A group of people visiting former prisoner-of-conscience Tran Minh Nhat is being held against their will at the activist’s residence in Vietnam's Central Highlands by “thugs” who are apparently acting at the direction of local authorities, members of the group told RFA’s Vietnamese service.
When the group of 21 activists and friends traveled from Saigon to visit Tran Minh Nhat on Tuesday morning, they were initially confronted by people described as “ethnic minorities” who tried to block them from entering the house, a member of the group told RFA.
“Upon arriving at the Yen Thanh Commune, Da Don Village, Lam Ha District, Lam Dong Province, some security officers in thug disguise 'welcomed' us by preventing us from entering Nhat's house,” one of the visitors, named Do Duc Hop, said.
“The Lam Ha District security forces gathered a group of local ethnic minorities who were incited to shout at us with such funny words as: 'You have a nice car, yet you come here to seize our land and crops,’” he added.
“They threatened to beat and kill us if we did not leave Nhat's house."
Once inside, the tables were turned, though, as the forces arrayed outside now prevented the group from leaving.
About 2 p.m. on Tuesday the visitors tried to leave, but fearing for their safety they stayed the night. At press time, the visitors were still inside the house.
Tran Minh Nhat was arrested in August 2011 and convicted using a vague law that targets activities aimed at “overthrowing the government.” He was sentenced to four years in prison plus three years under "controlled residence,"a form of house arrest.
Tran Minh Nhat was released on Aug. 12, 2015, but he and his family have since faced a steady stream of harassment.
In an interview with RFA in February, he said his plants had been cut down, his chickens killed, his house stoned, and pesticides sprayed around the residence.
On Feb. 22, he was severely injured when someone he recognized as a policeman hit him on the head with a rock. The family was then prevented from seeking medical attention for the injury.
Nhat, who had joined protests against China's incursions in the South China Sea, is described by Amnesty International as a Redemptorist Catholic and a social rights activist.
Reported by Mac Lam and Than Pham for RFA's Vietnamese Service. Translated by An Nguyen. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.