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Vietnam Releases Blogger Điếu Cày Early – Why?

By Carl Thayer, C3S Paper No.2065

Vietnam has just released blogger Dieu Cay on what appears to be a “get out of jail, go straight to the United States” deal. What is your assessment?

Do you think Dieu Cay’s release is linked to a need for Vietnam to make powerful friends in light of the maritime conflict with China rather than a genuine shift in attitude in Hanoi towards respecting human rights?

ANSWER: Vietnam’s release of Nguyen Van Hai, better known by his blogging name Dieu Cay, was a political decision by Hanoi authorities. The fact that Dieu Cay was immediately put on a plane and flown out of the country to the United States indicates that a prior deal was arranged and Vietnam was responding to external pressures. This is a compromise that suits both Hanoi and Washington. The U.S. government has raised his case on several occasions. Dieu Cay was released early. He was first arrested in 2008 and in 2012 sentenced to twelve years. His early release reinforces the assessment that political calculations were behind the decision to free him. The only other reasons dissidents are released early are ill health or they have served half their term and have been on good behavior.

Dieu Cay’s release, when put in the context of other recent releases of political dissidents, does not signal a change in Vietnam’s policy on human rights. The most plausible explanations for this supposed trend is to meet U.S. demands linking an improvement in human rights with progress on the Trans-PacificPartnership agreement and the partial lifting of arms sale restrictions on Vietnam.

Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, “Vietnam Releases Blogger Điếu Cày Early – Why?,” Thayer Consultancy Background Brief, October 22, 2014. All background briefs are posted on (search for Thayer). To remove yourself from the mailing list type UNSUBSCRIBE in the Subject heading and hit the Reply key.

Thayer Consultancy provides political analysis of current regional security issues and other research support to selected clients. Thayer Consultancy was officially registered as a small business in Australia in 2002.

(Article reprinted with the permission of the author Carlyle A. Thayer, Emeritus Professor,The University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra email:

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