Political prisoners held in northern Vietnam’s Nam Ha Prison are suffering in temperatures soaring in their cells to over 100 degrees (37 C), the wife of one prisoner said, adding that her husband has also not been allowed to receive medicine sent to him by his family.
Fans set up in the prison in Ha Nam province are “hung in high places and seemed not to work well enough to cool,” Tran Thi An—wife of political prisoner Le Thanh Tung—told RFA on Friday, following a visit to the prison on May 11.
“[The guards] told prisoners that if they wrote a petition, the fans would be repaired. But finally, the fans were not repaired at all,” she said.
Tran also said she had sent medicine to her husband, who suffers from headaches and ringing in his ears, over a period of eight days, but that guards had refused to deliver it, and that letters sent by him to his family were never received.
Le Thanh Tung, now serving a prison term for calling for democracy in Vietnam, told Tran that political prisoners held at Nam Ha are being “persecuted,” she said.
Calls seeking comment from Nam Ha Prison authorities rang unanswered on Friday, but a family member of another prisoner held at Nam Ha, Phan Kim Khanh, confirmed Tran’s account to RFA of conditions at the prison.
Le Thanh Tung, a former soldier and freelance journalist also known as Le Ai Quoc, had previously been convicted under Article 88 of Vietnam’s Penal Code, which prohibits “conducting propaganda against the state,” for his association with Bloc 8406—a banned coalition of political groups advocating democratic reform in the one-party communist state.
Released in June 2015, Le was arrested again in December 2015 and sentenced a year later by a court in Thai Binh province to a 12-year term for “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the Penal Code.
Dissent is not tolerated in Vietnam, and authorities routinely use a set of vague provisions in the penal code to detain dozens of writers, bloggers, and activists calling for greater freedoms in the one-party communist state.
Estimates of the number of prisoners of conscience now held in Vietnam’s jails vary widely.
New York-based Human Rights Watch has said that authorities held 138 political prisoners as of October 2019, while Defend the Defenders has suggested that at least 240 are in detention, with 36 convicted last year alone.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Richard Finney.