Vietnamese Political Prisoners End Hunger Strike After Authorities Relent

vietnam-tran-huynh-duy-thuc-trial-jan20-2010.jpg Democracy activist Tran Huynh Duy Thuc stands during his trial at the People’s Courthouse in Ho Chi Minh City, Jan. 20, 2010.

Four political prisoners and another inmate in Vietnam’s Xuyen Moc prison have ended a 13-day hunger strike after authorities agreed to meet their demands which included being able to share food and send email, the father of one inmate said Friday.

Prisoners of conscience Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, 50, Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung, 35, Dinh Nguyen Kha, 28, and Lieu Ly (age unknown), and musician Tran Vu Anh Binh, 42, began a hunger strike on March 11 to protest human rights violations by the staff and administration at the prison in southern Ba Ria-Vung Tau province.

Thuc’s father, Tran Van Huynh, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that his son, who is allowed to call home for five minutes every month, said the five ended their strike on Thursday after a prison official acknowledged that staff members had violated the rules.

The detainees specifically protested against the actions of two men—Colonel Le Van Tuat, assistant superintendent of the prison, and prison official Nguyen Van Bo—for their disregard of the law and arbitrary treatment of inmates in violation of the constitution, according to The 88 Project, an online project that supports and encourages freedom of expression in Vietnam.

The authorities did not let inmates share food with each other, Tran said. After his son had shared his food with jailed activist Dang Xuan Dieu, who is serving a 13-year sentence on subversion charges, Bo told Kha that he had to submit a request for permission to share meals. But Bo’s action was a violation of prison rules, Tran said.

Thuc was arrested in May 2009 and is serving a 16-year sentence on charges of plotting to overthrow the government under Article 79 of Vietnam’s penal code. He was tried along with lawyer Le Cong Dinh, engineer Nguyen Tien Trung, and entrepreneur Le Thang Long.

Thuc, who is allowed to send and receive mail, had sent more than 60 letters via post while in prison, all of which were checked by prison authorities beforehand, Tran said. But Thuc protested after he discovered that they had withheld letters to his family in violation of his rights, he said.

In one letter, the democracy activist wrote about Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s statement on Vietnam’s accession to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim countries that is backed by the United States, prior to the government leader’s visit to the U.S.

Thuc urged the Vietnamese people to support Dung’s positive view of the TPP, but prison officials refused to send his letter, explaining that they were following orders from higher-ups, according to The 88 Project.

Authorities also cut off Thuc’s calls to his family whenever he discussed human rights, the group said.

Solitary confinement

As for the other prisoners, authorities had refused to give Hung a copy of the application for the appeal of his case that his family had sent to him, violating his right to be informed, Tran said.

The labor activist was sentenced in Oct. 2010 to nine years in prison along with two other labor activists, Do Thi Minh Hanh and Doan Huy Chuong, on charges of disrupting public order to oppose the government under Article 89 of the penal code.

Officials moved both Hung and Binh to solitary confinement cells after they had complained that the installation of cameras in their cells was an intrusion of their privacy, The 88 project said.

Binh was tried on Oct. 30, 2012, for carrying out propaganda against the government along with fellow musician Vo Minh Tri (also known as Viet Khang), and was sentenced to six years in prison and two years of house arrest.

Authorities had accused Binh of producing music that criticized police brutality against peaceful anti-China protesters in Vietnam, according to the Voice Project, a New York-based rights group that supports activist-artists worldwide.

Kha, a computer technician, was sentenced in Aug. 2013 to four years behind bars for carrying out propaganda against the government under Article 88 of the penal code.

Ly, an ethnic Khmer inmate who was recently transferred to Xuyen Moc prison from Soc Trang  province in southern Vietnam, had joined the others in their hunger strike because of the way he was treated by prison authorities, according to The 88 Project.

Articles 79, 88 and 89 of Vietnam’s criminal code are routinely used by the communist regime to persecute innocent people, rights groups say.

Reported by Gia Minh for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.


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