Danlambao - Last May, Do Thi Minh Hanh, a prisoner of conscience, was transferred to Z30A prison in Xuan Loc, Dong Nai province. In the new prison, Hanh has bravely resisted the prison ill-treatments; therefore, the prison guards had instructed other inmates to beat her violently several times.
Do Thi Minh Hanh, 28 years old, was sentenced to 7 years in prison for advocating to protect the rights of workers. It was not the first time that Hanh became a victim of prison’s ill-treatments. Earlier, when she was detained in police prison in Tra Vinh province, Hanh suffered brutal tortures from police that left her left ear totally deaf.
After being beaten in Xuan Loc prison, Do Thi Minh Hanh managed to send her family a letter to describe what had happened to her. For many reasons, it took 2 months for the letter to become public. However, its contents remain a fresh topic, especially after the uprising of prisoners in Xuan Loc prison on June 30.
Throughout the letter, each sentence of Hanh’s handwriting is a strong evidence that denounces the cruel and inhuman communist prisons.
Throughout the letter, we also see a brave stance, a compassionate and noble heart of Do Thi Minh Hanh.
Danlambao is pleased to present the letter that Hanh sent to her family to all of our dear readers.
My beloved daddy,
I have written you many letters, but perhaps they all had failed to reach you. I know you are very worried about me, so I think I would better to write you again. I hope, out of ten letters one can reach its destination.
My beloved daddy,
I am trying to express myself so that you can understand my thoughts and envision my situation here. Maybe, you and my siblings do not understand why I do not want to do labor works, do you? Therefore, I will explain it clearly for you and my siblings to understand.
In Ham Tan prison, I felt comfortable to work consciously; there was no forced pressure. The prison transfer was predicted by my inmates because I know too many issues of that prison. Now I was transferred here and have to do harsh labor works. It is not true that I am afraid of doing hard labor but I have been sick and too weak; in addition, I do not accept the way it works here and never yield to any pressure.
And it also relates to the honor of an activist. All the works they impose on me relate to the group (of prisoners.) If there are mistakes the group may humiliate and insult (group members,) sometimes it leads to... violence.
Honestly, I do not think I could see the method of using prisoners to repress prisoners, letting prisoners to persecute prisoners, but I actually became a witness.
On a very first day at the camp’s “class room”, a camp official seemed trying to dominate me but I was indomitable for they could only achieve that goal with mentally weak persons.
In the first few days, I had not participated in the morning roll calls. They did not say anything; nobody mentioned it either. Then on May 3, after the visit on May 2, they forced other prisoners in my group to stand under the hot sun because I did not come out for the roll call. A prison guard held a pair of handcuffs, rushed to the bathroom and pulled me out naked. I forcefully resisted that action; the guard shouted at me and handed the handcuffs to an inmate who raised those handcuffs and threatened to beat me with them.
I yelled "Prison camp uses prisoners to beat prisoner." Then I went out (of the bathroom.) Thinking they had to stand under the sun because of me, other prisoners became angry with me and insulted me: "You’re a wh..., the devil...” The police officers stood by smirking. I yelled again "prison uses prisoners to persecute prison." Then the crowd broke into the prison cell and attempted to beat me; but a female security guard, who is also a prisoner, blocked them. The officers looked back then left. Being frustrated, I kept yelling for a while. That afternoon, Giang, the prison guard (who monitored our visit the other day,) came to see me; his attitude was unlikeable. Mother Duong Thi Tron convinced me to participate in the roll call; therefore, on May 4, I went out and shouted loudly "I come out not because I fear you but because I don’t want to see other sisters must be forced to stand under the sun by communists because of me. The method of using prisoners to persecute prisoners is a despicable, scandalous, and unscrupulous action against a little girl like me; it is truly despicable. "
A few days later, they assigned me to team No. 2 - this team cracks the cashew shells. But they detained me with inmates at team No. 25 and 26, where there are many felonies with heavy sentences. And my friends could understand their purposes.
When I entered the cell, they gave me a 62cm (24.4in) wide living quarters on the upper level. I must manage to keep my belongings, to rest, to eat, and to do other personal activities within that tiny space. There is not enough room for me to hang the mosquito net or to scoop water. I went to see an official to request a standard 2 square meter space. I requested a room change and an argument occurred. A moment later, the prison guard instructed other prisoners to make room for me. How could I accept that solution? I could not allow myself to have a larger space while others must sleep on a 60cm wide space or narrower. So, I accepted sleeping on a tight space.
The next day, the prison guard of team No. 2 came to see me. The guard said I am staying home (staying in the cell.) I refused to handle the house keeping job (scrubbing toilets, cleaning rooms, checking time for meal and water distribution, collecting clothes for more than 50 people,) it’s highly responsible, I didn’t accept it. I did not crack cashew shell either.
In the evening on May 9, a “team leader” instructed me to go to work the next morning. I just laughed and I definitely would not get the work of cracking cashew shell. That morning, I got dressed and prepared lunch for work. But I overheard that one camp official instructed the prison guard to prepare a cashew shell cracking tool for me to work. My team members asked them if I would do it. The official replied: "a whole team cannot be defeated by that little girl.” Those are the conversations that I overheard. Therefore, I requested to see an official. The guard instructed a female security guard to ask me to go to work. I changed my clothes. Phuong, the prison guard, came to tell me to go to work. I said I wouldn’t go and wanted to see an official. That guard told me if I would refuse going to work then the whole team could not be allowed to go out for work. And if they could not start working early they wouldn’t be able to complete the work assignment on time. That was why they became angry. At the departing time for work, the guard let my team members rush to the room to drag me out. I did not want to allow the group to control me again, so I firmly laid down and told them:
"I can only say sorry to you, I cannot do anything else otherwise, please explain it to the guard, you cannot be punished for my doings. That is the guard’s tactic.” A woman in the crowd forcefully slammed my head to the ground with her foot, another woman kicked on my back and shoulder, another woman kicked on my hip causing severe pain on my lower part. I felt dizzy but never fought back. I understood that they just became angry, they did not realize that they were utilized by the prison. The guards were not present in the area. And no one was able to testify. My head hurt badly but my gut became more powerful. Then 2 persons came to drag me out, I still laid down; one of them held a water bucket and strongly slammed it on my head and broke it apart. Then they dragged me down; I fell and banged on the staircase. When they dragged me to the room entrance door, a crowd lifted me up and put me into a cage trolley, the guards closed and locked the cage door; they rolled me away like an animal in a cage in front of the crowd. When they rolled me to the camp gate, they gave up and let me stay in the cell.
That evening, the “sisters” (Hanh’s inmates) from team No. 25 and 26 came back from work and learned what happened. They confronted my attackers in team No. 2. Many of them asked me about the attack, checked my head and requested some medicines for me. They were so frustrated with such ill-treatment against me. And they let me know the name of the attackers.
On Saturday, the team had a meeting. It was a chance for the opportunists to gain favors by criticizing other inmates. But, of course, I requested to be responsible for my actions and protested against any blaming or punishing on other inmates. The guards continued to use the same tactic to force me to work but they failed again, then other inmates raised their voice against that tactic. To justify my attack, the guards said to me “when you are stubborn we let the team punish you.” Giang, the prison guard, said “the education of prisoners is based on the ‘collective education’ of the entire group.” Then they decided to impose a 7-day disciplinary confinement on me. The sisters in my room were worried about me.
My inmates’ concern made me become emotional. Then the disciplinary decision was read.
Again, they forced me to do the house keeping works and I refused to do as ordered. I have made up my mind, and I would never change it. After facing their abuses, I firmly refused to do any works at their will. However, I still help the elderly with the love in my heart and with my abilities. Prison guard Giang insulted me by saying it is an “almsgiving.”
Mother Tron, a Hoa Hao Buddhist, and sister Dzung care for me a lot. Aunt Hong has to crack cashew shell harshly; she is such a poor woman, no one visits her. Therefore, she becomes too gentle and submissive that she would do whatever she is told to do. Now I am stable, not doing labor works.
Translated by Như Ngọc