Family of Vietnamese Democracy Advocate Suspects Poisoning by Prison Staff


2018-11-26
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vietnam-thuc2-070318.jpg Jailed Vietnamese dissident Tran Huynh Duy Thuc is shown during a prison visit in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of Thuc's family

The family of a jailed Vietnamese pro-Democracy activist suspects that the latest in a series of health problems during his incarceration could be the result of poisoning at the hands of prison authorities.

Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, who has been serving a 16-year sentence under Article 79 of the country’s penal code for writing online articles criticizing the Vietnamese government, had a monthly visit with his family on November 24, at Prison No. 6 in Nghe An Province, where he discussed in detail a case of sudden illness.

Tran’s brother, Tran Huynh Duy Tan told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that during the visit, Tran said that on November 20 “at around 5:15 a.m. he felt very dizzy, was sweating profusely, and that after drinking water he had a bout of bloody vomiting and a headache.”

“He checked his own blood pressure, which was extremely high at 150/110,” the brother said. Normal blood pressure is between 90/60 and 120/80.

According to the 88 Project, while resting, Tran vomited a yellow and green liquid.

The Illinois-based Vietnamese political prisoner advocacy nonprofit said the prison’s medical staff then examined him and gave him two pills for “cerebral blood flow deficiency,” which he also immediately regurgitated.

“At about 7 a.m. his blood pressure returned to normal and he was able to eat breakfast, but felt very tired all day,” said Tran’s brother.

His health returned to normal the following day. The sudden nature of the vomiting combined with the rapid return to health is what caused the family to suspect foul play.

During the visit Tran also asked his family to consult a doctor to determine possible causes of his sudden illness. He also said that since that day he is refusing to eat prison food, instead subsisting on instant noodles.

“He said that prison guards threatened to stop providing him with boiling water to cook the noodles, but said he would eat them raw if necessary,” Tran’s brother said.

The 88 Project wrote that the prison now appears to be trying to make life difficult for Tran, taking away not only his access to boiling water, but also denying him a flashlight, a sphygmomanometer, or a glucose meter. When he asked them to explain their legal basis for taking away these privileges, he got no reply.

RFA reached out to Dr. Dinh Duc Long of the Post Office Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City to discuss the family’s suspicions.

“I don’t have his health records. I only have the information the family provided. I think the vomiting might just be a sign of an empty stomach,” the doctor said.

“However, cerebral blood flow deficiency, which is what the prison’s health officers diagnosed, should be immediately treated,” he added.

RFA attempted to contact the prison using its publicly listed phone number, but was unable to connect.

The 88 project said that the information about Tran’s sudden illness matches that which a foreign diplomat last week relayed to Le Cong Dinh, a U.S.-trained human rights lawyer who was sentenced to five years in the same case against Tran in 2010.

The diplomat said that authorities are trying to use mental torture to force Tran to confess guilt so he can be released and stay inside Vietnam, as he refuses to accept exile as has been offered by the Vietnamese government.

According to previous RFA reports, Tran’s health has been an ongoing issue this year. In August he had initiated a hunger strike and family members described him as tired and thin, while in April they were worried that the absence of light in his cell was causing him vision problems.

Reported by An Nguyen for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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