Vietnamese journalist critically injured in fiery attack

Bangkok, January 21, 2011The Committee to Protect Journalists is gravely concerned about a Wednesday morning attack on Vietnamese reporter Le Hoang Hung, who was doused with chemicals and set on fire by an unknown assailant while sleeping in his house in Tan An town, according to local and international press reports

Hung, a reporter with the Vietnamese-language Nguoi Lao Dong (Laborer) newspaper, was in critical condition and transferred from Long An General Hospital in southern Long An province to Cho Ray Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City due to the severity of his burns.

“We call on Vietnam’s government to investigate and swiftly bring to justice the perpetrator of this terrible crime against journalist Le Hoang Hung,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “The government signaled its commitment to protecting journalists in a media decree earlier this month and until this crime is solved that commitment will have gone unfulfilled.”

Hung covered a wide range of topics for the newspaper, including recent critical coverage of the Long An Province Market Control Department and cross-border smuggling issues, according to an Nguoi Lao Dong colleague cited in news reports. The Associated Press quoted Nguyen Thi Ngoc Mai, a fellow reporter at the paper, as saying, “He covers everything from land disputes, the police beat to health care and education. It could be revenge.”

The Canadian Press quoted a doctor as saying that Hung suffered third-degree burns on around 20 percent of his body and that his wounds were potentially life-threatening. News reports on Thursday indicated the 51-year-old reporter was in critical but stable condition.

Hung’s wife, Tran Thi Lieu, told reporters that he had received several threatening SMS messages from unknown numbers prior to the attack. An initial police investigation into the attack found that the assailant trespassed into Hung’s house and entered a second-story room where the reporter was sleeping at around 1 a.m.