Prisoner of conscience Phan Van Thu, who is serving a life sentence at Gia Trung Prison camp in Vietnam’s Central Highlands province of Gia Lai, died on November 20 after a period of serious illness without adequate and timely treatment.
This news was informed by Ms. Nguyen Thi Thap, the wife of activist Luu Van Vinh, who was informed by her husband during a visit to this prison on the same day.
Ms. Thap was told by her husband that everyday Mr. Vinh and Mr. Thu still sat and drank tea together in the cell because they were in the same cell block, only two cells apart. Ms. Thap told RFA via the messaging app what her husband said about Mr. Thu:
“Yesterday morning, the two of them were still sitting as usual, but by noon he complained of fatigue, so he carried him to his room and asked the camp nurse to come down to check. By evening his health had not improved.
He asked the camp nurse to pay attention to him, but the camp side did not pay much attention. By this morning, his illness showed signs of worsening, other prisoners of conscience asked the prison authorities to take him to the emergency room, but it was late. He died at 9:30 a.m. in his cell.”
A reporter from Radio Free Asia called Gia Trung Prison camp to confirm this news, but no one answered the phone.
Ms. Bui Ngoc Dien, Mr. Phan Van Thu’s daughter-in-law, confirmed the news that he had passed away and said the family was currently preparing a funeral for him.
Mr. Phan Van Thu (also known as Tran Cong), was born in 1948. He heads the An Dan Dai Dao, an independent religious group.
His team built Da Bia eco-tourism area in Phu Yen in Suoi Lon and Deo Ca areas, in Hoa Xuan Nam commune, Dong Hoa district, Phu Yen province.
In February 2012, Phu Yen province’s Police broke into this area, then proceeded to arrest the participants. A total of 25 people were arrested on charges of “Activities aimed at overthrowing the government” under Article 79 of the 1999 Penal Code and “Illegal possession, use, and trading of explosives.”
In 2013, Mr. Thu was sentenced to life in prison. Another 21 were convicted of the same crime and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 to 17 years. The three were sentenced to between three and four years in prison in another trial in 2014.
In 2019, Mr. Phan Van Thu’s family told RFA that they were concerned about his health in prison with diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, rheumatism, and seasonal allergies.
Thu’s wife, Vo Thi Thanh Thuy, said in 2019 that her family had applied for medical checking for treatment for him, but only once.
Mr. Thu is the second person in this group to have died while serving a prison sentence. In 2019, Mr. Doan Dinh Nam, then 68 years old, died in Xuyen Moc Prison camp in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau.
Mr. Nam was sentenced to 16 years in prison. After seven years of serving his sentence, Mr. Doan Dinh Nam suffered from severe kidney failure and his family asked for a temporary suspension of his sentence to return home for medical treatment. However, the prison side refused.