Cablegate: Political Prisoners Dr. Que and Dr. Son Transferred

Published: Tue 12 Oct 2004 11:52 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
Reftels: A) HCMC 1184 and previous, B) Hanoi 967 and
This is a joint Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City reporting cable.
1. (SBU) Summary: Political prisoners Dr. Nguyen Dan Que and
Dr. Pham Hong Son have both been transferred to a prison in
Thanh Hoa Province in northern Vietnam. Son is reportedly
in poor health and may require surgery for a hernia. Family
members have not been able to visit Que or Son, and one
speculated that Son was moved to the new, more remote
facility in order to punish his wife for meeting with
foreign diplomats and journalists. End Summary.
2. (SBU) Mrs. Tam Van, wife of imprisoned activist Dr.
Nguyen Dan Que, reported to us that in late September she
sought to visit her husband in his HCMC prison. At that
time, prison officials told her that her husband had been
transferred to a new location that they would divulge to her
"later." Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Que told us that a
contact in the HCMC branch of the Ministry of Public
Security (MPS) informally confirmed that Dr. Que had been
transferred to MPS Prison #5 in Yen Dinh District, Thanh Hoa
Province (nearly 200 kilometers south of Hanoi).
3. (SBU) Mrs. Que bemoaned the fact that the financial
hardship of traveling to this relatively remote prison meant
that she would only be able to visit her husband at best
quarterly instead of twice a month, as would have been
possible if he had been imprisoned in or near HCMC.
Visitation procedures also were cumbersome: each time that
she wanted to visit, she needed to have an application
certified by HCMC police authorities, she explained.
Moreover, the visitation request process could not begin
until she received formal notification from GVN authorities
that her husband had been transferred. Mrs. Que's MPS
contact indicated to her that this would come "soon."
4. (SBU) Similarly, a family member of imprisoned activist
Dr. Pham Hong Son informed Embassy that Son had also been
moved to Prison #5 in Thanh Hoa Province. The family member
reported that Son's wife had traveled to the new prison on
September 12, but was refused access to her husband as he
was reportedly being punished for refusing to wear his
prison uniform. Son had apparently worn civilian clothes in
his previous prison. Son's family had not received any
letters from him since the transfer. The family member
speculated that the transfer to a more distant prison was
done to punish Son's wife for her frequent meetings with
foreign diplomats and members of the international press to
highlight his case, adding that officials had previously
threatened this possibility in an attempt to silence her
(Ref B).
5. (SBU) Son's wife last visited him on August 16 and after
that visit reported to Radio Free Asia that Son was
suffering from a hernia. Son's family member confirmed the
report to Poloff and added that Son, who is himself a
physician, admitted to his wife that he had had the
condition for more than five months and said that the prison
did not have facilities to treat it. Son's wife apparently
raised her concerns to the prison authorities, but was told
his health was being "appropriately" treated. After the RFA
report, calls from Reporters Without Borders and inquiries
from international journalists, the Foreign Ministry
publicly denied on September 24 that Son was in ill health.
However, family members indicated to us on October 11 that
he might receive an operation "imminently."
6. (SBU) Comment: Although the GVN has in the past
incarcerated a number of political prisoners in Prison #5,
more recently the authorities seem to have used Ba Sao (also
known as Nam Ha) Prison in Ha Nam Province for these
prisoners. The transfer of these two high-profile
individuals to the more remote Prison #5 may well be an
attempt to distance them from their families, with the GVN
seeking to block the flow of information about them to
journalists, activists and foreign governments. We will
remain in contact with Dr. Son's family to see if he is
indeed able to receive his operation. End comment.
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