A trip home with teacher Dinh Dang Dinh - Dân Làm Báo

A trip home with teacher Dinh Dang Dinh

Mana Khanh, VRNs - Translated by Như Ngọc (Danlambao)- Dak Nong - In the morning of March 16, 2014, the family decided to take teacher Dinh Dang Dinh home to his Dak Nong hometown as he wish to spend his remaining times in his home with the company of his family members, friends and neighbors and the loving care of his beloved wife and children.

There is a small iced tea shop amid a 200-meter-long alley way leading to his rented room near the Oncology Hospital on Nguyen Van Dau Street, Binh Thanh district in Saigon, where several people were having tea and chatting joyfully. But when we, the three members of VRNs, approached they began to change their mood; they all became silent and looked at us with the abnormal and staring eyes. We soon recognized they are security agents on duty of stalking people. As we were reaching teacher Dinh’s room one of them ran towards us.

The room owner seemed to have known the situation. He told us: “Please come in, I will lock the door.” Immediately, Thao, eldest daughter of teacher Dinh Dang Dinh, came to greet us and escorted us to her father’s room.

When entering the room we saw the teacher was still lying on a bed. Mrs. Dinh – a gentle woman, half of his life – was giving him a foot massage. His second daughter An and her three classmates were sitting on another bed nearby. It seemed that An had stayed up all night long to care for her father; she might soon to say goodbye to him since he was going to return home and she must go back to school. An’s eyes gradually turned red while her friends looked on with a face full of sadness sharing the feeling of their friend of having to say goodbye to a beloved father.

I slightly bowed my head to greet the teacher and his wife. He tried to make a gesture to invite us to have a seat on a nearby bed. I asked him: “Teacher, did you sleep well last night?” Before he could answer my question, his wife came to help: “Last night he could not sleep much.” Breaking up a dull atmosphere in a small room, one of my team members asked her: “Can we help bring these belongings to the vehicle?” And so, everyone helped move the bags to the room’s entrance door waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

The teacher does not have the strength to walk by himself; two men in my team came over to help; but when one of them took hold of him he realized the teacher is almost weightless, so the man carried him to the ambulance by himself.

The ambulance departed at 7:20 a.m. from his rented room on Nguyen Van Dau Street. Moment earlier, An cried a lot saying: “Father, please take good care of your health! I love you very much and will miss you dearly.” Hearing An saying goodbye to the teacher, I also choked up in tears.

Three friends of the teacher on another vehicle also escorted him along the way to his home this morning. The ambulance was gradually moving away from Saigon. The road from Saigon to Binh Duong-Binh Phuoc province-line is quite smooth, but it deteriorates in Binh Phuoc province.

His health became seriously bad after taking a long drive. He was very tired. At first he started to vomit something that looks chocolatey. Then he had violently and painfully thrown up almost everything with blood. The ambulance had to stop twice on the way for him to take break. As the vehicle moved closer to Dak Nong, the road becomes rougher and rougher that the driver could only manage to move about 5 km/h. Everyone onboard complained about the badly damaged road. Even though he was very tired he tried to make a comment softly: “The trucks which transport bauxite have destroyed this road. Only vehicles weighing between 20 and 30 tons are allowed to travel on this road; it can’t handle bauxite trucks which weigh up to 100 tons.”

The teacher is still very much concerned about the bauxite project that he and many intellectuals across the country have opposed and voiced warning about its consequences. To them, the project does not produce any benefits but only imminent harms.

Finally the ambulance managed to arrive in Dak Nong after 5 hours on the road. Thao, eldest daughter of the teacher, told the driver to stop: “It is my house.” It’s a wooden house at 214 No Trang Long Street, Block No. 4, Kien Duc Town, Dak R'Lap District, Dak Nong Province.

People took him into the house. I observed the walls of the house are constructed with wood panels and the top is roofed with metal corrugated sheets. There are only a few items considered useful and have some value in his house - a very old television, two wooden beds, a portable electric fan, and a writing board for teaching. Anything else looks worthless. Standing inside the house one can have a limited outdoor view through the gaps of the old, rotted and broken wood panels. Except the presence of a skinny white cat, it looked like an abandoned house, at least for a while. Seeing the master home unexpectedly, the cat joyfully waved its tail to greet him.

In August 2012, the Vietnamese dissident Dinh Dang Dinh, 51, a former high school chemistry teacher, was sentenced to 6 years in prison for ”conducting propaganda against the state” under article 88 of the penal code. He has publicly spoken out against the bauxite project in the Central Highlands and called for a multi-party political system in Vietnam. On November 21, 2012, the appeal court upheld the verdict of the lower court.

During his imprisonment he had been detained in solitary confinement several times. He said: “When I was held in solitary confinement they let me eat and drink some things that smell like urine.” With the knowledge of a chemistry teacher, he suspected that the prison had fed him with food and water contained harmful substances. Later, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer.

In September 2013, teacher Dinh Dang Dinh was rushed to an emergency room of the April 30 Hospital in Saigon while serving a six-year prison term in the An Phuoc prison in Binh Duong province. After receiving some treatments at this hospital, he was taken back to the prison on November 8, 2013, although his health was in a bad shape. Lacking proper treatment in prison, his cancer has seriously developed.

In early October 2013, the family had repeatedly written request to the authorities asking for hisamnesty, but the family's requests were not approved.

On February 15, 2014, his implementation of his prison sentence was suspended for 12 months. He then was already in the final stages of stomach cancer.

It took a long time for the ambulance technician to administer an intravenous drip to the teacher. “It’s difficult to find a good vein,” he said.

When I asked the teacher: “Are you happy to be home?” He replied: “Very happy! I am tired but so joyful to come home, to return to the village.” Sharing her father’s joy, Thao said: “My father is seriously ill, but even though when there is still only 10% or 1% of chance I still hope and want a miracle would happen to my father.”

Upon his return, two women ran over to visit him. I asked them: “Are you his neighbors or his relatives? One of them replied: “Neighbors. We haven’t seen him for a long time. Today, we see the ambulance carrying him back so we come to visit him.”

The house has been uninhabited for a long time. Almost everything looks abandoned; in a corner of the kitchen, a few pieces of discolored charcoal lay on the ground and utensil is covered with spider webs. Members of his household still use firewood for cooking. Before his imprisonment, life was already difficult for him, but he is always rich in patriotism and the love for teaching.

After everything became settled, he lied down on his old familiar bed to rest and we had to leave. On the way home, we always thought about him, especially his saying: “Patriotism cannot be monopolized. The right to practice patriotism does not only belong to the state and the leaders but also the entire population.”

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