A Vietnamese noodle vendor who parodied Salt Bae has been jailed for five and a half years for anti-state propaganda.
In 2021, a video of Bui Tuan Lam went viral after he mimicked the internet-famous Turkish butcher Salt Bae, whose real name is Nusret Gökçe, and his trademark way of seasoning meat with salt.
Lam’s video went viral not long after the Vietnamese Minister of Public Security, To Lam, was captured eating gold-leaf covered steak at Salt Bae’s London restaurant, hand fed by Gökçe himself.
The meal he ate was said to be worth approximately £1,450, sparking controversy in Vietnam where many in the population live in poverty.
Lam claimed his video, in which he called himself “Green Onion Bae” was just for fun and a way to promote his beef noodle enterprise.
But, authorities interrogated Lam and closed down his noodle stall before arresting him in September 2022 on charges of anti-state propaganda.
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The street vendor has also been involved in political activism for close to 10 years, according to the BBC, and in 2014, had his passport confiscated making him unable to leave the country.
This is the first time Lam has been prosecuted, with the indictment claiming his Facebook and YouTube videos “affected the confidence of the people in the leadership of the state”.
Many believe the parody video was the instigating factor behind his arrest due to it being deemed to have embarrassed the Vietnamese government.
Phil Robertson from the Human Rights Watch, said: “Even though the charges are about past Facebook posts, no one should be fooled.”
He continued: “The Ministry of Public Security is seeking vengeance against Bui Tuan Lam for daring to mock their steak-eating Minister To Lam. The green onion video that went viral, and delighted people in Vietnam, showed once again the creativity of a democracy movement that the authorities are using brute force and bogus convictions to try to extinguish.”
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