“I wonder if they not only strip him of his rights, but also strip him of his humanity” — Dang Dinh Bach’s Family Alleges Prison Has Denied Him Photos of His Young Son, Books

Below is a letter from Tran Phuong Thao, wife of imprisoned climate leader Dang Dinh Bach. In it, she alleges Prison No. 6 in Nghe An province has denied Bach photos of his young son — who was only weeks old when Bach was arrested — and his elderly parents, as well as books of various topics. Dang Dinh Bach has long alleged mistreatment at the hands of Prison No. 6. Recently, a package of food was deliberately withheld from him for several weeks, compounding his already dire lack of food. Bach is serving five years in prison on spurious charges of tax evasion.

This type of treatment is common in Vietnam, as prisons censor and deny even the most seemingly routine and mundane requests for visits, supplies, and information, impacting prisoners both physically and psychologically. Project88 has also documented many testimonies of apparent retribution for political prisoners standing up for their own rights or those of others. 


Hanoi, 26.03.2024 ~

Dear friends, colleagues, and international organizations,

My husband Bách called home this afternoon, March 26, 2024.

After vehement protests on my part against the prison warden and my complaint letter to the Director of Prison No. 6, Nghe An province, the food parcel withheld by the prison for more than two weeks finally was given to Bách, but to his extreme sadness, it did not include the pictures of our baby son or of Bách’s parents, taken during Tet two months ago.

Since March 4, the pictures have been submitted for censorship!

As you know, Bách was arrested when our baby was only two weeks old. Since then, because of the day long travel in harsh conditions, I have not been able to bring him with me to visit his dad in prison.

Bách’s 75 year-old father and 72 year-old mother are very weak, and they also haven’t seen their only son since November 2022. Our family ties now are just maintained by a couple of photos as “tangible connection” and yet, the prison continues to make it difficult for Bách, isolating him in ways that are brazenly cruel, harmful, and senseless.

On my last prison visit (12.03.2024), I brought a few books Bách wished to receive:

  • Community organizing, from David Walls
  • You are Here, from Zen master Thích Nhất Hạnh
  • Creating true Peace, from Zen master Thích Nhất Hạnh

And they were all rejected by the prison warden.

Even the one-page information sheet about a discussion program on “Just Energy Transition Partnership/ Vietnam” organized by the German Heinrich Böll Foundation, was not accepted. This was not a surprise for me, but I tried to bring it, because Bách kept asking news about the JET-P and cooperation between Germany and Việt Nam. Anyway, at least I could give him some joy, telling him that there are still people who share his values and ideals.

Bách actually has another wish: he needs books to start learning German as an additional foreign language (besides English), something that he has long wanted. Unfortunately, the prison claims that books in foreign languages which have not been censored are not allowed.

The problem with prison regulations prohibiting Bách from reading certain books is that it creates conditions of control that extend well beyond physical confinement. I wonder if they not only strip him of his rights, but also strip him of his humanity. It is a real cause for concern because intellectual activities are a psychological stimulus that Bách needs in order to remain healthy and functioning.

Dear friends, colleagues, and international organizations, Bách is still counting on you to find ways to support and accompany him and me in campaigning for Bách’s cause and freedom.


Yours faithfully,

Tran Phuong Thao (Mrs)


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