Vietnamese Police Say Prisoner Died After a Fall, Revising Earlier Suicide Claim

2021-02-11
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Vietnamese Police Say Prisoner Died After a Fall, Revising Earlier Suicide Claim Vietnamese police officers stand outside the North Korean embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 26, 2019.
Reuters

Police in Vietnam said Thursday said that a prisoner who died in their custody last month had been severely injured after he fell, contradicting their earlier claim that he had committed suicide.

State-run VNExpress reported Thursday that on Jan. 6, 23-year-old Duong Quoc Minh, detained since Nov. 6 on charges of disrupting public order, fell and hit his head while resisting prison escorts at the Chi Hoa detention camp in Ho Chi Minh City, according to a representative of the camp.

However, in a Jan. 16 report published by local outlet Tuoi Tre, Duong’s mother Trieu Ngoc Binh said she received notice from the police on Jan. 6 that said her son had taken his own life and requested that she come to receive his body.

Upon retrieval from the city’s forensic center, Trieu said she found many bruises on Duong’s body, so she petitioned the city’s supreme people’s procuracy, the people’s procuracy, and the director of the police to investigate her son’s death.

Dang Dinh Manh, a Ho Chi Minh City lawyer, told RFA Thursday that stated causes of death inconsistent with apparent injuries are common in prisoner deaths.

“Normally reports of offenders’ deaths in detention camps have problems when held up to forensic examinations. Through the forensic examination, many things related to the death can be found,” he said.

“I don’t know anything about this particular case, but it is necessary to ask the police to provide a forensic report. From that report we would be able to know the cause of death,” said Dang.

A 2014 report by New York-based Human Rights Watch said that injuries and deaths in custody due to torture and police abuse are widespread in Vietnam.

“In some cases, police denied ever detaining subjects who later died in their custody or provided causes of death in custody that strain credulity including dozens of alleged suicides by hanging and electrocution,” the report said.

“In many other cases, only a vague and unconvincing explanation was given for a death in custody, even in cases where the police felt compelled to inform media,” it said.

RFA reported in December 2019 that Dao Quang Thuc, a retired teacher serving a 13-year sentence for his Facebook posts, died in what prison authorities called a stroke, only about a year after his term started.

The prison refused to release his body to his family for burial, telling them to conduct the funeral in the prison on the same day he died. The family was also pressured to allow the prison to perform his autopsy.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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