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Vietnam Releases Another Activist Blogger

Vietnam has released its second activist blogger in as many days in a move that could signal a softer approach to dissenters.

Hong Le Tho, who is being investigated for allegedly abusing democratic freedoms, was allowed to leave detention for house arrest Wednesday for medical reasons. Also, writer Nguyen Quang Lap was transferred to house arrest Tuesday while the investigation against him continues.

Both had been in custody since late last year after posting articles critical of the ruling Communist Party.

Lawyer Ha Huy Son, who has participated in many cases involving charges of national security, told VOA Vietnamese the releases could be signal a new approach for the Hanoi government.

“I think these releases [on parole] can be considered an act of scaling-down their cases," he said.

Political analyst Pham Chi Dung said Vietnam has an external motivation to tone down its treatment of activists.

"This definitely has to do with the Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP] [trade deal]. The Vietnamese authorities know they have far more benefits from being a part of the TPP than jailing prisoners of conscience, which brings them nothing but criticism from the international community," he said.

Vietnam is one of 12 countries, including the United States, that are trying to form the TPP.

Dung predicted there would be more political prisoners released this year as Vietnam marks 20 years of diplomatic relations with the U.S., which has long urged Hanoi to improve its human rights record.

Vietnam has detained several other bloggers for alleged anti-government postings in recent months. The arrests have been criticized by international human rights groups.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.