Tran Khai Thanh Thuy (Vietnam)

On 8 October 2009, writer and democracy activist Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was reportedly beaten and arrested after she publicly expressed her support for six writers and human rights defenders who had been charged with conducting anti-government propaganda. Thuy is a renowned novelist, poet, essayist, blogger and editor of the underground dissident magazine To Quoc (Fatherland). Because of her writing, she has been under heavy surveillance and harassment since September 2006.

Thuy was arrested after she had travelled to Hai Phong earlier that day to support the six fellow activists who were held on trial. She was stopped by the police, taken away without a cause, sent home, and then arrested again the same evening. An incident took place there, the details of which are unclear, though it is widely believed that Thuy was the victim of assault and that a photograph used as evidence to charge her with assault had been doctored. Digital information in the electronic image that was used as evidence against her reveals that it was taken in 2005, although the authorities are claiming it had been taken the day after Thuy’s arrest. 

If convicted, Thuy could face up to three years in prison. 

There are also seriously concerns for Thuy’s health, as she has been detained since 8 October 2009 without access to the medical treatment she urgently requires. Thuy suffers from diabetes and tuberculosis, and there are serious concerns that her health is deteriorating in prison.

The six writers and pro-democracy activists that Thuy was supporting on the day of her arrest are amongst dozens of activists to have been arrested since September 2008 as part of an alarming ongoing crackdown on peaceful dissent. It is understood that writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia, poet Nguyen Van Tinh, human rights defender Nguyen Kim Nhan, poet Nguyen Van Tuc, student and internet writer Ngo Quynh, and writer Nguyen Manh Son have all been charged with conducting anti-government propaganda under article 88 of Vietnam’s penal code for their pro-democracy writings and activities, in particular their membership of the banned pro-democracy group Bloc 8406.

The Embassy of the United States in Hanoi issued a press release on 14 October 2009, criticising the convictions of the democracy activists and subsequent arrest of Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, and urging the Vietnamese government to honour its international human rights commitments by immediately and unconditionally releasing these and other prisoners who are in detention for peacefully expressing their views. The release stated, “No individual should have been beaten, arrested, or jailed for exercising the right to free speech.”


Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was first arrested for her activism in 2007, when she was jailed for nine months for speaking out and helping aggrieved farmers seek justice for expropriated farm lands.  The authorities reportedly charged her with disseminating information considered harmful to the State. Before that she is said to have been under strict house arrest since November 2006. During her imprisonment, she suffered from diabetes and severe tuberculosis but was denied medical care. Since her release in 2008, she and her family have been under constant police surveillance and harassment and her home has been vandalised with human faeces.

Thuy has been repeatedly denounced and humiliated in public meetings organised by the Vietnamese authorities, including a ‘People’s Court’ in October 2006, where police gathered 300 people in a public stadium to insult her. Her home was attacked by mobs that entered her home calling her a traitor and a prostitute and threatening to beat her. The police refused to protect her, calling for her to abandon her activism to ensure her safety. She was repeatedly interrogated and detained by the authorities and dismissed from her job. She was also held under strict house arrest during APEC meetings in November of that year. 

In January 2008, Thuy was sentenced to nine months in prison by a Hanoi Court for ‘disturbing public order’, but having already spent that time in pre-trial detention she was released the same day.

Tran Khai Thanh Thuy is an Honorary Member of English PEN. She is also a member of the Union of Writers and the Club of Women Poets of Hanoi, and won the 2008 Hellman Hammet Award.

Her blog can be found at

A blog relating to her campaign can be found at

Please send appeals:

• Protesting the charges against Tran Khai Thanh Thuy for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression, and calling for the charges to be dismissed;

• Expressing serious concern for Tran Khai Thanh Thuy’s health and urging that she is given full access to all necessary medical care as a matter of urgency;

• Urging the Vietnamese government to conduct an impartial investigation into the incident;

• Expressing alarm at the ongoing crackdown on peaceful dissent in Vietnam, where writers and activists are receiving lengthy prison sentences and experiencing intimidation from the authorities for their peaceful activities;

• Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all those detained for the peaceful exercise of their right to free expression, in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a signatory.

Please note that there are no fax numbers available for the Vietnamese authorities, so you may wish to ask the diplomatic representative for Vietnam in your country to forward your appeals. It would also be advantageous to ask your country’s diplomatic representatives in Vietnam to intervene in the case.

Appeals to:

President, Socialist Republic of Vietnam
His Excellency Nguyen Minh Triet
C/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Vietnamese Embassy, London, United Kingdom
His Excellency Tran Quang Hoan
Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
12 – 14 Victoria Road
W8 5RD
United Kingdom

British Embassy, Hanoi, Vietnam
His Excellency Mr Mark Kent
Central Building
4th floor
31 Hai Ba Trung
Fax: ( 84) (4)3936 0561 (for Embassy in general)

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