Remarks on Prison Conditions in Vietnam

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Testimony regarding prison conditions in Vietnam before the Vietnam Congressional Caucus
Truong Minh Tam
US Capitol Building
June 11, 2015
Thank you ladies and gentlemen, distinguished members of Congress for allowing me the opportunity to be here today.

My name is Truong Minh Tam, I am 45 years old and from Vietnam, I am a member of the Vietnam Path Movement and I am a former political prisoner.

The state of human rights violations in Vietnam is grave, especially among political prisoners in Vietnam. Today, I will present on what I have witnessed in my year in prison.

Nearly all political prisoners are imprisoned separate from the other inmates. 2 inmates are held in 1 cell in blocks that are nicknamed “tiger cages” because they are very small with no light and low ventilation with no fan and we do not receive enough water to drink or to bathe. Because of this, many prisoners fall very sick.

Political prisoners are forced to stay in the same prisons as general prison criminals, forced to do physical labor and are brutalized by prison guards. Nguyen Huu Vinh (blogger Anh Ba Sam) and Can Thi Theu are imprisoned with drug addicts, those with venereal diseases and suffer from mental health issues. During the period of time where he was detained at Prison Camp 5 – Thanh Hoa, Dang Xuan Dieu was forced to do physical labor for a prison for murderers, suffering from brutal beatings for nearly 200 days. A prison staff named Hoang Duc Tai stepped on his face in a questioning session.

Political prisoners are banned from practicing religion, and Christians are severely mistreated. Ho Duc Hoa and those he practices with at the prison camp in Nam Ha, as well as Dang Xuan Dieu at the prison camp in Xuyen Moc were banned from possessing religious texts and were banned from practicing their faith. Additionally they were barred from religious dignitaries in order to hold important religious ceremonies. Tran Vu Anh Binh was deprived of his rosary and was sent to solitary confinement and there has been no news from the Xuyen Moc prison.

Many political have been economically deprived and severely mistreated, which has resulted in hunger strikes to protest the violation of their human rights; however because of these actions their treatment has worsened. They are deprived of enough drinking water as well as healthcare. The prison camps do not report to authorities nor family members so that a resolution can hastily be reached. At Prison Camp Xuyen Moc, voices of conscience who went on hunger strike (Dang Xuan Dieu, Dinh Nguyen Kha, Tran Vu Anh Binh, Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung) were banned from purchasing anything from the canteen in order to restore their health after their hunger strikes. The prison camp only allows their families to send in limited quantities of dried food each month. For those who have been released, their health has been terrible upon release, such as Do Thi Minh Hanh and Mai Thi Dung. Vi Duc Hoi, Nguyen Xuan Nghia, Dang Ngoc Minh all had to enter the hospital for extended treatments upon their release. Because of this, we are deeply concerned for the health of Dang Xuan Dieu, as hunger strikes have spanned over the course of 15 months over the past 4 years. He is currently only 88 lbs, and has been experiencing significant digestive issues, as well as arthritic and skin issues.

The families of Dang Xuan Dieu, Dinh Nguyen Kha, and Ho Duc Hoa have sent letters to the prison camps and political offices guaranteeing just treatment for voices of conscience raising issues with policies that allow the prison camps to worsen conditions, such as moving prisoners far distances from their homes, allowing only a 1 day visit per month.

The above evidence illustrates the actions of the government that violate the very laws that they create as well as violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that they signed to as well as the Convention on Torture. This is unacceptable for a country that serves as a member of the United Nations.

Recommendations

We earnestly call on the U.S. government to take actions with the following recommendations:

  1. Visit political prisoners in jail, particularly the Xuyen Moc-Vung Tau or Prison Camp 5 in Thanh Ha Province. Call on the Vietnamese government to end prisoner abuse and improve conditions in these centers.
  2. Urge the government of Vietnam to unconditionally release Mr Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, an intellectual expression of democracy, accountability and peaceful country, without any act called activities against the State.
  3. Visit Dang Xuan Dieu in prison; inquire about his health, which is now in critical status. Call on the Vietnamese government to provide access to medical treatment as his health has rehabilitation after such a long period of hunger strikes. In the long term, ensure that he has access to his lawyers and his right to contest charges that he feels are not true.
  4. The Vietnamese Government cannot charge individuals with a certain crime and then later charge then with an entirely different crime, as has occurred with Nguyen Van Hai, as especially in the circumstance of attorney and human rights defender, Le Quoc Quan, whose prison sentence will end this month.
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