Brutal conditions push Vietnam's political prisoners close to death

Inmates who resist 're-education' are being refused urgent medical treatment, say families
Brutal conditions push Vietnam's political prisoners close to death

Nguyen Van Tuc holds a poster on Jan. 19, 2017, commemorating Vietnamese soldiers killed by Chinese troops on the Paracel Islands in 1974. His wife says he is so ill he expects to be dead when she next visits. (Photo courtesy of Thuy An Nguyen) reporter, Hanoi
August 30, 2019
The health of political prisoners in Vietnam is deteriorating fast due to the brutal treatment they have been receiving in jail after staging hunger strikes, say their relatives.

Bui Thi Re said her husband Nguyen Van Tuc “has very bad health and fell unconscious for hours, nearly dying.”

Re and two of his siblings visited him at Prison Camp No. 6 in the mountain district of Thanh Chuong in Nghe An province on Aug. 28.

She said Tuc, 59, was suffering from severe cardiovascular problems, hemorrhoids and poor eyesight and warned he would no longer be alive to meet them when they returned next time.

Tuc, who was jailed for 13 years and given five years probation after finishing a term for conducting activities to overthrow the communist government in 2018, said his anguish has been exacerbated by a cellmate who treats him like an enemy.

The man is serving a life sentence for drug dealing but when Tuc, a pro-democracy activist, asked prison officers to move him to another cell, his demand was not granted.

Rights denied

Re said many security officers surrounded them while they visited her husband and told them not to talk about social and political issues.

She also said they restricted their visit to 45 minutes, instead of the 60 minutes allowed by law. Their reason, she said, was that Tuc was being punished for making no progress in his “re-education” and was refusing to accept he had been guilty of a crime.

They further threatened that if he continued to resist changing his attitude, he would be banned from meeting his relatives again. Relatives have a legal right to visit prisoners once a month.

Re said they allowed her husband to receive only five kilograms of food and other basic supplies from his family members.

Before the meeting ended, she said her husband insisted he was on good terms with the staff and would not displease them before dying.

Earlier, Tuc and other political prisoners staged a hunger strike in protest at prison officials who removed electric fans from their cells, despite temperatures reaching 42 degrees Celsius. They held firm until the fans were installed again some weeks later.

‘Release them now’

A similar story was told by Nguyen Kim Thanh, who said her husband Truong Minh Duc, another political prisoner being detained at the same prison camp, was in bad health and had already suffered heart attacks.

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She said Duc, a 59-year-old Catholic, had been “disciplined” for protesting to prison officers when they shortened his meeting with her earlier in August.

She accused officers of long delaying her deliveries of food, supplies and letters in order to intensify his stress and wear him out.

On Aug. 27, Human Rights Watch said at least 131 activists remained behind bars in Vietnam for exercising their basic rights. The international group called on the government to “immediately release all these political prisoners and detainees.”

It said some of the most urgent cases included prisoners needing urgent medical help for serious conditions, including Tuc and three others.

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