Jailed Activist Tran Thi Nga Moved to Central Highlands, About 1,200 Km from Her Native Province

Human Rights Activist Tran Thi Nga with her two kids Phu and Tai before being arrested in early 2017

Defend the Defenders, March 5, 2018

Vietnam’s authorities have transferred convicted activist Tran Thi Nga to Dak Trung Camp prison in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak, at a distance of over 1,200 km from her native province of Ha Nam.

On March 5, Mr. Phan Van Phong, the father of Nga’s two kids, went to visit her in the Detention facility near Phu Ly city under the authority of the Ha Nam province’s police to provide her with some supplements, however, he was informed by the facility’s authorities that she had been moved to the new place, Mr. Phong told Defend the Defenders.

Her transfer will cause difficulties for him and her family to visit her. She has two kids, five and eight years old, said Mr. Phong who is an activist based in Hanoi. Dak Trung Camp prison is under the authority of the Ministry of Public Security, he added.

Ms. Nga was arrested on February 21, 2017 on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code. In late July last year, the People’s Court of Ha Nam sentenced her to nine years in prison and five years under house arrest afterward and in late 2017, the Hanoi High People’s Court upheld the sentence.

Ms. Nga was a migrant worker in Taiwan. While working there, she assisted Vietnamese workers to demand Vietnamese brokers to take responsibility to ensure the rights of migrant workers.

Upon her return to Vietnam, about ten years ago, she assisted land petitioners who had lost their land due to illegal seizure from local authorities.

She also participated in many anti-China demonstrations in Hanoi from 2011 to 2016 to protest China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea), as well as in peaceful gatherings to demand multi-party democracy and on environmental issues.

Due to her activities, Vietnam’s communist government, particularly authorities in Ha Nam province constantly harassed and persecuted her and her two children. She was detained many times and placed under de facto house arrest for most of the last two years.

In May 2014, she was attacked by plainclothes agents in Hanoi who broke her right leg and caused a number of severe injuries to her body.

Police in Ha Nam also targeted her kids, throwing a dirty mixture containing decaying shrimp at them. Her private residence in Phu Ly city was attacked with paint and dirty substances many times.

Despite government intimidation and assault, Nga has continued to speak out against political injustices and broader state violence. She is part of a growing community of Vietnamese bloggers using Facebook and YouTube to foster political activism and solidarity, many of whom have been detained under vague national security laws as part of the government’s ongoing crackdown on free speech.

Ms. Nga is among six distinguished women human rights activists in Southeast Asia the human rights NGO Amnesty International recognized their work on the occasion of International Women’s Day (March 8) this year. Nga, Sirikan Charoensiri from Thailand, Maria Chin Abdullah from Malaysia, Tep Vanny from Cambodia, Leila de Lima from Philippines and Wai Wai Nu from Myanmar have faced harassment, threats, imprisonment, and violence for standing up for human rights in the region.

After her arrest, many foreign democratic governments and a number of international human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Reporters Without Borders called on Vietnam’s communist government to immediately and unconditionally release her and other activists who have been imprisoned just because of exercising the right of freedom of expression which is enshrined in the country’s 2013 Constitution.

The arrest and conviction of Nga is part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local dissidents, human rights defenders, social activists, and online bloggers.

Vietnam has little tolerance to government critics. According to Human Rights Watch, the communist government holds over 100 political prisoners while the Now!Campaign, an initiative by BPSOS, Civil Rights Defenders, Defend the Defenders, and 13 other partners said Vietnam is holding 168 prisoners of conscience.

Transfer to locations far from the family and the denial of medical treatment are measures frequently used by the Vietnamese communist government to punish prisoners of conscience who refuse to make confessions during trials or sentencing.

Recently, Vietnam’s authorities transferred prominent human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (Mother Mushroom) to the Camp No. 5 prison in the central province of Thanh Hoa, about 900 km from the central city of Nha Trang, where her family is living. Quynh was sentenced to ten years in prison on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda.”