Jailed Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, also known as Mother Mushroom, has begun a hunger strike in prison, citing authorities’ refusal to transfer her to a cell away from a hostile and threatening cellmate, her mother says.
Quynh told her mother, Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan, in a phone call that she will now refuse to eat until she is moved, Lan told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Friday.
“I was at home on July 6 and heard the phone ring, and I recognized the calling number from the prison,” Lan said, adding that she immediately picked up the phone and heard a voice directing her daughter to speak.
“My daughter said that from now on she won’t eat anything, not even the food that I send to her, until prison authorities address the requests that she has made,” she said.
The phone call lasted only five minutes, Lan said, and she was able to tell her daughter only to watch out for her health.
Quynh, also known by her blogger handle Mother Mushroom, had blogged about human rights abuses and official corruption for more than a decade.
She had also criticized the government’s response to a 2016 toxic waste spill by the Taiwan-owned Formosa Plastics Group that destroyed the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Vietnamese living in four coastal provinces.
Arrested on Oct. 10, 2016 she was sentenced in June 2017 to a decade in jail on charges of spreading “propaganda against the state” under Article 88 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.
Speaking to RFA in a report last week, Lan said that Quynh says she can no longer endure what she described as the mental torture of her life each day behind bars.
“I am now held in a cell with three other people, and one of them is always cursing me with the worst words I have ever heard,” Lan said her daughter told her. “She is so cruel that I cannot deal with her.”
Guards have turned down Quynh’s requests to be moved to another cell, calling her cellmate’s abusive behavior a case of “common quarrels,” Lan said, adding that her daughter has asked her now to visit her once a month to make sure she is still alive.
Acting under pressure from Vietnam’s embassy in Bangkok and Thai police, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) meanwhile canceled a scheduled showing of a documentary describing the hardships faced by Quynh’s family following her arrest.
Called “When Mother’s Away,” the film was described on July 5 by deputy spokesperson for Vietnam’s foreign ministry Ngo Toan Thang as containing fabricated information about a lawfully convicted criminal.
Speaking to RFA, Quynh’s mother Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan said the film accurately tells the story of her family’s daily life.
“It is a true story about our family. I don’t know what is not true about this film,” Lan said.
Grace Bui, a Vietnamese activist living in Thailand, said she was not surprised to hear the film’s showing had been canceled.
“This is not the first time that Thailand has banned something related to the human rights situation in Vietnam,” Bui said.
“Last year, they did not allow Human Rights Watch to hold an event announcing their human rights report on Vietnam,” she said.
Writing on his Facebook page on July 4, attorney Trinh Hoi, a representative of the U.S.-based organization VOICE, which is promoting the film, said that “Hanoi can use all kinds of tricks to ban the film about Mother Mushroom.”
“But truth is truth. No matter how difficult it is, I will promote the film wherever truth is respected.”
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Richard Finney.