A Vietnamese blogger serving a six-year prison term for criticizing Vietnam’s government on Facebook has launched a one-day sit-down strike calling for better conditions in detention, RFA has learned.
Nguyen Ngoc Anh, an inmate at the Xuan Loc Detention Center in southern Vietnam’s Dong Nai province, had protested on behalf of political prisoners held at Xuan Loc, Anh’s mother Nguyen Thi Chau told RFA after learning of his protest from the mother of another inmate.
Most of the prisoners jailed at Xuan Loc on political charges are now held in small, humid cells and suffer from poor health, though better cells are available in a new wing of the prison, Chau said.
“In the new block, cells have more room, and each can hold at least three people. However, prison authorities are using only two or three of these cells and have closed the other ones off.”
Xuan Loc’s political prisoners are mainly held in the old cell block, though, Chau said.
“Almost all of them now have problems in their bones and joints because the cells are so cramped and humid, and the prisoners suffer from many painful conditions, including scabies and toothache,” she added.
Chau said that Anh had asked authorities to allow him and other inmates to move to the better cells but was refused, leading him to launch his one-day protest. “At a time of day when he was allowed to go to a front room to cook, he grabbed all his belongings and sat down there for the entire day,” she said.
A large number of prison guards accompanied by four police dogs then removed Anh from the room next day and took him to a cell located three doors away from his former cell but still in the old block, Chau said.
Phone calls to the Xuan Loc Detention Center seeking comment on Anh’s case rang unanswered this week.
Anh, a fisheries engineer and environmental activist, was sentenced on June 6, 2019 by the People’s Court of Ben Tre province to 6 years in prison and 5 years’ probation for “creating, storing and disseminating information and materials against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of Vietnam’s 2015 Penal Code.
Writings by Anh described by authorities as slandering Vietnam’s one-party government and state included criticisms of the government’s handling of environmental damage resulting from a toxic waste spill in April 2016 that left thousands without work in three coastal provinces.
Vietnam, with a population of 92 million people, has consistently been rated “not free” in the areas of internet and press freedom by Freedom House, a U.S.-based watchdog group. Dissent is not tolerated in the communist nation, and authorities have routinely used a set of vague provisions in the penal code to jail dozens of writers and bloggers.
Translated by Anna Vu for RFA Vietnamese. Written in English by Richard Finney.