Vietnam: Concerns for detained journalists

English PEN is alarmed by reports that imprisoned writers Nguyen Hoang Hai and Pham Thanh Nghien are at risk of ill-treatment, in poor health, and denied full access to family visits. They are part of a group of writers who were detained during a crackdown against peaceful dissent in Vietnam in August and September 2008.


Nguyen Hoang Hai (pen name: Dieu Cay), an independent journalist and blogger, was sentenced on 10 September 2008 to two and a half years’ imprisonment by a Court at Ho Chi Minh city for alleged ‘tax fraud’, although he is widely believed to be targeted for his criticism of the Vietnamese government. On 1 April 2009, Nguyen Hoang Hai’s family were told that he had been transferred to Cai Tau prison, in U Minh, which is nine hours from where the family lives and where it is difficult to obtain a visitor’s permit. There are reports that Cai Tau prison is notorious for the brutal treatment of prisoners and alleged corruption. The family believes that Nguyen Hoang Hai was transferred there to limit the frequency of their visits, and they are very concerned for his well-being.


Internet writer and independent journalist Pham Thanh Nghien has been detained without charge since 11 November 2008. She is believed to be held under Article 88 of the Criminal Code on charges of ‘propaganda against the state’, but has not yet been brought to trial. When arrested, she was reportedly suffering from severe migraines due to previous beatings by local authorities in the streets near her home.  Pham Thanh Nghien’s family has not been able to visit her since her arrest, and they have no information on her health.


The writers below were also detained in the crackdown and continue to be held:  


• Nguyen Xuan Nghia, poet and writer, member of the Hai Phong Association of Writers and founding member of the banned democracy movement known as Block 8406. Arrested on 11 September 2008.
• Le Thi Kim Thu, online reporter and photographer, arrested on 14 August 2008.
• Pham Van Troi, dissident writer and activist, known for his contributions to the underground dissident review Tu Do Dan Chu (Freedom and Democracy). Arrested on 10 September 2008.  
• Nguyen Van Tuc, farmer, poet and human rights defender, known for his numerous writings on social injustice and satirical poems published on overseas websites. Arrested on 10 September 2008. 
• Ngô Quỳnh, student and dissident writer, author of online dissenting articles, including ‘Viet Nam needs to compile a new History-book’ and ‘Journey to Lang Son’s Dairy’, published on overseas websites. Arrested on 10 September 2008.


English PEN continues to call for their immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights to which Vietnam is a signatory. We seek assurances of their well being, and urge that they are given full access to all necessary medical care and are allowed family visits as a matter of urgency.    
For the BBC’s country profile on Vietnam, please click here.

Please send appeals:

– Expressing concern at reports that writers remain detained or under heavy surveillance as a consequence of their peaceful activities and protests during August and September 2008.
– Seeking assurances of the well-being of writers Nguyen Hoang Hai and Pham Thanh Nghien, and urging that they are given full access to all necessary medical care and are allowed family visits.
– Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all those detained for the peaceful exercise of their right to free expression in Vietnam, in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a signatory.


Appeals to be sent to:


His Excellency Nguyên Minh Triêt
President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
C/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Socialist Republic of Vietnam


Nguyên Tân Dung
Prime Minister
1 Hoang Hoa Tham Street
Socialist Republic of Vietnam


Lê Doan Hop
Minister of Culture and Information
1 Hoang Hoa Tham Street
Socialist Republic of Vietnam


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.


HE Mr. Tran Quang Hoan
12 Victoria Rd
London, W8 5RD
Fax: 0207 937 6108 or 0207 565 3853


HM Ambassador Mark Kent
Central Building
4th floor
31 Hai Ba Trung

Fax: ( 84) (4) 3936 0551


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