Two Vietnamese Activists Now in Failing Health in Prison

Jailed Vietnamese democracy activist Nguyen Trung Truc is shown in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of Nguyen Trung Truc

Two activists held in Vietnam on political charges are in poor health in prison, with authorities failing over the last several months to address medical concerns previously brought to their attention, family members say.

Nguyen Trung Truc, a member of the online advocacy group Brotherhood for Democracy, was already in declining health in July at Prison No. 5 in Thanh Hoa province, and now suffers from inflammation of his eyes, his son told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Friday.

“He told me that he developed this new condition about a week ago,” Nguyen Quang Trung said following a visit to the prison where his father is serving a 12-year prison term on charges of subversion.

“The prison provided him with medicine, pills, and eye drops, but these didn’t help,” he said, adding that prison officials refused to tell his father what medicines he had been given, and that when he stopped taking them, his condition began to improve.

“His eyes are a little better now, not red anymore, but still sore,” he said.

Nguyen Trung Truc had complained before of failing health during a phone call in July that lasted only 20 seconds before the signal was lost, Nguyen’s son told RFA in an earlier report.

“Before my father was imprisoned, his health condition was very good, and he never complained,” the younger man said. “But since he was imprisoned, my father has suffered from constant headaches and decreased vision.”

News of the death on Dec. 10 from an apparent stroke of another dissident, Dao Quang Thuc, held in Prison No. 6 in Nghe An province, has now left him and other family members worried, the younger Nguyen said.

Possible symptoms of cancer

Meanwhile, jailed activist Ho Duc Hoa, now serving a 13-year prison term for “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration,” is suffering from liver disease, his brother Ho Van Luc told RFA on Friday following a Dec. 7 visit to the prison.

Now held at the Ba Sao Prison in Nam Ha province, Ho was arrested in August 2011 as part of a crackdown on activists with ties to religious organizations, anti-China protests, environmental advocacy, and citizen journalism.

In August, Ho told family members he had been refused medical care by prison authorities over the previous three months despite suffering from a number of health problems including stomach pain, high blood pressure, and numbness.

Recent examinations by doctors at a hospital and in prison have now revealed possible symptoms of cancer, Ho’s brother Ho Van Luc said.

“My brother tires easily and has trouble moving around . . . and he is confined in a room with no ventilation, which causes further fatigue,” he said, adding that requests to prison authorities for transfer to another room have been refused.

Lawmakers appeal for help

Separately, four U.S. lawmakers wrote this week to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to urge intervention in the case of a Vietnamese environmental activist sent back to Vietnam by the United States in October after losing a bid for political asylum.

Ha Van Thanh arrived back in Vietnam on Oct. 20, and has reportedly been beaten in detention following his return.

Writing in a Dec. 17 letter, congressmen Alan Lowenthal, J. Luis Correa, Harley Rouda, and Ro Khanna noted Ha’s involvement in leading and assisting Catholic parishioners in peaceful protests following a massive toxic waste spill three years ago that devastated coastal communities in Vietnam.

Though the U.S. Department of Justice determined that Ha was in no danger of torture if sent back to Vietnam after traveling through several countries to gain access to the United States, Ha’s fears of abuse have now “been proven correct,” the congressmen wrote.

“We respectfully urge your intervention in this case and call for all charges against him [in Vietnam] to be dropped.”

Estimates of the number of prisoners of conscience now held in Vietnam’s jails vary widely, with Human Rights Watch putting the number in October at 138. The rights group Defend the Defenders meanwhile puts the number as at least 240, with 36 convicted this year alone.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by An Nguyen. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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