Freed Vietnamese Political Prisoner Decries Jail Conditions

vietnam-barbed-wire.jpg A file photo shows barbed wire at a prison in Vietnam.

A Vietnamese political prisoner released after 14 years in detention has called for better treatment for dissidents remaining in the country’s prison camps, saying he was barely able to survive his own sentence.

Huynh Anh Tri, who along with his brother Huynh Anh Tu was released on Sunday, said he knew of countless fellow inmates who had died from harsh conditions since his detention in 1999.

The two brothers, members of the U.S.-based Government of Free Vietnam—one of several opposition organizations set up by overseas Vietnamese—had both been convicted of “terrorism” with intent to overthrow Hanoi’s one-party, communist government.

Tri said he had been subjected to harsh treatment because of his status as a political prisoner.

“An animal in that situation surely would have died,” Tri told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

“But as a human, I was able to endure it because I have my mind and spirit,” he said.

“Many people died, both young and old … I can’t recall all of them,” he said.

Nguyen Huu Cau

Tri urged the government to pay greater attention to the health of Nguyen Huu Cau, one of Vietnam’s longest-serving political prisoners, who has lost most of his vision and hearing since his detention in 1982.

“I think Vietnam needs to look into Nguyen Huu Cau’s case,” Tri said.

“He went blind in prison, and that is different from someone who was blind when he was younger,” he said.

Tri, who was transferred to the Xuyen Moc prison camp following a riot at the Xuan Loc prison camp in June by inmates demanding better conditions, said prison guards told detainees they had the right to make up their own rules for how to treat prisoners.

“They said … how they kept us in custody was up to them.”

Since their release, Tri and Tu do not know where they will live now that their family members have been scattered or died while they were in prison, Tri said.  

Their mother and eldest brother have died, and their other siblings are living in Thailand with their 70-year-old father, he said.

“After 14 years in prison, now we don’t know where to live,” Tri said.  

Reported by An Nguyen for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.


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