Lawyer Nguyen Van Dai
Hanoi, November 25, 2011
Ladies and gentlemen,
Each year during the International Human Rights Day, people usually mention and honor those who fight for human rights, the prisoners of conscience detained in prisons. In the article, and also this letter, I refer to the wives, children, parents of the prisoners of conscience in Vietnam.
I'm calling them prisoners of conscience because what they say or write do come from their conscience and a sense of responsibility toward their fellow citizens and their country. They have no personal motives or political agendas when speaking out or in writing their speech and in their action. What they say and write fall well within the preservee of the political and human rights enshrined in the 1992 Constitution of Vietnam, and recognized and protected by the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which the Vietnam government often claims to respect and enforce in practice.
The first person I want to mention is Ms. Thu Trang, the wife of prisoner of conscience Pham Van Troi. Since her husband's arrest, the burden of the family rests on her shoulders. Daily she has to travel over 40 km roundtrip to and from work. Raising and taking care of her two young children - the older child is not even 10 years old, the younger one, 4-year-old - while supporting her mother in-law, who is over 80, and sick often. Every month she visits her husband who's in captivity in Nam Ha prison. Every few months she would carry her two small children on her motorbike for a journey over tens of miles to visit their father. When I met her, I could sense sadness deep inside the woman's soul, whose husband is locked up far away, but her eyes always shine with an undying fire of determination, a faith that helps her continue caring for her children, and an elderly mother waiting for the return of a son and she, a loving husband.
The two children, although lacking the care of their father, but are well-behaved and mindful of their mother. They do not feel stigmatized but on the contrary is very proud of their father. She and her older son have participated in demonstrations against the Northern transgressors; both mother and son got arrested and deprived of food. But neither of them is afraid because they believe in a father and a husband, and the just cause he's followed. So what they do is contributing just a small share to the larger effort. The 80 years plus mother, is waiting day and night for her son to return to look after her for the remaining days of her life. Grandmother's tears have dried up, leaving only a sound of sobbing when talking to me about her son.
The second person I want to mention is Ms. Nguyen Thi Lanh, a pastor's wife, whose husband is the prisoner of conscience Nguyen Trung Ton. The family of pastor Ton resides in a poor rural area of Thanh Hoa province. Since his arrest, the care and nurture for three young children and elderly parent, who is over 80, rest on Lanh's shoulder. She had to work in the rice field, plus running and fending hard in the market place to support her children, raising the husband's parents, and visited him every month in Nghe An to bring him provision and supply. When those children and parents in-law are sick, she has to stretch herself thin to care for the sick, and struggle in the market place for money. But she stoically believes and wholeheartedly supports her husband without any blame. The father of Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton called me, he said: "He has not committed any wrongdoing so why do they imprison him? I'm too old and feeble; I wish he would be released so I could see him one last time before I meet with my Maker. Son! Please pray to the Lord God with me and ask for his quick return." I have prayed with him with tears swelling in my eyes.
The third person I want to mention is A Mi Hiem, an Ede ethnic minority woman. She as well as over one hundred women of Ede, Gia Rai and Ba Na minorities are the wives of prisoners of conscience detained in the prisons of Ha Nam, Thanh Hoa, and Phu Yen...
Before their husbands were arrested, all the work in the family are taken care by their husbands. For nearly ten years, they have to replace their husband and work hard to support the children, raising them themselves and sometimes have to send some gifts to keep their husband's spirit up in prison. Today I called A Mi Hiem, she answered in tearful cry: "I have three small kids, the big one is home alone. I'm in the hospital taking care of two sick kids. Its no tuition to pay for my children's education, the school threatens expulsion; neither do I have money for medicines and hospital charges. y husband writes to ask for a little money to supplement his food because the standard food ration in prison is totally under nourishing. Please pray for me, brother!..." So the only thing I can do is pray for her in tears.
These are just three out of the hundreds of wives and children, hundreds of the prisoners of conscience whose names I could not bring up.
On International Human Rights Day, we refer to the rights of women. They need to have their husband by their side to love, protect, comfort, encourage and share the joys and sorrows. On International Human Rights Day, we talk about the rights of children, they need the care, nurture, protection and upbringing from the father. On International Human Rights Day, we refer to the rights of elderly parents, who, in their old age, need the care and assistance of their children.
There are about two hundred wives of these prisoners of conscience, there are hundreds of children who are children of these prisoners of conscience, there are dozens and dozens of fathers and elderly mothers of these prisoners of conscience, they are the Kinh, the Ede, the Gia Rai and the Ba Na. Night and day, they are waiting for their husbands, fathers, their sons to return. These prisoners of conscience should be released so they can fulfill the duties of the husband to their wife, to fulfill the duties of a father to their children, to fulfill the duty of children to their parents. Most of all, they need to continue to fulfill their responsibilities to their fellow people and their homeland.
On behalf of their wives, children, their parents and on my own volition, I urge President Truong Tan Sang, the Minister of Police, Mr. Chief Justice of The Supreme People's Court, Mr. Chief Procurator of the Supreme People's Procuracy, that by the humanitarian tradition of Vietnam, to free all prisoners of conscience that you all are holding.
I urge the international community, governments, the organizations and institutions who protect international human rights to raise your voices and pressure the government of Vietnam to release these prisoners of conscience, who have been detained by them.
My respectful and special thanks to all of you,
Lawyer Nguyen Van Dai
Nguyen Van Dai (born 1969), lawyer and human rights defender, member of the Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam and member of the oppositional Bloc 8406, was imprisoned on March 6, 2007 and sentenced to 4 years of detention and additional 4 years house arrest. After his release on March 6, 2011 he has to stay under house arrest till 2015.
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Pham Van Troi (born 1972), member of the Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam and member of the oppositional Bloc 8406, was imprisoned on September 10, 2008 and sentenced to 4 years of detention and additional 4 years house arrest. He is serving his term in the prison Nam Ha, Province Ha Nam.
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Nguyen Trung Ton (born 1971), pastor of the Full Gospel Church, was arrested on January 15, 2011 in the Province Nghe An.
PS: On December 29, 2011 a court in central Vietnam sentenced the priest to two years for "activities undermining the state" and for "collecting documents and writing articles which tarnished the reputation of the Communist Party and the Socialist regime."