Vietnam: Release of musician after four years in prison

16 December 2015


Authorities in Vietnam have freed prominent musician Vo Minh Tri from prison after serving his full four-year sentence for writing politically sensitive songs, which he said he has “no regrets” about composing.

Tri, a 37-year-old drummer who is also known as Viet Khang, was released early on Sunday 13 December 2015 and driven by police escort to his family’s home outside of Vietnam’s commercial capital Ho Chi Minh City, where he arrived late in the afternoon the following day, he told Radio Free Asia’s Vietnamese Service.

“There was no family waiting outside — [the prison authorities] escorted me home,” he said, noting that his relatives were not allowed to pick him up from the prison because he is serving a two-year probation following his release.

Viet Khang said he has “no regrets” about writing his songs ‘Where Is My Vietnam?’ and ‘Who Are You?’, which led to his December 2011 arrest and conviction in October 2012 for “propaganda against the state” amid a crackdown on dissent not tolerated in the one-party communist state.

“Everything I did was done for a purpose—contributing to making the voice of the Vietnamese people heard. I am a patriotic musician — I love my country in my own way and I have nothing to regret. Many people understand what I was trying to say and they were able to understand it by listening to my songs. That is enough to make me happy,” Tri said.

Tri, who is known for writing lyrics which rail against a widening income gap between Vietnam’s wealthy and poor, and against state crackdowns on activists protesting Chinese claims in the South China Sea, said he would return to his music soon after he had settled a few personal affairs.

“As for my career — just as for many artists — it is impossible to abandon. Singing, making music and making our lives more beautiful is what I do,” he told Radio Free Asia.

Tri was convicted alongside 37-year-old songwriter Tran Vu Anh Binh, also known as Hoang Nhat Thong, who was handed a six-year sentence on the same charges and is still in prison.

Freemuse has campaigned for the release of both artists and welcomes the release of Vo Minh Tri, but at the same time calls for the unconditional release of Tran Vu Anh Binh.

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