Vietnam Jailed Human Rights Activist Tran Thi Nga Yet to Be Allowed to Meet with Her Kids 10 Months after Arrest

Human Rights Activist Tran Thi Nga with her two kids Phu and Tai before her arrest in late January

By Defend the Defenders, December 6, 2017

Vietnam’s authorities have yet to permitted imprisoned human rights defender Tran Thi Nga to meet with her kids and relatives since her arrest in late January and trial in July.

After her detention on January 21 on charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s Penal Code, police said she cannot meet with her two kids at four and seven years old, and other family’s members, the common practice in political cases.

However, after the trial in late July in which she was convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison and four years under house arrest afterward, police have still refused the family’s request to meet with her.

Police reportedly told the family that she was denied because she didn’t confess “wrongdoings” as the court judged.

Nga’s case was reported to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention which has communicated with Vietnam’s government on the case. The Vietnamese government reportedly responded by saying her family had only requested for food supplements but not eye-eye meeting.

Mr. Phan Van Phong, the father of her two kids, said that after her trial, her parents, brothers and sisters as well as her children went to the Ha Nam province’s detention facility where she is held to request for meeting with her, however, the authorities said she is not permitted to meet with them because she rejected the court’s ruling. She was disciplined as being placed in solitary cell, they said.

One month later, the Ha Nam province’s Detention facility advised her family to submit a request for meeting her to the Hanoi-based Higher People’s Court. Her younger brother made a request but he couldn’t get ratification from the authorities in his locality.

Mr. Phong said he successfully got the ratification and submitted the request to the Higher People’s Court on November 14 but his request remains unanswered.

Mrs. Nga has appealed the decision of the People’s Court in Ha Nam province and her appeal hearing is expected to be held soon.

Ms. Nga was a migrant worker in Taiwan. While working there, she assisted Vietnamese workers to demand Vietnamese brokers to take responsibility to ensure the rights of migrant workers.

Upon her return to Vietnam, about ten years ago, she assisted land petitioners who lost their land due to illegal seizure from local authorities.

She also participated in many anti-China demonstrations in Hanoi from 2011 to 2016 to protest China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea), as well as in peaceful gatherings to demand multi-party democracy.

Due to her activities, Vietnam’s communist government, particularly authorities in Ha Nam province constantly harassed and persecuted her and her two children. She was detained many times and was placed under de facto house arrest for most of the last two years.

In May 2014, she was attacked by plainclothes agents in Hanoi who broke her right leg and caused a number of severe injuries to her body.

Police in Ha Nam also targeted her kids, throwing dirty sauce containing decaying shrimp at them. Her private residence in Phu Ly city was attacked with paint and dirty substances many times.

Ms. Nga is among six distinguished women human rights activists in Southeast Asia the London-based NGO Amnesty International recognized their works on the occasion of International Women’s Day (March 8) this year. Nga, Sirikan Charoensiri from Thailand, Maria Chin Abdullah from Malaysia, Tep Vanny from Cambodia, Leila de Lima from Philippines and Wai Wai Nuwho from Myanmar have faced harassment, threats, imprisonment, and violence for standing up for human rights in the region.

Since her arrest and prior to her trial, many foreign governments and a number of international human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders called on Vietnam’s communist government to immediately and unconditionally release her and other activists who have been imprisoned just because of exercising the right of freedom of expression which is enshrined in the country’s 2013 Constitution.

The arrest and conviction of Nga are part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local dissidents, human rights defenders, social activists and online bloggers.

So far this year, Vietnam has arrested, tried and expelled abroad nearly 30 activists. Ten of them have been charged with subversion under Article 79 of the Penal Code and face capital punishment, many others are charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda with imprisonment up to 20 years.

On November 30, Vietnam upheld the 10-year sentence of prominent human rights campaigner Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, who is well-known blogger with a penname Mother Mushroom. Two weeks earlier, the communist government also convicted blogger Nguyen Van Hoa and sentenced him to seven years in prison and three years under house arrest. Like Nga, the two activists were also convicted of “conducting anti-state propaganda,” one of many controversial articles of the national security provisions in the Penal Code the communist government is using to silence local activists.