Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Consciences Warns Situation of Prisoners of Conscience

FVPoC | 29/3/2013

Translation by Vu Quoc Ngu (Defend The Defenders)

Tell The World

Hội Cựu tù nhân lương tâm

The Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Consciences (FVPOC) have strongly condemned the harassments of Communist Party of Vietnam and its government from the central level to the grassroot level against local residents. Vietnam’s election to the UN Human Rights Council, its signing of the UN Convention against Torture as well as taking Nov 9 as the Vietnam Law Day cannot cheat international and local people. These moves cannothide the facts that the government is continuing to supress those people who demand for democracy and human rights.

Expressing its sympathy to harassed political prisoners who are inhumanely treated by the Vietnamese communist government, the FVPOC condemns the Vietnamese government

1. Freeing death-waiting prisoners

In mid March, Vietnam released decade-long prisoner Nguyen Huu Cau, 67, a former officer of the Vietnam Republic’s army. Mr. Cau spent 32 years in prison, not including five-year re-education camp, under charges of composing anti-state songs and filing denouncements against Kien Giang province’s state officials whom he accused of corruption and having external relations. He was sentenced for death penalty for conducting reactionary activities, later reduced to life imprisonment.

The long-term imprisonment took his youth, family happiness and the hope of his relatives. Over 500 letters of his family begging for fair investigation had been ignored.

During his 32 year in prison, he has been suffering a number of serious diseases, including stomach, nearly blindness, and heart disorder, and remains with one teeth only. On March 22, the communist government freed him and he was hospitalized to get medical treatment.

In the same week, Vietnam’s government also released the second political prisoner, 60-year former teacher Dinh Dang Dinh, who was arrested in October, 2011 and later was sentenced for 6 years imprisonment under the Article 88 of the Penal Code for calling local resident to protest against the bauxite mining project in the Central Highlands, and advocating for multi-party democracy. During his spending in prison, he was not allowed to treat his stomach disease. As a chemistry teacher, Mr. Dinh suspected that he was poisoned with toxic chemicals via food and water. When the prison authorities agreed to allow him to get medical treatment, he was found to be at the final state of stomach cancer. On March 21, he was freed but lays in bed with few days left.

2. Imprisoning many H’mong ethnic people

In 2013, numerous people of Hmong ethnic minority living in the northern provinces were arrested for following a new religion established by Duong Van Minh. Mr. Minh, since late of the 20th century, has called on Hmong people to live in modern style, especially in burrying died relatives. Minh advocates for not keeping the death one week in the house before burrying, with aim to halt environment pollution and spending. However, the progressive changes were not recognized by the local communist governments in Cao Bang, Bac Can, Thai Nguyen and Tuyen Quang provinces. Authorities of these provinces demanded Hmong people to apply old traditions which are unhygienic and costly. They arrested eight people which are considered initiators of the “new religion”. Earlier, Mr. Minh was sentenced for five years of imprisonment.

This month, the arrested Hmong peole were tried and charged under Article 258 of the Penal Code, which is often used to supress freedom of expression. On March 14, Hoang Van Sang was sentenced for 18 months and on March 20, Duong Van Tu and Ly Van Dinh were given 21 months and 15 months of prison, respectively. The remaining five are expected to be tried soon.

On March 20, nearly 1,000 Hmong people gathered outside of the court room demanding freedom for the charged people. However, they were violently supressed by police with tear gas and electrical batoons. Dozens of them, including women, were severely beaten. The police also detained four or five peaceful protestors.

3. Presecution of Ms. Bui Thi Minh Hang, Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh and Mr. Nguyen Van Minh.

On Feb 9, when former political prisoner Nguyen Bac Truyen was staying in a house of his engaged girlfriend in Long Hung commune, Lap Vo district in Dong Thap province, local police surged in, beat him severely and detained him to Sai Gon. He was released one day later.

Two days later, a group of 21 residents, most of them are followers of Hoa Hao Budhist, planned to visit Mr. Truyen’s house. However, the group were attacked by thousands of policemen, militia and mobs near Mr. Truyen’s house. After beating them severely, police detained all of them for two days without providing food.

The police still hold three of them, named Mr. Nguyen Van Minh, Ms. Bui Thi Minh Hang and Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh. All three are activists, which have assisted residents in asking for justice, advocated multi-party democracy and protested China’s expansionism in the East Sea. The trio was transferred in a detention facility of Dong Thap provincial Police department in An Binh commune in Cao Lanh district.

The trio are expected to be tried under of fabricated charges of traffic-harming gathering, conducting activities against on-duty state officials and harming public disorder.

Mr. Minh, Ms. Hang and Ms. Quynh are reportedly to conduct hunger strike in police’s custody.

In order to mislead public opinion before the coming trial for the trio, on Feb 27, Dong Thap province’s television channel publicized a fabricated report on arrests of Mr. Truyen and others. After that, security officers of Lap Vo district forced five of the arrested to stand against the remaining detained fellows. However, all 18 detained Hoa Hao followers declared they will appear in the court as witnesses in favour of the trio.

Relatives of the trio many times came to the detention facility asking to meet with the arrested, however, their requests were rejected. Lawers of the trio have met many difficulities in preparing defense for their clients. Many friends of the trio were supressed last Sunday [March 23] when they tried to gather in Hanoi’s center to ask for their release.

4. Criminalizing Hoa Hao Budhist religious activities

After the country’s reunification in 1975, Hoa Hao Budhist sector has most severely been suffered harasment of the communist government. The government has banned all sect’s activities. Hoa Hao followers are not allowed to gather in a group of over three persons while all properties of the sect had been robbed. Since 2000, the situation has been eased but the government still supresses the sect, forcing many followers, including Ms. Nguyen Thi Thu in 2001 and Tran Van Ut in 2005, to conduct self-immolation to protest. In 2009, the government set up a state-controled Central Steering Committee for the sect, and continues to arrest numerous followers. It still holds 16 Hoa Hoa followers in prison with total 99 years and one life imprisonment, excluding Mr. Ha Hai who died in prison.

The government has used writers to produce wrong information on the sect. It also not allows followers to mark the annual anniversary of the death of late leader Huynh Phu So who was assassinated by communists in 1947

This year, the sect’s leadership had determined to hold the anniversary on March 25 at the house of Nguyen Van Vinh in Long Hoa village, Long Giang commune in Cho Moi district of An Giang province. Although receiving the letter from the sector’s leadership asking for permision as well as invitation for attending the event, the An Giang province’s authorities sent a team to Mr. Vinh’s house one week earlier to deliver a decision to halt the event. They also requested the senior clerks of the sect to gather in state’s office where they theatened to supress any protest.

Considering the ban illegal, the sect’s leadership planned to hold the anniversary. In afternoon of March 21, over 1,000 policemen, militia and mobs with support of modern equipment attacked Mr. Vinh house, detained around 30 followers and severely beat them. Witnising the violent supression of the local police, Ms. Tran Thi Sinh, 82, tried to use petrol to self-immolate. However, she was beaten by mobs, who took out her dresses. After that, policemen took all things which can be used in the anniversary event as well as personnel possessions.

The consequences of the police attack was huge: Ms. Vo Thi Gam, wife of Mr. Ha Hai, is in emergency bed of Chau Thanh district’s hospital.

The police is holding surveyllance of over 50 clerks’ house. They do not allow people to go out of their houses, including sick ones who need to go to hospitals

Hoa Hao followers from other provinces who plan to attend the event have also harassed by police. The anniversary organized by Vo Van Lien in Quang Minh pagoda cannot be realized by the same reason.

5. Inhumane treatment of many prisoners of conscience

The communist government has treated badly many prisoners of conscience. One of imprisoned is Ms. Ho Thi Bich Khuong in Prison No. 5 in Yen Dinh district in Thanh Hoa province. Her relatives informed that she has been put in an isolated cell for the last two months for minor violations of the prison’s rule which she has not conducted.

Another political prisoner who has been treated inhumane is Mr. Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay) in Prison No. 6 in Nghe An province. After meeting with him on March 17, his son informed that he has headache and fever in recent time. However, his request for medical treatment are not met. The prison gave him drugs without labels. In addition, his letter of denunciations against the prisone’s inhumane treatments sent to Nghe An province People’s Procuracy remained unanswered for many months.

Ms. Ta Phong Tan is held in Prison No. 5 in Yen Dinh district in Thanh Hoa province. Through telephone conversation, she informed her family that she is suffering from diseases without receiving proper medical treatment. Her new inmate repeatedly dishonors her and threatens to beat her. Prison’s staff also dishonor her mother Dang Thi Kim Lieng, who self-immolated to protest her arrest.

Responding to the inhumane moves against prisoners of conscience of the Vietnamese communist government, the FVPOC declares:

1. Strongly condemns the communist party and its government from the central level to the grassroot level for continous inhumane treatment against patriotic residents, and irrespectiveness of the country’s law and public moral. The election of Vietnam in the UN’s Human Rights Council, the signing of the UN’s Convention against Torture as well as taking Nov 9 as the Vietnam Law Day cannot serve as screen to cheat international and domestic people while the government continues to supress local activists who seek for democracy and better human rights.

The releases of prisoners of conscience Nguyen Huu Cau and Dinh Dang Dinh after both serving long-term and unfair sentences and suffering severe harrasment, are not humanity moves of the communist government. The moves are evidences showing that the communist government use Vietnamese people, especially political prisoners, as cards to play with foreign countries in a bid to maintain its ruling.

3. The government’s supression against Hmong ethnic minority, treating their willingness to live in modern style as unsanctioned sector, is an abuse of the dictatorship which tries to involve deeply in civil society and religious freedom in a bid to control all and force all people to follow the party’s direction. In addition, it is discrimination against ethnic minority.

4. The continous supression against Hoa Hao Budhist sector is a sign that the current leadership of the communist party has no intention to compensate for the mistakes of their predecessors. The government continues its desire to eliminate all religions, implementing policies which create the nation dividing and hateness among religions.

5. We call on all Vietnamese in the country and abroad as well as international governments and organizations to have concerns over situation of prisoners of conscience, to cooperate with us and other civil societies and all human rights groups as well as supressed Vietnamese to conduct peaceful revolution in a bid to bring freedom for all citizens and create a government which respects human rights and law.

Vietnam, March 29, 2014

Steering Committee of the Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Consciences