Two high-profile Vietnamese women are working outside official government channels to obtain better treatment for the Vietnamese woman accused in the alleged assassination of the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
"I do not want to see a Vietnamese woman without the necessary protection of the law," Le Hoai Anh, a Ho Chi Minh City businesswoman whose HAL Group distributes beauty products and spa systems, told VOA by telephone of her efforts to help Doan Thi Huong.
According to social media posts, many Vietnamese believe their government is not doing enough to assist Doan.
"Nobody in the government is doing anything for her," Nguyen Hoang Anh, a lecturer at the Foreign Trade University in Hanoi, told VOA by telephone. She is also raising funds to support Doan. "It looks as if the only person who has seen her is a representative of Vietnam's embassy. I'm sure she is very lonely and in crisis."
Le and Nguyen have raised more than $10,000, which is more than a Vietnamese worker's annual income. They told VOA they have contacted Doan's family to discuss sending them to visit her and choosing a lawyer for her.
Doan and Siti Aisyah, a 25-year-old Indonesian, are accused of smearing the banned VX nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam's face in the departures area of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb. 13. The images of two women were captured on grainy airport security video.
The alleged assassination continues to draw international attention. Kim was estranged from his brother and lived in Macau. While the police have not determined if Pyongyang was behind the assassination, Seoul has accused the North Korean leader of ordering the killing of his half-brother.
The women reportedly have said they thought they were participating in a TV show that plays pranks on unsuspecting people. They face a mandatory death sentence if convicted.
"It is necessary to protect the legitimate rights and interests in accordance with the law to ensure that there is no miscarriage of justice or that the wrong person is charged with the wrong crime," Chu Hong Thanh, former representative of Vietnam in the ASEAN Law Association (ALA) told VOA on Friday.
Swandy Halim, Indonesia's representative to the ASEAN Law Association, told VOA on Friday the governments of Vietnam and Indonesia "should work together to protect their citizens in this case" as well as help "ensure the fairness of the trial process."
Tranh, who is a lecturer at Ho Chi Minh National Institute of Politics in Hanoi, told VOA that Vietnamese consular officials are cooperating with Malaysian authorities investigating the killing. He wants that cooperation to extend to Indonesian officials and defense attorneys. "The lawyers have a common voice, which multiplies their power," he said.
Hoang Ngoc Giao, a member of Vietnam's bar association, told VOA he's among those who have volunteered to help Doan. "We are confident about our English language skills as well as our legal knowledge," he said. "We will work closely with the assigned Malaysian lawyer to defend Huong."
Court proceedings in Malaysia can be held in English when necessary.
Doan Van Thanh, the accused woman's father, told VOA he did not want to go to Malaysia, because as a wounded veteran, he has trouble walking. Local sources told VOA that authorities have "advised" Doan to limit contact with journalists, especially the foreign media to "avoid being taken advantage of."