Amnesty International calls for urgent action to save Ta Phong Tan

The Amnesty International (AI) on June 8 issued a statement calling for urgent action in the case of the jailed blogger Ta Phong Tan.

“Vietnamese blogger Ta Phong Tan, serving a 10-year prison sentence, has been on hunger strike since 13 May in protest at her harsh treatment by prison guards. She is reported to be weak and in poor health. She is a prisoner of conscience,” the statement wrote.

According to the statement, Ta Phong Tan is now being detained at Prison No 5, Yen Dinh district of Thanh Hoa province in north central Viet Nam. Though Tan is a southerner, it is believed to be a policy by the police-sponsored prisons in Vietnam that prisoners from the south are detained in the north and visa versa so that it is harder for their family to visit them.

AI also said in their statement that this is Ta Phong Tan’s third hunger strike “in protest at prison guards’ harsh and abusive treatment of her and other political prisoners. During her time in prison she has been held for several months in a solitary confinement cell with no windows and been prevented from speaking with other prisoners.”

“She suffers from arthritis, a stomach complaint and high blood pressure. According to her family, who visited her on 3 June, she is “very weak”, and her health has seriously deteriorated,” said the AI’s statement.

AI called on everybody to write either in English, Vietnamese or their own language to demand the Vietnamese authorities to release Ta Phong Tan immediately and unconditionally, instruct the prison to take immediate steps to resolve complaints made by Ta Phong Tan about her treatment by prison guards, and ensure that Ta Phong Tan has immediate access to any medical attention she may require and is treated in accordance with the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

AI suggested that the mails be sent before July 20 to General Tran Dai Quang, Minister of Public Security; Mr. Pham Binh Minh, Minister of Foreign Affairs; and Mr. Ha Hung Cuong, Minister of Justice.

Ta Phong Tan, born 1968, is a former policewoman and co-founder of the independent Vietnam Free Journalists’ Club. She is widely known for her blog “Cong ly va Su that” (“Justice and Truth”). She was arrested in September 2011 and tried on September 24, 2012 with two other founders of the VFC, Phan Thanh Hai (a.k.a. Anhba SG) and Nguyen Van Hai (better known as Dieu Cay). The three were accused of “conducting propaganda against the state” under Article 88 of the Vietnamese Penal Code.

Dieu Cay was given the harshest sentence of 12 years in prison, while Ta Phong Tan received a sentence of 10-year-imprisonment, and Phan Thanh Hai four years. Phan Thanh Hai was released in 2013 for “good behavior” in prison while Dieu Cay was almost “expelled” to the United States last October. It is said that the Vietnamese government just made a bargain of him with the United States.

Ta Phong Tan, however, remains in prison. Her mother, Mrs. Dang Thi Kim Lieng, died of self-immolation on July 30, 2012, just two months prior to her trial.

Pham Thanh Nghien, former prisoner of conscience, was holding a banner advocating for Ta Phong Tan's release. Photo courtesy of Danlambao.

Pham Thanh Nghien, former prisoner of conscience, was holding a banner advocating for Ta Phong Tan’s release. Photo courtesy of Danlambao.