Vietnam, April 17, 2015
The political prisoner Mai Thi Dung was released unconditionally on April 17, 2015, nearly 16 months before the end of her prison term. A Hoa Hao Buddhist, Ms. Mai Thi Dung was sentenced to 11 years of imprisonment for allegedly “disturbing public order “. She was escorted by the police from Thanh Xuân Prison (Hanoi) to her family in An Giang province on 18:30 April 17, 2015. Ms. Mai thi Dung came home in very poor health condition.
Ms. Mai Thi Dung, 46, resided in Cho Moi district (An Giang province). Since 1999, she and her husband, Mr. Vo Van Buu, have been actively engaged in the protection of the right to religious freedom of Hoa Hao Buddhist followers in Southern Vietnam.
On August 5, 2005, Dung and her husband, together with six other Hoa Hao Buddhists, were assaulted by the police and arrested for having participated in a sit-in and hunger strike in a private house two months before to protest against repression. To outcry the arbitrary arrest, some victims set themselves on fire which ended with the death of Mr. Tran Van Ut (Út Hòa Lạc) and severe burns of Mr. Vo Van Buu. Of the seven people taken to court, Vo Van Buu was sentenced to 7 years of imprisonment and Mai Thi Dung convicted twice with a total of 11 years in prison for allegedly “disturbing public order” under Article 245 of the Criminal Code. The third involved and heavily convicted person, Ms. Duong Thi Tron (68) with 9 years imprisonment, is still held in Xuân Lôc prison camp (Dong Nai province).
Ms. Mai Thi Dung had to endure inhuman treatment during her detention time in Xuân Lôc, such as living with chronic pain without receiving either medical examination or appropriate treatment for her serious diseases, with the aim to force her to sign a confession. On Oct 2,2013, in spite of her critical health situation, Ms. Dung was transferred to Thanh Xuân prison camp in Hanoi (about 2000 Km away from her family home). She was handcuffed along the whole way and fainted several times. In Thanh Xuân prison, more than once, she had to go on a hunger strike to be taken to medical examination and treatment in specialized hospitals. With the prison harsh conditions, her health went on deteriorating with serious diseases such as heart failure, neurasthenia, gallstones, etc.
Today after coming home Mai Thi Dung and her family would like to express promptly their deep gratitude to all persons and organizations, who have strongly supported the request for unconditionally release of Mai Thi Dung. Our heartfelt thanks go to:
- Mr. Frank Heinrich, Member of the German Parliament;
- Western diplomatic missions in Vietnam, especially the Embassy of Germany, USA, Canada and the Delegation of the European Commission to Vietnam;
- The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief of the Human Rights Council;
- Human rights organizations, especially VETO! Human Rights Defenders´Network in Germany;
- Many civil society organizations in Vietnam, especially the “Vietnamese Political and Religious Prisoners Friendship Association” and the “Bau Bi Tuong Than Association”;
- Hoa Hao fellow worshipers and many Catholic, Buddhist, Protestant and Cao Dai friends.
On behalf of Mai thi Dung´s family and the “Hoa Hao Buddhist Group Southwest “
Vo Van Buu