Father of Vietnamese Hunger Striker Turned Away Again by Police


2020-08-31
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vietnam-beaten2-082720.jpg Dong Tam detainee Trinh Ba Tu is shown beaten outside a prison in Nghe An after going to get his father, who had just been released, in a June 25, 2015 photo.
State Media

The father of a Vietnamese prisoner awaiting trial for his role in a deadly clash over land rights outside Hanoi has been turned away at the city’s police headquarters after he inquired about the condition of his son, who has been on hunger strike for over 20 days, he told RFA.

Trinh Ba Khiem, father of detained activist Trinh Ba Tu, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Friday that he and a group of residents from the city’s Duong Noi district visited the Public Security Ministry’s inspection office in Hanoi on Aug 26.

“The police received me along with three Duong Noi residents. I asked the ministry’s officers to allow me to call my son to ask about his health,” said Trinh Ba Khiem.

“If my son is on a hunger strike, I will tell him to stop, but a police officer, Colonel Le Son, said he could not comply with my request,” he said.

Trinh Ba Tu was arrested June 24 in Hoa Binh province, while his mother Can Thi Theu and older brother Trinh Ba Phuong were arrested on the same day in Hanoi. The elder Trinh brother and his mother are detained at the Cham Mat detention center in Hoa Binh, while the older Trinh is being held at the Hanoi No. 1 detention center.

The three are charged having been outspoken in social media postings about the Dong Tam clash, the violent Jan. 9 police raid that involved 3,000 officers intervening in a long-running dispute over a military airport construction site about 25 miles south of the capital.

During the clash, Dong Tam village elder Le Dinh Kinh, 84, was shot and killed by police, while three officers lost their lives.

The Trinh brothers and their mother are known to have openly offered information to foreign embassies and other international figures to try to raise awareness of the incident.

Commissary records at the Hoa Binh detention camp show that both the younger Trinh and his mother stopped buying food on Aug. 6, the Trinh family patriarch said.

RFA reported that he had Wednesday visited Cham Mat to check on his son, but he was turned away then as well. He said that the Hanoi police on Friday passed the buck back to Hoa Binh.

“After I left the office, Colonel Son told the three others that we should send a form to the Hoa Binh province police office to have an indirect meeting with Trinh Ba Tu, meaning I would be able to see my son through a glass window, but we wouldn’t be allowed to talk to each other,” he said, adding that the group plans to file a petition with Hoa Binh police on Monday.

Defense lawyer Dang Dinh Manh Thursday sent a letter to Hoa Binh’s investigation center and to the detention center in an attempt to confirm that Trinh Ba Tu was on a hunger strike.

“Are there any unusual reasons that have caused Trinh Ba Tu to choose to react with a hunger strike?” Dang wrote in the letter.

Other lawyers petitioned the two agencies to “urgently consider the issue and take the appropriate actions to avoid dangerous consequences that could occur.”

While all land in Vietnam is ultimately held by the state, land confiscations have become a flashpoint as residents accuse the government of pushing small landholders aside in favor of lucrative real estate projects, and of paying too little in compensation.

Several international organizations have voiced concern about the Dong Tam case, calling on the Vietnamese government to be independent and transparent in their investigation.

A group of 29 detained for their involvement in the clash are set to face trial Sept. 7 on charges of murder or opposing police on duty.

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

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