ucanews.com reporter, Ho Chi Minh CityUpdated: October 12, 2016 04:52 AM GMT
A file image of a Vietnamese police officer outside the Phuoc Co jail on the outskirts of the southern coastal town of Vung Tau. (Photo by AFP)
Prisoners of conscience have been offered contaminated food and drinking water after they protested for equal treatment in a prison camp in southern Vietnam, says the wife of one of those held.
"My husband and other prisoners have been given food mixed with fragments of broken glass and lead, and drinking water that smelt of insecticide," Tran Thi Hong said, adding that they also received food mixed with dead flies.
Her husband, Lutheran Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2011 for undermining national solidarity under Article 87 of the Vietnam penal code.
Hong and her daughter visited him at a prison in Binh Duong province, southern Vietnam, on Oct. 1.
Prison officers refused to let the three Lutherans and one indigenous faith follower buy extra food at the canteen which left them with only meagre prison rations to survive on. Hong said prison officials were doing this to force them to admit to their alleged crimes.
Rather than capitulate, the four prisoners went on hunger strike. Their protest lasted for 22 days in August, according to Hong.
"They did not stop their hunger strike until a senior official from the Ministry of Public Security based in Hanoi met them and promised to deal with their complaints," Hong said.
However, the official did not keep his promise and Chinh and his fellow prisoners have been treated more cruelly since then, Hong said.
Chinh is kept separate from other prisoners and was very pale and withdrawn when Hong last visited him. "If he is not released soon to get medical treatment, he will die," Hong said.
She said prisoners must buy extra food rations to survive. "Ethnic prisoners suffer from a lack of food and medicine because their relatives are too poor to visit them," she said.
Some of them have given up their struggle and accepted the charges against them, hoping that they would be freed soon, Hong added.
There is rampant corruption among prison officials, a former prisoner told ucanews.com. "They fight for their power and try to buy their positions. So they abuse their power to exploit prisoners for their private interests," he said.
Prisoners pay off officials and are given cushy inmate jobs and have the opportunity to be released early, he said. Those who have no money are forced to work hard in poor conditions.
"Political and religious prisoners are badly treated and tortured so they forcibly accept indictments against them. This is also a way to threaten other people," said the man who had completed a five-year sentence for opposing government land policies.