Vietnamese prisoner of conscience accuses jailers of giving him contaminated water

Nguyen Van Duc Do experienced abdominal pain and had diarrhea.
By RFA Vietnamese
2023.05.23
Vietnamese prisoner of conscience accuses jailers of giving him contaminated water Nguyen Van Duc, a former member of the Coalition for National Self-Determination of the Vietnamese People and vice president of the Vietnam Labor Movement Do, reads a human rights handbook in an undated photo.
Nhi Be Hoang/Facebook

A political prisoner serving an 11-year sentence at a jail in southern Vietnam’s Dong Nai province has accused staffers of contaminating the drinking water in the prison canteen after he fell ill with abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Nguyen Van Duc Do, 47, said he got sick after drinking water he purchased at the canteen at the Xuan Loc Z30A Prison, more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Ho Chi Minh City, his younger brother, Nguyen Duc Hai, told Radio Free Asia on Tuesday. 

Do is serving the seventh year of his jail term for “carrying out activities to overthrow the government.” 

Do said he and his prison roommate, Vuong Thanh Thuan, recently bought 17 20-liter jugs of drinking water for drinking and cooking, and that he started having stomach aches and diarrhea while using the fourth jug. 

In Vietnamese prisons, inmates can buy water and ready-made foods, such as instant noodles, to cook for themselves.

“After leaving the water there for a few days, it smelled like pesticide,” Hai said. “When he drank the water again, he got an unbearable stomach flu and then diarrhea.”

Do suspected guards tried to poison him because he and his cellmate fell ill after using the water, while other inmates bought similar water jugs but did not have any problems, his brother said.

As a result, he now must buy more expensive bottled water to drink, though he will not be able to afford it for long, Hai said.

Do, a former member of the Coalition for National Self-Determination of the Vietnamese People and vice president of the Vietnam Labor Movement, asked a guard to let him see the prison warden to complain about the drinking water issue, but the prison guard did not respond to his request, his brother said.

The health and well-being of political prisoners has been a long-standing concern of human rights groups and inmates’ families whose relatives have become seriously ill or even died while in jail due to lack of safe food and water and access to outside medical care when needed. 

RFA could not reach officials at Xuan Loc Prison to verify the information.

A former political prisoner who was released from Xuan Loc Prison last year but wanted to remain anonymous for safety reasons, told RFA that the detention center provided inmates with water from drilled wells for drinking and washing.

Do was arrested in November 2016 along with four other members of the Coalition for National Self-Determination of the Vietnamese People. They all were charged with “carrying out activities to overthrow the government” and given sentences ranging from eight to 15 years imprisonment at a 2018 trial.

Do, who has constantly maintained his innocence, told his family that he refused a guard’s offer for a reduced sentence if he admitted guilt.

He has been held in solitary confinement at times without access to fresh air and exercise, causing his health to decline, and was threatened by guards with a dog when he banged on his cell door for help while experiencing chest pain and difficulty breathing, according to the 88 Project, a human rights group that advocates for persecuted Vietnamese political activists.

Translated by Anna Vu for RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.

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