“We Are Cornered in a Dead End.” — Dang Dinh Bach and Family Struggle for Survival

Below is a letter from Tran Phuong Thao, wife of imprisoned climate leader Dang Dinh Bach. In it, she describes the inhumane conditions in which Bach is being kept in prison– in what is known as a “tiger cage”– as well as the very real effects that the imprisonment is having on their family. Their three-year-old son won’t be able to go to school because Thao does not have residency paperwork, called the “pink book,” and Thao has not been able to pay rent. Thao is calling for international support, in particular, sending letters to Bach and calling for an emergency visit from the Special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and the Special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.



Hanoi, 27.04.2024


Dear friends, colleagues and international organizations,


When the situation is too disheartening, one feels quite numb, unable to do anything.

That’s why I could not sit down and report after I last visited Bach on 13.04.2024.

Bach’s parents came along with me this time.

We had to wait an hour and a half after registration before we were driven to the visiting room, while other families had to wait only about ten to fifteen minutes.

Both Bach and I tried to show ourselves relaxed and smiling, avoiding to talk about our worries, not to distress our parents.

In truth, we felt ourselves trapped: our baby son will be 3 years old in June, and because I do not have the “pink book,” which is the certificate issued by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment regarding home ownership, he will not get a place in the public school, the water bill may increase 3.5 times from this month or next month, the electricity bill will also continue to climb….and I won’t be able to pay. Already since Bach was arrested, I had to stop paying our monthly apartment installments.

Yesterday, 26.04.2024, Bach called home.

He said that the conditions of his detention were leading to a deterioration of his physical and mental health.

The detention cell of about 15 square meters that he shared with one other prisoner is prolonged by a yard of the same size surrounded by high walls and wire mesh above, bearing the name “tiger cage.”

Nghệ An weather has a maximum daytime temperature of 43 degrees Celsius (around noon) and a minimum nighttime temperature of 28 degrees Celsius.

Confining a prisoner in such a cell, especially from 11AM to 2PM, is obviously a crude physical method to torture him.

The cell with a metal roof is constantly hot, with little natural light and poor ventilation, causing headaches and dehydration. Bach’s application from 12.04.2024 for an air fan has been ignored until now.

Bach has to spend a considerable part of each 24-hour period practically confined to his bed, doing nothing, because even during day time, a small light bulb of 20W does not give enough light to read or write inside the cell. The only chance is during the few hours when he is allowed to go out to the small yard to get sunlight and fresh air, but the yard has nothing to provide shade from the burning sun, and growing a loofah trellis is forbidden.

(The one grown in 2023 was destroyed in September.)

Bach has never been allowed to go out to the prison exercise yard to do sport or socialize.

Dear friends, colleagues, and international organizations, Bach used a big part of the 10 minutes phone call yesterday to emphasize how he longs to hear from you, from the progress of your work. Please ask your embassy to help in sending letters to him.

The rest of the time, we mostly talked about how we can care for and protect our baby son.

For us, a young couple with their first baby, housing is the main place of family life, a secure shelter, a place fulfilling psycho-biological needs.

Imprisoning the family’s father, then plotting to take away the home of his wife and baby…Yes, we are cornered in a dead end.

As Vietnam is serving as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for the 2023-2025 term, please help us in calling for an emergency visit of the Special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and the Special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.


Yours faithfully,

Tran Phuong Thao (Mrs)


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