The 41 year old lawyer from Ho Chi Minh City is well known for defending a number of Vietnam's pro-democracy activists in recent years. His crime, according to police, is to have written a new constitution for Vietnam. Police say they will charge him under Vietnam's Criminal Code for distributing anti-government materials.
Presenter: Sen Lam
Speaker: Nguyen Do Thanh Phong, Australian based member of the leadership of Viet Tan
PHONG: Well attorney Le Cong Dinh is a very well known and well respected young lawyer in Vietnam. He has been actively involved in a number of cases and that's ranged from basic civil cases as well as very well known among the students and scholars as well because of his extensive knowledge and his aspiration to try to improve the country in general. So he's very well known within the country and abroad.
LAM: So does anyone know where Le Cong Dinh is being kept and indeed how he's doing since his arrest?
PHONG: We don't know, he was arrested on Saturday on the 13th of June and as you mentioned earlier he was arrested under Article 88 of the Vietnamese penal code which basically what it means it bans the distribution of propaganda against the state. But basically what we believe is that Le Cong Dinh was arrested purely because of his expressions, he has written a lot of articles making comments and suggestions to government policies ranging from simple things like the recent debatable bauxite mine in the central part of Vietnam which involved the Prime Minister, and it had caused a lot of discontent within the country of that project. And as you mentioned previously he has been doing his work by defending cases such as the well known case a couple of years ago involving human rights activists. So he was basically we believe being arrested and imprisoned for more or less his job, his work.
LAM: Well you mentioned the bauxite reserves, the bauxite mines, indeed Vietnam's decision to allow China to exploit these reserves in the central highlands seems to have become a rallying point for those people opposed to the government. Why do you think the bauxite mines have struck such a cord, that the whole issue has struck a cord?
PHONG: Well the bauxite mine apparently the project had been secretely dealt between the current Prime Minister and China and other mine companies for a number of years now. But it's only become public recently when an ex-general Vo Nguyen Giap actually raised these issues, and since then in the last few months it has caused a lot of comments and concern within the country, mostly within the scientific or environmentalist groups because the bauxite mine in the Central Highlands caused disastrous consequences to the environment, particularly with the ethnic minority community that lives within the region, and that was the main concern. But because it's involved government officials, particularly the Prime Minister and who knows with these financial arrangements it had caused a lot of worries and concern from the government perspective because of the public discontent of the above issues. But it's mainly to do with environmental consequences, which the government hasn't had any sort of thought through.