Vietnamese political prisoners on hunger strike

Catholic writer among hunger strikers protesting brutal prison treatment
Vietnamese political prisoners on hunger strike

Catholic couple Truong Minh Duc and Nguyen Thi Kim Thanh attend a wedding before his arrest in 2017. (Photo supplied) reporter, Hanoi
June 26, 2019
A group of Vietnamese prisoners of conscience have been participating in a hunger strike for over two weeks, raising concerns about their wellbeing. 

The political prisoners have been on hunger strike at Prison Camp No. 6 in Thanh Chuong district of Nghe An province in north central Vietnam since June 11.

They are protesting against prison conditions and brutal treatment from guards, said Nguyen Thi Kim Thanh, a Catholic who is the wife of one of the prisoners. She was unsure how many were participating in the protest.

Thanh’s 59-year-old husband, Truong Minh Duc, who is also a Catholic, was a writer arrested in 2017 for "acting to overthrow the people's government.” He is serving a 12-year sentence in jail. 

“Duc is in poor health and he suffers various illnesses, including heart problems, so he can die soon,” she said.

Thanh is from the southern province of Binh Duong and she visited Duc at the prison on June 20. She said her husband told her that the prisoners began their hunger strike after prison officials took away electric fans from their hot cells.

Duc told her that he could not stand living in his small cell that had an iron-sheet roof. The temperature outside during the day was more than 40 degrees Celsius.

“My husband and other prisoners are treated inhumanely and suffer mental and physical torture,” Thanh said.

Prison officials allegedly allowed the couple to speak for only 30 minutes while they should be allowed to meet for an hour.

She said that Duc has also not been allowed to make the usual monthly five-minute phone calls to her.

Thanh said she has written to state officials, including Public Security Minister To Lam, calling for them to treat political prisoners humanely by immediately reinstalling electric fans in their cells.

Bui Thi Minh Hang, a former prisoner of conscience, said hunger strikes are the sole way that prisoners of conscience can use to oppose brutal treatment in prisons.

In contrast, Hang said relatives of people imprisoned for drug crimes bribe prison officials so that they can freely make visits and even have meals with their imprisoned family members.

Vietnam holds at least 128 prisoners of conscience across the country, according to Amnesty International.             

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