Parody of Salt Bae: Five-year prison sentence for Vietnamese noodle seller
A Vietnamese noodle seller who mocked one of the most influential ministers in the nation was sentenced to five and a half years in prison for spreading anti-state propaganda.
Bui Tuan Lam rose to fame after uploading a video in 2021 in which he imitated the distinctive hand movements of upscale London restauranteur Salt Bae.
A crisis sprang out when a clergyman was shown in a Salt Bae video devouring a steak coated in gold leaves.
The disagreement is categorically not tolerated by the Vietnamese authorities.
One day was all that it took for the 39-year-old’s trial and punishment in a Danang court. His attorney told the BBC that after his release, he must complete four years of probation.
In his film, Bui Tuan Lam scattered green onions on his noodle soups to mimic the Turkish celebrity chef, Nusret Gökçe, who frequently theatrically sprinkles salt on steak. Wife and kids of Bui Tuan Lam
Video of Vietnam’s Minister of Public Security To Lam chowing down on a $2,000 (£1,600) steak at the chef’s restaurant sparked outrage online days earlier.
Many Vietnamese observed the irony of a high communist official eating a dish that cost more than his monthly pay and doing so immediately after visiting Karl Marx’s grave in London.
At that time, the authorities detained Bui Tuan Lam and shut down his noodle stand, which had gained a lot of traction over the previous few days. He was jailed after his arrest in September of last year.
Wife and kids of Bui Tuan Lam IMAGE SOURCE,SUPPLIED
“Please free my dad for me and my sisters,” plead Bui Tuan Lam’s wife and kids in the image
As a result of his nearly ten years of political activism, Bui Tuan Lam was compelled to leave his work in Ho Chi Minh City and take a job selling noodles in his hometown of Danang.
Since 2014, he has been unable to leave Vietnam because his passport was seized. However, this is the first time the police have brought charges against him.
He was accused of posting 19 films on Facebook and 25 videos on YouTube that “affected the people’s confidence in the leadership of the state” according to the indictment.
Although the infamous Salt Bae parody was not mentioned, it is commonly believed that the Vietnamese government’s embarrassment over this is what led to his imprisonment.
No one should be duped, adds Human Rights Watch’s Phil Robertson, “even though the allegations are based on earlier Facebook posts.”
For daring to make fun of their steak-eating Minister To Lam, the Ministry of Public Security is seeking retribution against Bui Tuan Lam. Vietnam’s citizens were delighted by the viral green onion video because it once again demonstrated the inventiveness of the democracy movement, which the government is attempting to put out with force and false accusations.
Bui Tuan Lam’s letter to his wife
SOURCE OF IMAGE, LE THI THANH LAM
I will survive in prison no matter how difficult it is, Bui Tuan Lam writes in a letter to his wife that was smuggled out of jail.
Bui Tuan Lam was denied access to legal counsel while he was incarcerated until two weeks before his trial. Le Thi Thanh Lam, his wife, was not permitted to attend.
She admitted to only having one 10-minute visit with him since his detention with his three girls to the BBC’s Vietnamese service.
“We were unable to say much, but before saying farewell, my husband and our daughters sang a song. I would not have known about the trial if it hadn’t been for my husband telling me about it.
Le Thi Thanh Lam received a call three days earlier from an unknown person asking to bring a letter from her spouse. In the hopes that someone would pick them up and deliver them to her, he had scrawled notes to her on pieces of paper and left them on the ground.
“In a letter he sent to me in January, my husband stated that he would not enter a guilty plea because he stood by the cause he was championing. She told the BBC, “He told us to be brave and that it would be a miracle if she got those pieces of paper.
“I vehemently disagree with the punishment, no matter how many years the court hands down, because my husband is not guilty of anything. It is unlawful for him to be detained, whether for a day, a year, or ten years.
At least 170 persons are now incarcerated in Vietnam for holding opinions that the communist party deems unacceptable or acting in a way that is thought to pose a danger to the party’s hold on power.
Duong Van Thai, a dissident blogger who the UN has recognized as a refugee, was kidnapped in Thailand last month. It was commonly assumed that Vietnamese state operatives, who were also responsible for similar kidnappings in other nations, had carried it out.
Campaigning against Vietnam’s dependency on coal-fired energy, climate activists Nguy Thi Khanh, Dang Dinh Bach, Mai Phan Loi, and Bach Hung Duong were recently found guilty of tax evasion and sentenced to prison, a punishment infrequently meted out to other alleged tax evaders.