Vietnamese Medical Doctor Pham Hong Son Thanks CHR Following His Release from Prison but Remains under House Arrest
October 20, 2006
Vietnamese medical doctor Pham Hong Son was released on August 30, 2006, as part of a large-scale general amnesty to mark Vietnam’s National Day on September 2. He had served four years and five months of a five-year prison sentence for peacefully expressing his opinion. In September 2006 the CHR received a letter from Dr. Son thanking the committee for its efforts to help gain his release from prison. Below is a brief excerpt:
[O]ther Vietnamese pro-democracy activists and I have undertaken to fight for a true democracy for Vietnam in spite of dangers. We know also we are not alone in that arduous struggle because the Humanity has seen an organization named Committee on Human Rights of the National Academies defending and struggling for human rights around the world including Vietnam.
I can not express how grateful I am to you, your Committee on Human Rights of the National Academies, I can only ask you to accept the most sincere thanks from my heart’s bottom and my own family.
Regretfully, however, Dr. Son is not a free man. Upon his release from prison, he was immediately placed under what amounts to house arrest and reportedly will remain so for up to three years. Unfortunately, because of the severe restrictions that have been placed on Dr. Son since his release from prison on August 30, we have only recently been able to obtain, from a source we deem reliable, the information below about the nature of these restrictions.
During the first few days of September 2006, approximately 10 policemen and security agents, wearing plain clothes, were stationed around Dr. Son’s house as close as five meters away. A number of additional agents were visible some distance away. In recent days the number of such guards has been somewhat reduced, and their presence is more discreet. Dr. Son has been informed by the authorities that he is permitted only to move about within his immediate neighborhood. The few times that he has gone outside of his house, at least two security agents have followed him. A request early this month by Dr. Son to visit his mother (who lives approximately 100 kilometers south of Hanoi) and pay respects to the gravesite of his father, who died just before his release, was denied, as was a request to go shopping with his family in an area just two kilometers from his house.
Officially, Dr. Son is permitted to receive visitors. Any visitors, however, are subjected to surveillance by the guards posted outside his house. Furthermore, it has been reported that security guards harassed several dissidents who tried to visit him and recently prevented a group of foreigners from entering his house. We would also add that the local telephone service company has disconnected Dr. Son’s telephone line reportedly in response to orders it received from the security police. To the best of our knowledge he does not have access to the Internet either. Earlier this month, when he tried to access the Internet via a local Internet café, security agents removed him from the café and escorted him home.
Dr. Son’s health declined significantly during his incarceration, in large part as a result of his harsh conditions of confinement and lack of access to adequate medical care. In mid 2004, while in prison, he developed an inguinal hernia. That he still suffers from this treatable condition two and a half years later attests to the fact that he did not receive the medical treatment it requires. Dr. Son also continues to cough up blood, a symptom that he has been experiencing for more than a year. Given his serious ill-health, the CHR is concerned that he has been told that a doctor can examine him at home, but he is not permitted to leave his home to go to a medical office or hospital to receive the specialized medical care that his conditions require.
For more detailed information on Dr. Son's case, please see his case summary.