Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Vietnam: Tran Khai Thanh Thuy

Vietnam: Tran Khai Thanh Thuy

source : English PEN
Trân Khai Thanh Thuy is an established Vietnamese journalist, novelist, poet and essayist, and a political activist. She is the former editor of underground dissident magazine To Quoc (Fatherland), a member of the Union of Writers and the Club of Women Poets of Hanoi, and winner of the 2008 and 2010 Hellman Hammet Awards in recognition of her commitment to free expression and courage in the face of political persecution. She is an Honorary Member of the English, American and Swiss Italian PEN centres.

Voice from Beyond the Grave

Here lie my mortal remains
In the field of eternal rest
The last stop of a transient life with multiple destinies
The clay covers my icy dead body
The smoke of scented incenses guides the comings and goings.

Beautiful flowers, ultimate farewell gifts, offered by my friends
Begin to fade, stamens and pistils decompose
Into exhalations of the cemetery
The wind blows and blows in all ways on the free trails
Moaning crows caw above the deserted place.

The green grass invades my feet, my hair, my ears
My spirit leaves the lower world and flies over the mountains
My soul wanders in the depths of the forests
Observing from above, the condition of the world of miserable reprobates.

Well then, let me metamorphose myself into greenery
To be in harmony with nature
Illustrious Creator, the Just one, has already shown his smile.

Trân Khai Thanh Thuy (1989)

Trân Khai Thanh Thuy has been under heavy surveillance and harassment since September 2006 for her critical political writing. She was previously detained in April 2007 and held for nine months, charged with violating Article 88 of the Criminal Code for disseminating information considered harmful to the State by the authorities. She was also accused of being a member of Bloc 8406, a leading underground pro-democracy group, of supporting a dissident human rights organisation and of illegally organising a trade union. She was held at Detention Camp B14, Thanh Liet, in district Thanh Tri, Hanoi.

After her release in January 2008 she was under heavy surveillance until her most recent arrest in October 2009. She was detained as she made her way to support fellow activists facing trial, and held incommunicado for several hours before being returned to her home. That evening, an incident took place at her home: two men reportedly attacked Thanh Thuy's husband, and she intervened on his defence. She was subsequently charged with assault, despite being the victim of the attack - a photograph used as evidence against her is widely believed to have been doctored. In February 2010, she was sentenced to three and a half years in prison. The trial itself was also unjust: her lawyer was not given sufficient time to present his argument and the judge did not consider all the evidence. Her husband, Do Ba Tan, was also sentenced to two years under house arrest for 'assault', and is caring for the couple's youngest daughter.

Thanh Thuy is currently in extremely fragile health, suffering from tuberculosis and diabetes as well as malnutrition. In August 2010, she was brutally attacked by another inmate at the prison, despite having reported threats against her to prison guards. Her attacker was said to have been following orders from the prison's surveillance authorities and fellow prisoners were reportedly prevented from coming to her assistance.

Since June 2010, Vietnamese authorities have arrested and detained at least 24 dissidents, house church activists, and bloggers, many of whom have been held incommunicado for many months without access to legal counsel or to their families. The actual number is likely to be even higher: the Vietnamese government does not allow access to its prisons and detention centres by independent monitors, nor does it generally publish the names, locations, or charges against people in detention.

Trân Khai Thanh Thuy is among these writers currently detained in Vietnam for the peaceful expression of their right to free speech. English PEN strongly protests the imprisonment of Thanh Thuy, and urges all members and friends of English PEN to send letters of appeal:

• Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Tran Khai Thanh Thuy and all those currently detained in Vietnam in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a signatory
• Seeking assurances that Thanh Thuy is given full access to all necessary medical care whilst in prison.

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

If you are interested in writing to Trân Khai Thanh Thuy directly, please contact

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