An RFA blogger jailed in Vietnam for 10 years on a land-fraud charge is being forced to work long hours in spite of chronic pain from herniated discs, Vietnamese sources say.
Truong Duy Nhat, who had been a weekly contributor to RFA’s Vietnamese Service before his abduction by police in Thailand in January 2019, now works eight hours a day making paper money for sale as offerings burned later in religious ceremonies, a friend of Nhat’s said on Friday.
Nhat’s friend, literary critic Pham Xuan Nguyen, had gone with Nhat’s wife and younger sister on Dec. 3 to visit him at the Tan Ky No. 3 detention camp in Nghe An province, Nguyen told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
“Nhat’s wife, named Phuong, was allowed in to see him immediately, while his sister Cuc had to show a document signed by her local police that she was Nhat’s younger sister before being allowed to see him,” Nguyen said.
“They did not allow me to see Truong Duy Nhat, though, saying that the law stipulates that friends are not allowed to visit,” he said.
Nguyen said that Nhat’s wife and sister assured him after their visit that Nhat’s health was “normal.”
But he said later in a Facebook posting that Nhat was being forced to work eight hours a day making paper money for sale as offerings, and that working long hours in a seated position had aggravated the pain he was suffering from herniated discs.
Nhat’s family has meanwhile voiced concern that Nhat has said he is being held with 43 cellmates, some of them convicted drug addicts, Nguyen said.
Calls seeking comment from the Tan Ky detention camp in Nghe An rang unanswered on Friday.
Kidnapped by police
Jailed before in Vietnam from 2013 to 2015 for his writings criticizing Vietnam’s government, Truong Duy Nhat was convicted in March of “abusing his position and authority” in a decade-old land fraud case, a charge Nhat has described as politically motivated.
Nhat declared at his trial that after seeking political asylum in Thailand at the beginning of 2019, he was arrested by Thai Royal Police on January 26 and handed over to Vietnamese police, who took him across the border into Laos, and from there back to Vietnam.
A court in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi on Aug. 14 upheld Nhat’s sentence, rejecting an appeal filed by his lawyers and sending him back to prison to serve his full term.
Vietnam, with a population of 92 million people, has been consistently rated “not free” in the areas of internet and press freedom by Freedom House, a U.S.-based watchdog group.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Vietnam 175 out of 180 in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index. About 25 journalists and bloggers are being held in Vietnam’s jails, “where mistreatment is common,” the Paris-based watchdog group said.
Vietnam’s already low tolerance of dissent deteriorated sharply this year with a spate of arrests of independent journalists, publishers, and Facebook personalities as authorities continued to stifle critics in the run-up to the ruling Communist Party congress in January.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Richard Finney.