In a surprising turn of events, a local citizen in Da Nang, Vietnam, has been handed a prison sentence by a Vietnamese court. Buoi Duong Lam, a 39-year-old restaurateur known for his delectable pho dishes, has faced legal repercussions on charges of “inciting against the state.” The incident stems from a video posted on his Facebook account last November, which cleverly imitated a scene where the Minister of Public Security dined at a renowned restaurant in London, being served a gold-leaf steak by a famous chef.
The video quickly caught the attention of Vietnamese authorities, resulting in Lam’s subsequent arrest by the public security department. However, the charges against him didn’t stop there. The prosecution also accused Lam of defaming the country by posting a series of articles and videos, totaling 19 and 25, respectively, on various social media platforms.
What initially drew the public’s interest was the revelation that the Minister of Public Security had savored a steak adorned with gold leaf during his visit to the London eatery. The extravagant meal reportedly cost well over a million Vietnamese dong, leaving many astounded by the lavishness of the occasion. The incident gained widespread attention when a video featuring the renowned chef, known as “Salt Bae,” artfully serving the gold-leaf steak went viral on social media.
The video’s rapid dissemination within Vietnam led to an outpouring of criticism directed at the Minister, ultimately resulting in a heated public debate. Phil Robertson, the Deputy Director for Asia at Human Rights Watch (HRW), has called for Lam’s immediate release. In a statement, Robertson emphasized that the video presented by the Vietnamese public security as evidence reflects a troubling pattern of suppressing dissenting voices and stifling public opinion.
As this intriguing case unfolds, it raises questions about the boundaries of freedom of expression in Vietnam and highlights the power of social media in shaping public discourse. The court’s decision to sentence Lam serves as a reminder of the delicate balance between satire and government scrutiny, leaving many wondering about the future implications for online expression in the country.