Sunday, January 26, 2014

Tôi không thể ngồi yên.

Những tấm gương can đảm của tuổi trẻ Việt Nam hôm nay:
Tôi không thể ngồi yên khi nước Việt Nam đang ngả nghiêng.
Dân tộc tôi sắp phải đắm chìm một ngàn năm hay triền miên tăm tối. Tôi không thể ngồi yên để đời sau cháu con tôi làm người. Cội nguồn ở đâu khi thế giới này đã không còn Việt Nam
  -  Việt Khang

About:  Do Thi Minh Hanh

Do Thi Minh Hanh - one of the most beloved and respected human-rights activists in present days' Vietnam - was borned on 13-3-1985 in the city of Di Linh, Lam Dong province, south central high-land of Vietnam [on the same plateau and not far from the reknown city of Da-Lat].

Upon having witnessed with her own eyes, the immense injustices and sufferings in today's Vietnam society, which caused by the authoritarian-communist regime in Vietnam, Hanh decided to give a helping hand by becoming a human-rights activist and labor-union organizer for the welfare of poor Vietnamese people, whose home, land, properties have been illegally taken away by greedy local Vietcong authorities, and Vietnamese workers whose wages have not been paid in full or working conditions are gravely unsafe.

Hanh was arrested and imprisoned a few times. And on the 26th of October 2010 the Vietcong regime sentenced her 7 years in prison. While serving her jail terms in Vietcong's prison, Hanh has been undergoing all sorts of brutal beating by communist officials and their guards.  Her health has been deteriorating badly.

Hanh's letter from Vietcong prison reveals how Vietcong regime systematically uses inmates-to-beat-inmate tactic to subdue prisoners to long hour and arduous works.

Dear Dad,

I have written you several letters but they might have failed to reach you. I know you are very worried about me right now. Therefore, once more I thought I should write to you again. Hopefully, one out of ten letters will reach you.

Dear Dad,

I'm trying hard to explain so you can understand me and the situation in prison. You and all my elder brothers and sisters probably don't understand why I refused to perform assigned labor work, do you? If so, I'll tell you why now.

When I was still at Ham-Tan prison, I was comfortable and worked dutifully. I felt no pressure nor obligation. Transferring me to another prison was correctly predicted by some of my  inmate-friends because I knew too much about that prison. Now, at this prison, life is even tougher! It's not that I'm afraid of working hard, but that my health is getting weaker.  The way things were running here do not deserve my respect, and I don't want to give in because the prison's officers were going too far. That is because I have the dignity of a decent human being.  All the work that they force me to do will cause conflicts with other inmates in the group. If I worked and made just a slight mistake, the group will take the opportunity to insult me or beat me.

I can't believe that I have become a witness to the act of using inmates to punish inmates.

On my first day in this prison, in the "education" room, one prison officer pressured me but I wasn't afraid at all. They do that to those who are mentally weak.

In my first few days here, I didn't go out for morning roll-call. The prison officials didn't say anything. Then on May 3rd, the day after your visit on May 2nd, my group was punished by sitting in the hot sun. The on-duty officer, with hand-cuffs in hand, rushed into the shower and yanked me out bare, without clothes.  I struggled and he shouted out loud and gave the hand-cuffs to a standing-by inmate to beat me.

I screamed loudly, "The prison system uses inmates to beat other inmates".  Then, I walked out. Everyone in my group was upset at me, thinking that it was because of me that they got punished, they shouted, "What a bitch...". Standing by and witnessing all this, the officers snickered. I yelled out loud, "The prison system uses inmates to beat other inmates". Then, a bunch of inmates rushed into my cell beating me, but one female officer stopped them. Other male officers just threw a cold look at me, then turned around and walked away while I was screaming bitterly.

That afternoon a prison officer, named Giang, came to see me with an unfriendly attitude. Mother Duong Thi Tron [Hanh friendly calls one of her elderly inmate-friend Mother Tron] advised I should go out at roll-call, so the next day May 4th, I went out and spoke loudly "I came out, not because I'm afraid of you, but because I don't want you to all be punished just because of me. Using the inmates-to-beat-inmate tactic to deal with a small and weak girl like me is a coward act." A few days later, I was removed from this group. I was put into group 2 - a cashew-nut group. But I was told to stay in cells 25 & 26 which house the worst criminals. Everyone knew why I was put into these two cells with these criminals.

When I moved into the cells, I was arranged to the second floor with an area of  62 cm; not enough for sleeping, eating, and keeping my belongings. So, I went to see the officer in charge requesting to have a full 2 square-meters as specified by the law.  I also requested to be transferred to a different cell and an argument broke out. A moment later, the officer came in and asked all the other inmates to each give up a small portion of their allocated area in order to give me more space.  How could I accept such an arrangement? How could I have more space than the rest of the group, while they got 60 cm less than before? Thus, I had to contend with the tiny area.

The following day, the official in charge of group 2, named Phuong, came to see me. He said you're still at "home". I replied, "I don't accept daily chores (cleaning toilets, sweeping floors, putting things in orders, preparing meals on time, collecting clothes for 50 inmates) - high responsibility tasks - I don't accept them." I also refused to crush cashew nuts [inmates had to crack open cashews by crushing them with their feet].

Then on the afternoon of May 9th, 2013, the group's supervisor ordered me to go to work tomorrow morning. I didn't say anything. I just smiled and was determined not to take the job. The next morning, I put on clean clothes, with a couple of eating bowls I went outside the gate.  I heard people in my group saying prison officials were preparing a work bench for me to work on.  Other inmates wondered if I still refused to work.  Some of them replied "We can't give in just because of that little girl." That's what I happened to hear from conversations among my cell mates.  I requested to see the official in charge. The officer sent a female guard to order me to go to work. I went inside and changed my clothes, but decided not to go to work. Officer Phuong came in and I told him I would not go and demanded to see the board of prison supervisors. Officer Phuong then said if I still refused to go out and work, then my whole group would be ordered to remain inside. And if my group was not permitted to go to work on time, they could not fulfill their assigned quotas. That made them mad. When my group was permitted to pass the gate to go to work, the officer in charge turned a blind eye when some inmates in my group ran into the cell and dragged me out to go with them. I could not let the prison system use the inmates-to-punish-inmate tactic to subdue me again, so I laid down and spoke to them:

"Sisters, I am sorry to all of you, I can't do it differently.  You all should raise your demands to the officers in charge, you all should not allow them to punish you just because of me. This is a deliberate plan by the prison system."  Then among the crowd, one female inmate stepped out and kicked me very hard that I fell down with my head banging on the floor, another female inmate kicked my back and shoulders,  another one stepped on my abdomen making me feel really painful.  I felt dizzy but didn't resist because their anger was towards me; because of their lack of  understanding about communists' tactics; because they're being used and manipulated by the communist prison system.  During the beating, there were no officers in charge around [they intentionally left to avoid being a witness.] because they didn't want to be witnesses. My head hurt badly, but my spirit grew stronger. Then two inmates came in to yank me out, but I still laid down.  Then one of them took a wooden pitch and hit my head so hard that the wooden pitch shattered into small pieces. Then they dragged me out making me fall hard on the staircase. Then they pulled out a cage-cart, grabbed me and threw me into it, then locked the cage like locking a captured animal before everyone's eyes. They pushed me to the front gate and left me alone there.

That afternoon, after work, inmates in my group poured into cell D2, which house those inmates who had beaten me, to visit me. They asked how I felt and went around asking for medicine for me. They were very resentful at the way the prison system's treatment toward me. Through the conversation with them I got the name of the inmates who had beaten me.

On Saturday, my group had a meeting. This provided an opportunity for the prisons' informants in my group who sought glory, to raise their accusation at me. Of course, I raised my voice to protest.  I made it clear that that was my own business and I was responsible for what I did, but the others should not be punished just because of me.  That morning, once more, the officer in charge repeated that dirty tactic but failed to make me go to work, my kind inmate-friends raised their voice in protest against that.  As for the beating of me, the officers in charge stated, "You are stubborn so let the crowd deal with you."  Officer Giang put it differently, "the educating of an inmate relies upon the educating by the crowds." After that, the officers in charge decided to lock me up for 7 days.  Everyone in my cell was worried about me.

My inmate friends' sincere sympathy and concern for me made me so emotional that it made me shed tears.  After that, the officer in charge read the warning out loud to me.

The officers in charge tried to force me to take the job again and again, but I refused. I already made up my mind and will not change my decision. After the incident, I decided not to do anything. However, I still gave help to the elderly inmates within my capacity.  Officer Giang ridiculed me by calling my help "disrespectful service".

Mother Tron, PGHH [prisoners of conscience who are members of the Hoa Hao Buddist Order] and sister Dung [an inmate friend of Hanh, not a nun] took good care of me.  Aunt Hong [another elderly inmate-friend of Hanh] was made to work hard every day. Her life is so miserable and no relatives come to visit her at prison. So, she dares not to make them unhappy, she just quietly does whatever she is ordered to do. On my part, everything has settled down, and I don't have to perform hard labor work./.

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