A Vietnamese noodle vendor, Bui Tuan Lam, has been sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison for creating a satirical video parodying one of the country’s powerful ministers. The video, which went viral in 2021, mimicked the trademark gestures of the renowned London-based restaurateur, Salt Bae. Lam’s actions were deemed as anti-state propaganda, reflecting the strict intolerance of dissent by the Vietnamese government.
The incident that sparked the parody involved the Minister of Public Security, who was filmed eating a gold-leaf covered steak in a Salt Bae video, causing public outcry. Lam’s trial and swift sentencing in a Danang court took just one day, and he will face four years of probation upon his release. Lam, a political activist for nearly a decade, had previously lost his job and was forced to sell noodles in his hometown.
While Lam’s famous Salt Bae parody was not explicitly mentioned in the charges, it is widely believed to be the underlying reason for his arrest. Human rights organizations have condemned the Vietnamese government’s response, stating that it is an attempt to silence dissent and extinguish creativity within the democracy movement.
Lam’s case is not an isolated incident in Vietnam, with at least 170 individuals currently imprisoned for expressing views deemed unacceptable to the ruling communist party. This recent conviction highlights the government’s determination to maintain its monopoly on power and suppress any opposition or criticism.