Political Prisoner to Receive Rights Award in Paris
RFA | 01-31-2020
Vietnamese prisoner of conscience Tran Thi Nga is set to receive ACAT-France’s
Engel Prize for Human Rights on Saturday in Paris after being freed early in
January from a nine-year prison term imposed in Vietnam for “spreading
propaganda against the state.
Released on Jan. 10 following diplomatic pressure after serving three years of
her sentence, Tran and her two sons and husband were put on a plane and sent to
Atlanta, Georgia, where she now lives in exile from Vietnam.
travel to France due to poor health following her prison ordeal, she will
receive the award from ACAT-France—Action by Christians for the Abolition of
Torture—in Paris on Feb. 1 in absentia, Tran told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on
“Because my health is not good, I will not be able to travel to France to take
part in the award ceremony. However, a friend will attend the ceremony on my
behalf,” she said, speaking by phone from Atlanta.
Speaking to RFA, Tran expressed her appreciation for ACAT’s recognition of her
work promoting human rights in Vietnam.
“For many years, I just thought I was doing everything I could to help myself,
my children, and the many people who are now victims in Vietnam’s prisons. I
never imagined that my work in fighting for human rights would be appreciated by
international organizations,” she said.
Writing in a Jan. 13 statement, the Paris-based rights group welcomed Tran’s
early release from prison, saying she had been “unjustly punished by the
Vietnamese government for her commitment to the rights of the weakest.”
“We regret, however, that she is unable to continue her work in her country,
where she is prohibited from traveling,” the rights group said.
“We call on the international community not to confuse [her] early release with
a relaxation of the repression carried out on civil society in Vietnam,” ACAT-France
“On the contrary, it is more necessary than ever for Hanoi’s trading partners to
bring the issue of human rights to the table.”
Noted in Vietnam for her online activism, Tran was sentenced in July 2017 to
nine years in prison for spreading "propaganda against the state" under Article
88 of Vietnam’s penal code, a provision frequently used to silence dissident
bloggers and other activists. Her appeal was rejected in December that year.
She was later beaten and threatened with death by a cellmate assigned to her by
prison authorities, and was repeatedly denied family visits for “refusal to
follow the rules,” Tran’s husband Phan Van Phong told RFA in earlier reports.
Last year saw a surge in the number of prisoners of conscience in Vietnam, along
with a continuing crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression, association,
and peaceful assembly, according to a report released this week by rights group
“The authorities arrested and/or prosecuted at least 23 people over the course
of the year on speech related grounds,” AI said in its report, “Human Rights in
Asia-Pacific: Review of 2019.”
“Most of those targeted had expressed views on issues such as corruption, the
environment, politics, and human rights, using Facebook as a platform. Those
convicted received prison sentences of up to 11 years.”
Prisoners of conscience were frequently sent to facilities far from their homes
and were subjected to “various forms of ill-treatment, including solitary
confinement, poor quality food, lack of access to medical care, and mental and
physical abuse,” including assaults by prisoners held for common crimes, the
rights group said.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huynh Le. Written in
English by Richard Finney.