This Sunday (May 24) marks six full years since Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, one of the most famous political prisoners in Vietnam who is now serving a 16-year sentence in prison, was arrested. His arrest opened the notorious case of “Tran Huynh Duy Thuc and his henchmen vs. the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”, in which four dissidents were given harsh sentences of imprisonment, including Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Le Cong Dinh, Nguyen Tien Trung and Le Thang Long.
The Dan Luan [People Discussion] has conducted an interview with Mr. Tran Van Huynh, father of Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, on the sufferings that their family had endured in the past six years and their ongoing struggle for his freedom.
– How did you feel on this day six years ago, when Thuc was arrested urgently by the security forces?
– In those days, Thuc was a very successful businessman. But, despite his success, he saw a great many dissatisfying issues that negatively impact the nation, so he decided to devote himself to the cause [of democratizing Vietnam]. He wrote a lot of mails to political leaders, expressing his concern and contributing his opinions for a reform, but all of those mails did not receive any feedback. Thus he began blogging in 2004. What he wrote was nothing but personal opinions, which he spoke from the bottom of his heart, warning the government of political, economic and social risks that the country would possibly face. In the end, realities have confirmed his predictions.
He was initially arrested for the false charge of “stealing telecom wires”. The prosecutors, however, failed to prove their accusation, so the charge against Thuc was changed to “conducting activities to overthrow the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the Penal Code.
Recently, our family has filed compliant to the National Assembly, the Prime Minister and the President, denouncing that Thuc was tortured during police investigation and requesting a court of cassation. If this case is reviewed and Tran Huynh Duy Thuc is acquitted, confidence in a possible change will be created. Thuc said it is now a good time for Vietnam to enhance the image of its judiciary system.
– How does he communicate with the family from jail?
– He is allowed to write two letters and make a 5-minute phone call to the family every month. The letters must be censored by the prison wardens, and they are sent home via post.
In his letters, Thuc keeps sharing his ideas on the current situation of the country. Despite his jail condition, he tries to keep himself informed. He reads a lot, and is always ready to fight peacefully and lawfully for the prisoners’ rights. He always speaks out against injustice, say, when a warden beats up prisoners.
– As far as I know, you used to oppose Thuc and you disagreed with him on what he was doing, didn’t you?
– Initially I was very angry with him. I thought that he, at that time, was a very successful businessman and enjoying a high social status. If he had kept his mouth shut and just focused on making wealth, he would have been much more successful. I think every parents would share what I was thinking then if they were in my position.
But Thuc chooses more noble path indeed, for the interest of the nation and for the following generations, not just for his children. He keeps saying, “I am not hostile towards anyone, but as long as I find a government to be dictatorial I will fight against it.”
– Have you ever felt tired on your way to struggle for his freedom?
– No, I haven’t. Thuc often consoles us, telling the family not to lose hope for this will be a long fight. He is confident that Vietnam is on the right track to change. On my part, as long as I am still fit, I keep fighting for my son.
– A recent topic of concern is whether and when Vietnam will join the TPP. Do you expect that Vietnam’s entry into TPP will help release Thuc and some other prisoners of conscience?
– I hope that the TPP will raise Vietnam and its relations with the world to a higher level. But what is most important is how TPP will truly help improve human rights in Vietnam.
– What about the ongoing campaign “Human Rights 2015 for Vietnam”? The campaigners are advocating for the release of prisoners of conscience. Do you think it will help those prisoners, including Thuc?
– Yes, I hope so. There are many organizations in Vietnam and outside of Vietnam that are calling for the freedom of Thuc and other prisoners of conscience. For example, the Swedish Civil Rights Defenders (CRD) has recently raised the profile of Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, and this brings me much hope. I believe in the influence of international pressure upon the Vietnamese government to make it change.