International

Diplomats asked to help Vietnamese political prisoners

8:15 PM, July 11, 2019

Vietnam:The US, Australia and European Union are said to have undertaken to take up the cause of endangered hunger strikers.

Nguyen Thi Kim Thanh, the wife of a Vietnamese prisoner of conscience, at a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City on July 3 following surgery to remove a tumor from her uterus. (Photo supplied)

Relatives of political prisoners in Vietnam on a hunger strike over claimed mistreatment have urged Western embassy officials to intervene diplomatically.

Nguyen Thi Kim Thanh, the wife of prisoner of conscience Truong Minh Duc, said she explained that the protest was endangering the lives of those refusing to eat when she met with embassy representatives of the United States and Australia as well as officials from the European Union in Vietnam's capital Hanoi on July 9.

Duc and three other political prisoners — Nguyen Van Tuc, Dao Quang Thuc and Tran Phi Dung — have been on hunger strike since June 11 at Prison Camp No. 6 in Nghe An province located in the north central coastal region.

Their protest started when prison officers removed electric fans from their cells despite temperatures reaching 42 degrees Celsius.

Thanh, a Catholic from Binh Duong province in southern Vietnam, said foreign diplomats were "deeply concerned about health problems and persecution of my husband and other jail inmates.”

The four prisoners suffer variously from heart disease, high blood pressure and other ailments. Thanh herself recently had a tumor surgically removed from her uterus in Ho Chi Minh City.

She said Western diplomats had asked the Vietnamese government to ensure prisoners of conscience are accorded basic human rights, including through the installing of electric fans in extremely hot cells.

The diplomats reputedly told her that on several occasions Vietnamese government officials had replied that they were considering' the issue or that that they would examine it.

Thanh, who visited her husband at the prison on June 20, said she asked the American, Australian and other diplomats to insist on having access to the four prisoners on hunger strike. She said this needed to be done soon in a bid to save their lives.

The diplomats are said to have accepted that the situation is a matter of urgency and also expressed a willingness to raise with the Vietnamese government wider issues relating to prison conditions.

This would include representations in support of prisoners being allowed more regular visits by relatives. Families are currently only allowed to meet prisoners for 60 minutes once a month and prisoners can only make one monthly five-minute phone call.

Thanh also updated the diplomats about the cases of two other prisoners of conscience, Hoang Duc Binh and Nguyen Bac Truyen, who refused to eat over the solitary confinement of jailed blogger Nguyen Van Hoa.

On July 2, 12 religious and civil society groups and 515 individuals, including Catholic priests, signed an online petition asking Vietnam's communist government to stop what they described as torture in jails nationwide.

Source: UCAN

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