Vietnamese Dissident in Failing Health in Prison

Prison officials refuse to provide democracy advocate Tran Anh Kim with medical care until they hear from higher-ups.

Vietnamese dissident Tran Anh Kim is shown in court in a screen grab, May 26, 2017.

Democracy advocate and former Vietnamese army officer Tran Anh Kim is in failing health in prison, with his jailers refusing medical treatment for his condition pending the approval of higher authorities, according to his wife.

Kim, 69, is suffering from prostatitis and is now “very thin and weak,” his wife Nguyen Thi Thom told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Monday after visiting Kim in prison.

“His condition is so severe that it can’t be treated effectively in prison, and he has asked to be sent to a higher-level hospital where he can receive better medical care,” Thom told RFA.

“But the prison officials have said they need to wait for the approval of higher authorities,” she said, adding,  “He is now very thin and weak, and he keeps saying that he’s innocent and that the sentence handed down to him was too harsh.”

“He wants to consult with his lawyers to file a complaint,” she said.

Kim, a former army colonel who served in the Vietnam War, has become one of Vietnam’s most persistent political dissidents.

Now held at the No. 5 Detention Center in Thanh Hoa province’s Yen Dinh district, he is currently serving a 13-year prison term following his conviction in 2015 on charges of working to overthrow the government under Article 79 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.

Vietnam’s authoritarian government frequently prosecutes Vietnamese democracy and human rights advocates under Article 79.

Kim had earlier served a five-year term on a similar charge after being accused in 2009 of belonging to a banned political organization called the Democratic Party of Vietnam and of “inciting” other people to join the pro-democracy group Bloc 8406.

In 2009, Kim was awarded a Hellman/Hammett grant by the New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch for his advocacy work, including circulating petitions protesting injustice and corruption in the Vietnamese Communist Party.

Vietnam currently holds at least 84 prisoners of conscience, the highest number in any country in Southeast Asia, according to rights group Amnesty International.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Emily Peyman. Written in English by Richard Finney.