A Vietnamese journalist who is serving an 11-year prison sentence told family members that his health has declined to the point that he can no longer consume food without vomiting, a relative told Radio Free Asia.
Le Huu Minh Tuan, a member of the Vietnam Independent Journalists’ Association, was arrested in 2020 on a charge of “conducting propaganda against the state.” He’s now serving an 11-year term at Xuyen Moc Prison in southern Vietnam’s Ba Ria-Vung Tau province.
Tuan, 34, said during a visit on Tuesday that “he is too weak to bear any more” and that he “cannot hold on” much longer, according to the relative, who wished to remain anonymous.
Tuan has had digestive issues since late last year and has been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and hepatitis by a medical officer at the prison. He contracted scabies in mid-2023, and that has now spread to his whole body, according to the relative.
Although his family has sent medication several times, he has not been allowed to receive them and can only take medicine provided by the prison, the relative said.
Tuan received a cursory examination at a local hospital in November, according to the relative.
On Tuesday, family members could only see Tuan through a thick glass partition and were allowed to talk to him only via telephone. He was able to walk by himself but moved slowly.
“He has only bone and skin left now, very pale. He could not consume anything because his body could not digest food. He just drank milk and thin porridge,” the relative said.
‘His life quite clearly depends on it’
Tuan is a former editor of the Vietnam Times online newspaper and a member of the Vietnam Independent Journalists’ Association, which fought for press freedom in Vietnam but was not recognized by the Communist-led government.
Tuan was prosecuted alongside Pham Chi Dung, the association’s president, and Nguyen Tuong Thuy, a blogger for RFA and the association’s vice president. Dung was given a 15-year prison term, while Thuy was sentenced to 11 years.
Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, called on the government to immediately release Tuan.
“Since Vietnam’s prisons provide virtually no health services to start with, Le Huu Minh Tuan should be immediately and unconditionally released so that his family can get him the support and medical care that he urgently needs,” he told RFA. “There should be no excuses, his life quite clearly depends on it.”
Many international organizations, including Amnesty International, have criticized Vietnam for its inhumane treatment of prisoners of conscience and for holding them in harsh conditions with malnutrition and poor medical care.
Family members have sent an urgent petition to the Ministry of Public Security’s Department of Prison Management and to Xuyen Moc Prison with a request to give Tuan proper treatment and a thorough examination at a hospital.
RFA’s calls to Xuyen Moc Prison and Ba Ria-Vung Tau Provincial People’s Procuracy to verify information went unanswered.
Translated by Anna Vu for RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Matt Reed and Roseanne Gerin.