Interview conducted in March 2014
Teacher Dinh: I have actually been concerned about the Vietnamese situation for a long time. It began during the years the Soviet Union had a political reformation called Perestroika and Glasnost under Gorbachev regime. Those were the years from 1985 to 1988.
Teacher Dinh has always been concerned about democracy and freedom. He emphasises that Vietnam has no freedom
Teacher Dinh: I worry about democracy and freedom in the Vietnamese society. Our country has no freedom. The country has its independence, but not freedom. That has been always the main issue that worries me. Independent, yes. Freedom, no.
Once the internet was spreading widely, teacher Dinh had the chance to publicise his concern and opinions.
Teacher Dinh: I didn’t have any means to tell others my points of views until the internet was developed, in 2005, 2006, and 2007. From that time I had a chance to present my opinions on the internet. Before that, I was only concerned about the issues but couldn’t do anything. I exchanged my ideas with my friends but didn’t have any means to publish them. I may not know much, but I can say my main concern has started with the bauxite mining issue in the Central Highlands. When the government began operating the project, the intellectuals and the academia in Hanoi (such as professor Nguyen Hue Chi, teacher Pham Toan, and professor Nguyen The Hung) launched the bauxite website on the internet. I followed their site every day. I care about the bauxite mining in Vietnam. And I took advantage of that opportunity to speak out my point of view. I opposed the government’s ambitious and foolish bauxite project that has been against the country’s benefit and the people’s benefit. It would destroy the living environment of the Central Highlands people. Also, the ecology for both ethnic minority and Kinh majority in the Central Highlands would be ruined, if the bauxite project was implemented.
Teacher Dinh has openly rejected Article 4 of the Vietnamese Constitution many times. This would probably be one of the reasons he was charged.
Teacher Dinh: I haven’t yet estimated all the reasons why I was arrested. But recently I could say the reason for the government to arrest me was that I publicly rejected Article 4 of the Vietnamese Constitution. And I also publicly protested against their dictatorial undemocratic regime. In that regime, defence, police, education, health, all are controlled by the party. That is a tyrannous government, which is the name many people and I have called the regime. It’s actually a correct name, and I oppose that tyrannous regime.
The government arrested teacher Dinh on 21 October 2011.
Teacher Dinh: I was taken by surprise the day I was arrested. On that day, I was very delighted by the victory of the people in Libya. The dictatorial regime of Gaddafi had collapsed. That morning I was thinking of writing my congratulations to the Libyan people. Then in the afternoon police came and detained me at home.
Thao (Teacher Dinh’s daughter): When my father was arrested I wasn’t at home, so I didn’t witness it. I was at work far away from home. I was extremely shocked and shaken. It was like I didn’t have any support to stand firm, but I didn’t think that they would keep my father for a long time. I thought they arrested my father today and would release him the next day, like in many previous times when they made my father work with them. But I couldn’t believe it could happen on that 21 October, as the day before, my father and I were still talking about the collapse of the Gaddafi regime. So on the next day, when my father was arrested I was much traumatized. I thought he would go home soon. But he had been detained for the first four months, then the next four months. Then he was brought to court.
On 21 November 2012, the Appellate Court maintained the six year prison term given to teacher Dinh.
An: When my father was arrested and later sentenced to six years, I found it unexpected and was really unhappy about the sentence. I never thought my father was guilty.
Mrs Dinh: When I learned that he was arrested and sentenced to six years in prison I was very infuriated and shocked. Of course I felt aggrieved about the sentence as my husband was a patriot, he didn’t do anything betraying the country. Despite it they accused him of a crime and sentenced him to six years. That was an extremely harsh sentence for my family and for him.
Thao: They sentenced my father to six years. That was an unfair and absurd sentence. When I carefully thought about it, my father didn’t do anything wrong. He said loving the country is the right for everybody; this right is not particularly reserved for the government. His arguments for what he had done were exceptionally sharp and righteous. That sentence was absurd and unfair! One example of the things my father has done was to object the Nhan Co bauxite mining near where I am living, as it obviously will destroy the environment where we are living. They even put my father in jail for his objection. Recently, all of my father’s arguments have been proven to be correct. Even most of the state- controlled media had to be admitting the facts, but the government still cruelly sentenced my father. That was dreadfully unjust and illogical.
Teacher Dinh: In the prison they treated me extremely badly. But there were two things I need to emphasize more because my time and my health don’t allow me to talk more. Firstly, it is the treatment of the sick in the jail. In my case, from the day they arrested me to the time I began to serve the prison term, they didn’t give me any treatment. They didn’t give me treatment in time and they didn’t give me treatment from the beginning of my health problems. That was critical, showing the government’s policy of violating human rights, showing its policy of torturing prisoners. This is the first thing the community must pay attention to.
Secondly I don’t exclude the fact that I might be poisoned. I discovered a strange smell in the prison food and water. As I am a chemical engineer, I knew exactly that these chemicals are very dangerous substances for the human body. But it was quite late when I recognized the harm it has done to my body. It was the reason that my kidney was damaged. The poisonous substance was ammonium sulphate, the ingredient they use in fertilizer. I don’t know whether they did it because they didn’t know or they did it on purpose, or maybe the staff taking care of me put that substance in the water I drink without knowing it. From the day of my discovery I didn’t drink that water. I took the water to my cell but I didn’t drink it.
While serving his jail sentence, teacher Dinh became ill with a serious cancer. In September 2013, from An Phuoc Binh Duong prison, teacher Dinh Dang Dinh was transported for emergency treatment to the 30/4 hospital, which belongs to the Ministry of Public Security. In the course of cancer treatment in the hospital, despite of his critically poor health, teacher Dinh was taken back to the prison on 8 November 2013. Due to the lack of medical treatments and care in the prison, Dinh’s health problem became more critical.