Activist Tran Thuy Nga Yet to Be Allowed to Meet with Her Family Since Being Arrested 15 Months Ago


Activist Tran Thi Nga with her two kids

Defend the Defenders, May 27, 2018


Vietnam’s authorities have yet to allow prisoner of conscience Tran Thuy Nga to meet with her family, including her two kids of seven and five years old, since being arrested in February 2017.

Currently, Ms. Nga is held in Gia Trung camp in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai under the authority of the Ministry of Public Security.

She is not permitted to contact her family,as other prisoners are permitted,because she refuses to admit her wrongdoings, said Mr. Phan Van Phong, the father of Ms. Nga’s two kids, adding other prisoners are allowed to write and receive letters from their families and make a 5-minute call to their relatives every month.

In March this year, authorities transferred Nga to Gia Trung, about 1,200 km from her native city of Phu Ly, without informing her family, Mr. Phong said. In late March, Phong and their two kids went to the camp to seek to meet her but the prison’s authorities denied.

Ms. Nga was arrested on February 21, 2017 on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code. In late July last year, the People’s Court of Ha Nam sentenced her to nine years in prison and five years under house arrest afterward and in late 2017, the Hanoi High People’s Court upheld the sentence.

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 had 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 and on environmental issues.

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 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.

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

Despite government intimidation and assault, Nga has continued to speak out against political injustices and broader state violence. She is part of a growing community of Vietnamese bloggers using Facebook and YouTube to foster political activism and solidarity, many of whom have been detained under vague national security laws as part of the government’s ongoing crackdown on free speech.

Ms. Nga is among six distinguished women human rights activists in Southeast Asia the human rights NGO Amnesty International recognized their work 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 Nu from Myanmar have faced harassment, threats, imprisonment, and violence for standing up for human rights in the region.

After her arrest, many foreign democratic governments and a number of international human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, 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 is part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local dissidents, human rights defenders, social activists, and online bloggers.

Vietnam has little tolerance for government critics. According to Human Rights Watch, the communist government holds over 100 political prisoners while the Now!Campaign, an initiative by BPSOS, Civil Rights Defenders, Defend the Defenders, and 13 other partners, said Vietnam is holding 168 prisoners of conscience.

Transfer to locations far from the family and the denial of medical treatment are measures frequently used by the Vietnamese communist government to punish prisoners of conscience who refuse to make confessions during trials or while servingtheir sentences.