(VNRN) – Prisoners of conscience in Vietnam have been transferred away from their families, a pattern that has come to the fore with the most recent move of Le Quoc Quan (Lê Quốc Quân) from Hanoi to Quang Nam province 760km (470 miles) away.
The transfer of the lawyer and democracy activist occurred “at night and without notice to the family,” Quan’s brother Le Quoc Quyet told Vietnam Right Now. The family only knew about it after Quan, upon arriving in Quang Nam, yelled out his name to passers-by, one of whom knew of Quan and then contacted Quyet.
It made clear a pattern that has been going on for a while. Vietnam is an elongated country, and political prisoners have been moved to opposite ends of the country. Blogger Dieu Cay (Nguyen Van Hai – Nguyễn Văn Hải), whom U.S. President Barrack Obama once called for by name to be released, was first held in southern Ho Chi Minh City where he lived but has been taken to Nghe An province, 1500km (930 miles) to the north.
Blogger Ta Phong Tan (Tạ Phong Tần), a former police officer arrested in Ho Chi Minh and whose family lives further south in Bac Lieu, is now held in Thanh Hoa province, near Nghe An. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in 2013 named Tan an International Woman of Courage.
A group of 14 Christian student activists in Nghe An, tried collectively in April 2013, on the other hand, have all been taken out of Nghe An province, some moved to Thai Nguyen province 370 km (230 miles) north.
From Hanoi, the writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia (Nguyễn Xuân Nghĩa) and now Le Quoc Quan have been moved to An Diem camp in Quang Nam province. Blogger Huynh Thuc Vy (Huỳnh Thục Vy), who is from Quang Nam and whose father Huynh Ngoc Tuan (Huỳnh Ngọc Tuấn) had been imprisoned in several camps in numerous provinces including An Diem, called it “an infamous forced labor camp where some prisoners have been worked to death.” She did, however, note that the camp has since been transferred to the Ministry of Interior and conditions may now be different.
Moving prisoners to different provinces is not unusual. In the decade after the war, tens of thousands of former South Vietnamese military and officials were moved to northern reeducation camps in the north. It was thought detainees were frequently moved to prevent them from forming bonds of friendships with each other or with the guards.
The transfer of Quan, however, was different. His brother Quyet said the family had seen Quan that afternoon and nothing had been said. It is unclear what the purpose was for the transfer. Writing on Radio Free Asia, blogger JB Nguyen Huu Vinh thought it was “petty vendetta” to take prisoners of conscience away from their families. In an interview on the BBC Vietnamese service, Quyet saw his brother’s transfer as further suppression of Quan’s free speech, as he had been kept aware of current events and was telling other prisoners his criticism of the government’s inaction in the face of conflict with China at sea.