Vietnam: Jailed Vietnamese Blogger Mother Mushroom in Poor Health
February 12, 2018, 2:59 am

Jailed Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh is suffering from poor health and prison authorities have refused to allow family members to provide her with medication, her mother said Wednesday.

Quynh—also known by her blogger handle Me Nam, or Mother Mushroom—was arrested Oct. 10, 2016 while on her way to visit a fellow rights campaigner in prison and sentenced in June to a decade in jail on charges of spreading “propaganda against the state” under Article 88 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.

In November, the People’s Court of Khanh Hoa province, in Nha Trang city, rejected the 37-year-old Quynh’s appeal of her sentence, prompting condemnation from watchdogs who called the hearing a “farce” and demanded her immediate release.

On Wednesday, Quynh’s mother Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that she had been permitted “less than 10 minutes” to visit her daughter in detention two days earlier, and found her to be suffering from a variety of medical symptoms.

“She said that although our family has a history of low blood pressure, she has symptoms such as fatigue and headaches, and was told she has high blood pressure of more than 150,” Nguyen said.

“She took medicine when she was still at home and it helped, but for some reason when she took it in prison, she had an adverse reaction and her face started swelling.”

Nguyen said she talked to her daughter’s guard about her health situation and offered to send medicine and her insurance card, but he refused, saying the prison was already providing Quynh with drugs.

“I don’t know what to do now,” she said.

“I’m wondering why she constantly suffers from various illnesses and strange physical problems in prison. At one point, she had a tumor, but it never resulted in curled hand and toes, and swollen face like this.”

Communist Vietnam, where all media are state-controlled, does not tolerate dissent, and rights groups identify Article 88 as among a set of vague provisions that authorities have used to detain dozens of writers and bloggers.

High profile case

Quynh’s is one of the more high profile cases of activists handed heavy sentences as part of an ongoing crackdown by authorities in the Southeast Asian nation.

She had blogged about human rights abuses and corruption for more than a decade, and more recently voiced criticism over Vietnam’s policy toward China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. She has also criticized the government’s response to a 2016 toxic waste spill by a Taiwanese firm that destroyed the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Vietnamese living in four coastal provinces.

Shortly after Quynh’s appeal was denied in November, U.S. Charge d’Affaires Caryn McClelland, and New York-based watchdogs Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Human Rights Watch, condemned the ruling and demanded that Vietnam release the blogger.

Vietnam is currently holding at least 84 prisoners of conscience, the highest number in any country in Southeast Asia, according to rights group Amnesty International.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Vietnam 175th out of 180 countries in its 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

UPDATE: On 14 Feburary 2018, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh ‘s mother reported that Vietnamese authorities have transferred the jailed blogger to a remote prison more than 620 miles from her former location in the city of Nha Trang on the country’s south central coast without notifying her family. She is now incarcerated in No. 5 Prison in Yen Dinh, Thanh Hoa province, along the country’s north central coast region. Lan said she learned about the transfer on Monday when she went to visit Quynh in the prison in Nha Trang, capital of Khanh Hoa province on Vietnam’s south central coast, and was informed by guards that her daughter had been moved out on Feb. 7.