vietnamese of some text that were published on the Web site of the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi. He is accused [of spreading] some so-called subversive information," Mr. Brossel said.

A physician who works for a pharmaceutical company, Dr. Son also writes for at least two Vietnamese-language Internet sites on current affairs. He apparently had no idea he could be arrested for his hobby.

Last month, he sent one of his articles to Communist Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh. The title? "Promising Signs for Democracy in Vietnam".

Dr. Son is the third dissident to be jailed for writing on the Internet. Two others were arrested for criticizing the government's border agreement with China.

Vietnam has been encouraging information technology as a way to achieve economic growth, but it keeps tight control of content. The government copies every e-mail and download of data from the Internet and blocks up to 2,000 Web sites - mostly political or pornographic.