The 88 Project, January 25, 2017: Ms. Can Thi Theu is a land rights activist from Duong Noi who was sentenced to 20 months of imprisonment in September 2016 for “disturbing public order.” In fact, she is a leading figure in the fight against land seizures and inadequate compensation of the farmers of Duong Noi. Forced evictions of farmers from their fertile lands in order to build industrial and recreational zones have been the cause of social miseries for farmers everywhere in Vietnam. Can Thi Theu’s story and the context of land confiscation in Vietnam are told in this bilingual video produced by artist Kim Chi, Hélèna Lee and friends:
Can Thi Theu’s imprisonment sentence was upheld at the appeal trial on November 30, 2016. Shortly thereafter, she was transferred from Hoa Lo prison in Hanoi to Gia Trung prison in Gia Lai, a thousand kilometers away from home. Can Thi Theu wrote a letter addressed to “landless farmers and communities at home and abroad” from Gia Trung prison on December 20, 2016. We translated and published the letter here, with the consent of her family, to share her voice with those around the world who care about her situation.
Gia Trung prison, 20 December 2016
Dear landless farmers and communities at home and abroad.
I’m Can Thi Theu, a victim of injustice from Duong Noi commune.
At 9:00am on 11 December 2016, I was escorted by the police from the Detention Center No.1, Hoa Lo prison, Hanoi to Noi Bai International Airport. At 11:30am, the plane took off. Looking out the window I saw my hometown, my village gradually fading away. I knew this was the vile revenge of the communist regime against me. They exiled me to a place that is far away from my hometown to traumatize me and to make it difficult and costly for my family to visit me.
Since the first instance trial and the appeal, I have known that the Vietnamese communist regime would plan to exact revenge on me, because during the two trials, all the five lawyers who defended me put forth strong arguments to prove that I was completely innocent and asked the court to release me unconditionally right there in court.
And I, during both the trials, condemned and exposed the crimes of the communist regime in the looting of the people’s land and pushing us into unemployment and poverty. I showed the court that: all the evidence, including a video showed in court, is not sufficient grounds to accuse me of disturbing public order. On the contrary, the video footage showed at the trial was irrefutable evidence to demonstrate the crimes of the communist regime and the corrupt judiciary in Vietnam, which have both directed the police to disguise themselves and to use cars and buses to chase after innocent people.
When the judges let me say the final words, I decided to represent the oppressed, the exploited, and the people whose lands the government of Vietnam has robbed, to accuse the Communist Party of Vietnam of betraying the trust the people.
Perhaps this was the reason why the communist regime took me to this unwholesome jungle in the central highlands of Vietnam, over a thousand kilometers away from Hanoi.
But the revenge has completely failed. Just three days after I arrived at Gia Trung prison, my family and landless farmers from Duong Noi flew from Hanoi to visit me. Ms. Tan, Dieu Cay’s ex-wife, also traveled from Saigon to visit me. My family and chi Tan also brought me letters from Father Pham Trung Thanh, from Duong Noi’s landless farmers, and many loving messages from friends near and far, at home and abroad. I am deeply touched and feel so warm in this remote highlands area. Although I am imprisoned, I am not alone, because outside there are thousands and millions of hearts that are compassionate towards the victims of land confiscation like me.
I know that all of you, Fathers, farmers, and communities, at home and abroad, have given me the confidence and determination to walk the next step on the path that I chose. We are determined to fight together to reclaim the land, the right to life, and the human rights of which the communist regime has deprived my family and those in similar situations.
I sincerely appreciate the tremendous concern that the communities at home and abroad have shown for me and my family during this difficult time.
Finally, as Tet Holiday of 2017 is approaching, I would like to send my greetings and the best new year wishes to all the benefactors who have cared for and helped my family. May you have plenty of health to prepare for the New Year with lots of joy and happiness.
I would like to end my letter here.
Goodbye and look forward to seeing you, my benefactors, after my release from communist prison.
Cấn Thị Thêu
Source (in Vietnamese): Facebook Trịnh Bá Phương
The original letter in Vietnamese, shared by Can Thi Theu’s son Trinh Ba Phuong:
English translation ©2017 The 88 Project