Vietnamese authorities have transferred ailing jailed blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh to a remote prison more than 620 miles from her former location in the city of Nha Trang on the country’s south central coast without notifying her family, her mother said Monday.
Quynh — also known by her blogger handle Me Nam, or Mother Mushroom — was arrested Oct. 10, 2016, while on her way to visit a fellow rights campaigner in prison and was sentenced in June 2017 to a decade in jail on charges of spreading “propaganda against the state” under Article 88 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.
She is now incarcerated in No. 5 Prison in Yen Dinh, Thanh Hoa province, along the country’s north central coast region, Quynh’s mother, Nguyen Thị Tuyet Lan, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
Lan said she learned about the transfer on Monday when she went to visit Quynh in the prison in Nha Trang, capital of Khanh Hoa province on Vietnam’s south central coast, and was informed by guards that her daughter had been moved out on Feb. 7.
Lan last saw her daughter during a 10-minute prison visit on Feb. 5 when she learned that Quynh was suffering from high blood pressure and was allergic to Paracetamol. The medicine, also known as acetaminophen, is used to treat mild to moderate pain relief and fever.
At the time, prison authorities refused to allow family members to provide other medication for her, Lan said.
Lan also told RFA that during that visit she learned that prisoners were allowed to receive gifts and other supplies from their relatives for Tet, Vietnam's New Year holiday which falls on Feb. 16.
“This morning, I went to the prison to deliver her supplies for Tet, as notified,” Lan said. “I placed a request [with prison authorities] at 8 a.m. and about 15 minutes later, they called my name. Then they told me Quynh was no longer there and that she was transferred to Prison No. 5 in Yen Dinh, Thanh Hoa province, on Feb. 7.”
When Lan asked why the jail did not inform Quynh’s family about the transfer, the guard in charge told her that the decision was not made by Khanh Hoa prison authorities, but by a higher authority, meaning the Sentence Implementation Department of the Ministry of Public Security, she said.
“The police official told me to go home and wait for the notification document,” she said.
'They continue to inflict hardship'
Lan said she now will have to take a long-distance train and a local bus to visit Quynh in Prison No. 5.
“They know my family situation,” she said about the authorities. “I am now over 63 and have to take care of my ailing mother who has Alzheimer’s disease. At the same time, I have to take care of Quynh’s two children.”
“They gave Quynh a 10-year jail sentence, and they continue to inflict hardships upon me and her two young kids,” Lan said. “They try by all means to drive my family into a dead-end street.”
Other well-known female prisoners of conscience have been incarcerated in Prison No. 5, including blogger Ta Phong Tan, who served four years for “propaganda against the government” and was released in 2015.
The prison has also housed land rights activist Can Thi Theu, jailed for 20 months for public disorder charges for protesting government-sanctioned evictions used to clear the way for commercial development, and Nguyen Dang Minh Man, a Catholic activist from Nghe An province, who is still serving a sentence after being arrested during a crackdown on Vietnamese Catholic youth activists.
Vietnamese authorities routinely send political prisoners to remote prisons, an action that activists have denounced as harsh and a further means of punishing dissidents.
Online activist arrested
Meanwhile, authorities on Feb. 9 arrested an online activist for “abusing freedom and doing harm to the state” for live streaming and posting video clips denouncing corrupt officials on Facebook, Vietnam state media reported.
Nguyen Van Truong, 42, from Phu Xa District in Thai Nguyen city in northern Vietnam, was an administrator of two blogs, two Facebook accounts, and YouTube channels running news on corruption in Vietnam, the reports said.
Truong is from the same region where student Phan Kim Khanh was arrested last year for “abusing rights to freedom and democracy to do harm to the State’s interests and those of organizations and individuals” and was sentenced to six years in jail and four years of probation.
Thai Nguyen police investigators say Truong violated Article 331 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code by creating video clips and Facebook posts accusing civil service workers and state organizations in the judiciary — both in Thai Nguyen and in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi — of wrongdoing.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Emily Peyman. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.