October 5, 2019
Defend the Defenders, October 5, 2019
Prisoners of conscience Doan Dinh Nam, a follower of the Buddhist sect An Dan Dai Dao, died from kidney failure on October 5 while serving his 16-year imprisonment in Xuyen Moc Prison camp in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau.
Mr. Nam, born in 1951, suffered from damaged kidneys six years ago, and earlier this year, his family asked Vietnam’s authorities to suspend his imprisonment so he can get proper treatment for his severe disease, however, the request was turned down.
Religious activist Bui Ngoc Dien, a daughter-in-law of sect leader Phan Van Thu, informed Defend the Defenders that Mr. Nam’s family requested the prison’s authorities to return his body so his relatives can conduct funeral ceremony for him and burn him in his native village in the central province of Phu Yen but the prison’s authorities denied, insisting to cremate his corp immediately in a cremation facility of Vung Tau city’s General Hospital.
Mr. Nam was arrested on February 6, 2012, together with 21 other followers of An Dan Dai Dao, including its leader Phan Van Thu for an allegation of “attempting to overthrow the government” under Article 79 of the 1999 Penal Code. In 2013, they were sentenced to between ten and 17 years in prison while the sect leader was given a life sentence.
Their case was among numerous trumped-up cases as Vietnam’s authorities want to suppress their sect while robbing their properties. Before being persecuted, An Dan Dai Dao ran an eco-tourist company at the Da Bia Tourist Resort in Phu Yen province. They signed a contract with the local authorities to engage in protecting the forest and environment. The group believed in the prophecies of Nguyen Binh Khiem, an oracle from the 16th century or Vietnamese equivalent of Nostradamus, and dreamed of building a new “Utopia” in which science, nature, and humankind would be harmoniously balanced. They organized conferences and produced leaflets to disseminate their beliefs.
According to reports in the state-run media, the group, founded in 1969, had several hundred members and sections in several central and southern provinces.
After imprisoning 22 key followers of the sect, Vietnam’s authorities confiscated their properties, including the resort.