The health of one of Vietnam’s longest-held political prisoners is deteriorating rapidly and he is seeking medical parole, his daughter said Monday, raising concerns about inadequate medical care in the prison.
Poet Nguyen Huu Cau, 66, who is serving a life sentence for “sabotage” over his writings that exposed corruption by ruling Communist Party officials, is nearly blind and mostly deaf, and is complaining of low blood flow to the brain while he suffers from a heart condition.
Cau’s daughter Nguyen Thi Anh Thu, who visited him at the Z30A Xuan Loc prison camp in Dong Nai province on Saturday after prison officials called to notify her of his worsening condition, said his health was failing.
“My father is very weak. He said he has low cerebral blood flow, and because of it he has been fainting frequently over the past ten days,” Thu told RFA’s Vietnamese Service after the visit to the prison, which is one of Vietnam’s main facilities for political prisoners.
“He said he feels very ill. He could not talk much and he had to pause a lot in conversation to catch his breath, and I saw that his walk was weak too,” said Thu, who had also visited her father earlier this month.
Cau told her the quality of care at the prison clinic was poor and asked her to submit a request for medical parole so that he could receive treatment elsewhere.
“He said the doctors there are not good,” Thu said.
“Even though I have very slim hope, I will still try my best so that he can receive treatment outside, because I feel so sad to see him in this situation.”
The Paris-based Vietnamese Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) said in a statement Monday that it was “extremely disturbed” about reports of Cau’s condition, saying he and other dissidents are subjected to a “particularly harsh regime" in the political section of the Xuan Loc facility.
Cau’s weak health is a result of harsh detention conditions and inadequate medical care over years in prison, it said.
He has spent a total of 37 years in detention, including periods in solitary confinement at Xuan Loc, and his health has worsened over the past few years.
A former officer in the South Vietnamese army, Cau served six years in a re-education camp after he was arrested in 1975 at the end of the Vietnam War.
He was arrested again in 1982 over poems and songs he wrote about corruption and abuse of power by officials and was later sentenced to death.
While in prison, he has written hundreds of letters to the authorities maintaining his innocence and demanding a retrial, but has not received a reply, according to VCHR.
VCHR urged Vietnam to release political prisoners and improve detention conditions for all prisoners.
“Subjecting prisoners to inhuman treatment—especially persons who should never have been detained at all—is inadmissible,” VCHR President Vo Van Ai said.
VCHR also raised concerns about medical treatment for Cau’s fellow political inmates Do Van Thai and Nguyen Tuan Nam, who are also held at Xuan Loc.
Thai, 53, contracted HIV/AIDS while in prison and is receiving no treatment for the condition, while Nam, 77, a former officer in the North Vietnamese army, suffers from lung inflammation and chronic back pain and cannot walk without help, the group said.
Reported by Thanh Quang for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.