Democracy activist Pham Ba Hai completes 7-year sentence

Pham Ba Hai and friends
Pham Ba Hai and friends

By Sao Khue
(Defend the Defenders)

Sept 9, 2013

On Sept 8, democracy activist Pham Ba Hai marked his completion of the two-year period under house, the additional measure set by the communist government after spending five years in prison for “conducting propaganda against state”.

To celebrate his full freedom, Mr. Hai organized a small party in his house in Saigon with participation of a number of his friends and local bloggers.

In 2006, Mr. Hai was arrested for posting articles defaming the communist party and its government. For accusing the communist government’s improper actions in protecting the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea and the northernmost region from the Chinese invasion, Hai was given five-year sentence under bar and two years under house arrest.

He remembered that during interrogation, security officers reiterated that “the party (communist) and the state will take care for issues related to Hoang Sa (Paracels) and Truong Sa (Spratlys) and ordinary people, including Hai, should not have concerns”.

Hai and many other prisoners of conscience and political dissidents in Vietnam have believed that a part of Vietnam’s sovereignty, including the two archipelagos in the East Sea and tens of thousands of nautical miles of waters in the Tonkin Gulf as well as Ban Gioc Waterfall had been handed over to China in exchange of the Chinese political support for the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam.

During the two-year probation period, Hai had time to think about measures the communist government has taken to solidify its political monopoly in Vietnam, from tough harassments against local dissent to preventing unwanted impacts from democratic countries. The communist government has used the police, the security forces and the army to suppress any challenges. Numerous dissidents have been arrested during the past two years.

The Vietnamese economy also worsened after the past two years, he noted.

During the two years under house arrest, Hai was closely watched by secret agents. A team between four and five agents constantly positioned near his house day and night and was close to him wherever he went, including to shops and supermarkets. They blocked him from going outside on special occasions, such as anti-China demonstrations in the city during weekend or just the American Day July 4, even during New Year festival.

Asked why they did so, they said they were ordered by higher authorities who wanted to prevent him from being used by others, or meeting with other bloggers.

He has used to take dinner at 4 pm since he was given food at that time during the five years imprisonment. He has also used to take a sight to be assured that no secret agent follows when he goes out.

On occasion of his probation period ran out, yesterday one of his friend gave him a cake, on which he wrote “Congratulation for freedom”. Hai took a deep breath, smiled and enjoyed his freedom, at least he can go out without being followed too closely.

“Thank you for coming to my party. I also want to thank other for supporting me during the hard time,” he said.

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