Vietnam prison disciplines inmate for ‘insulting officers’ dignity’

The political prisoner asked to be given a photograph of a prize ceremony for his human rights work.
By RFA Vietnamese
2024.01.24
Vietnam prison disciplines inmate for ‘insulting officers’ dignity’ Truong Van Dung holds up a sign protesting the government's land seizure at Loc Hung Vegetable Garden in Ho Chi Minh City in this undated photo.
Facebook: Dung Truong

Vietnamese prisoner of conscience Truong Van Dung has been denied visits or gifts for a month, a fellow inmate claimed, after a row over a human rights prize.

Dung is serving a six-year sentence at Gia Trung Prison in Gia Lai province.

On Jan. 3, his family mailed a gift box containing a photo of the Viet Tan organization announcing that he had been selected for the 2023 Le Dinh Luong Human Rights Award.

The award was established in 2018 “to highlight the sacrifices and activities of individuals or organizations who are diligently fighting for the human rights of the Vietnamese people.”

Viet Tan is a U.S.-based group that says it aims to establish democracy in Vietnam through peaceful means.

When Dung’s parcel arrived, guards refused to give him the photo and an argument broke out, according to another inmate, Luu Van Vinh, who called his own family recently.

The family passed on the information to Dung’s wife Nghiem Thi Hop, who told Radio Free Asia the prison’s decision to deny him the photo was especially sad because the Lunar New Year celebrations are approaching.

“There is a photo of the human rights award,” she said.

“I printed out the photo of him being awarded the prize and sent it to him to make him happy.

“However, the prison authorities did not hand over the picture to him so he argued with them. 

“There was a big dispute and they nearly beat him. Later they punished him.” 

According to a notice from Gia Trung prison dated Jan. 17, Dung was warned about behavior that was deemed to be “irrelevant speech, insulting the honor and dignity of others,” but did not disclose what he said.

From Jan. 16 to Feb. 16, he is prohibited from meeting relatives, receiving gifts, receiving and sending letters, making phone calls, and buying goods from the prison canteen, the notice said.

From Feb. 17, he will only be able to see his relatives once every two months until he is considered by the prison to be “progressively reformed.”

According to Circular No. 10 issued in 2020 by the Ministry of Public Security several objects are prohibited from being brought into detention facilities. 

They are: “Books, newspapers, publications in foreign languages, materials on religion and beliefs that have not been approved; paintings, photos, films, and tapes with superstitious, reactionary, and depraved content; and cards, books, newspapers, publications, documents (printed or written) that negatively affect the management and education of prisoners.”

Dung is an active human rights campaigner. Before his arrest he helped relatives of imprisoned activists, joined street protests against human rights violations and China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. He also repeatedly hung protest banners in crowded places in Hanoi.

Dung was arrested in May 2022 for “propaganda against the State” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code. A year later, he was sentenced to six years in prison.

He was transferred from An Diem Prison in Quang Nam province to Gia Trung Prison, Gia Lai province in October last year.

Translated by RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Mike Firn and Taejun Kang. 

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