Date:                    August 2, 2021


CSW has renewed calls for the release of Vietnamese Hoa Hao Buddhist and prisoner of conscience Bui Van Tham after it emerged he was attacked by another inmate on April 19, according to a report issued last week by VETO! Human Rights Defenders Network.
The attack occurred at Xuyen Moc Prison, where Tham is serving a six-year sentence. A witness to the incident said the perpetrator of the attack beat Tham and was later placed in solitary confinement by prison staff. Prison wardens also punished Tham for “beating another inmate and causing disorder in the detention facility,” despite the witness’s account stating Tham was not the instigator of the attack.
The punishments included reducing family visits to once every two months, reducing phone calls from 10 minutes to three minutes per month, and limiting the amount of money he can spend to purchase food at the prison canteen.
Bui Van Tham was detained along with five other Hoa Hao Buddhists after they peacefully protested police interference in a ceremony commemorating the death of a member of their community in April 2017.
On the same occasion, police unlawfully confiscated two motorbikes belonging to people trying to attend the commemoration. Police in plainclothes reportedly beat Bui Van Tham when he tried to intervene.
In February 2019, Vietnamese authorities sentenced five of the protesters to between three and six years in prison. One other person was given a suspended sentence of two years. All six were charged with "disrupting public order" under Article 245 of the penal code, and Bui Van Tham was also charged with ‘resisting officials performing their duty’ (Article 257) and sentenced to six years in prison.
One of the six people sentenced, Nguyen Hoang Nam, was recently released after serving a four-year sentence. In an interview with VOA Vietnamese, Nam said the food and drinking water at the prison were not hygienic. He reported that political and religious prisoners are held in a separate cell and that when some prisoners petitioned the prison about the conditions, police set trained dogs on them to attack them. He also said several prisoners were seriously ill due to lack of medical care.
Complaints and inquiries submitted by Tham’s family members to prison authorities have been ignored or rejected, and the family is seriously concerned about Tham’s safety and wellbeing in prison since this is not the first time he has been attacked. Additionally, they are concerned that the limitation on food purchases will extremely reduce Tham’s access to food, particularly because prison authorities have prohibited prisoners’ families from sending food supplies to prisoners due to COVID-19 prevention measures.
VETO! Human Rights Defenders Network, which has been following the case closely, concludes that Tham’s life and health are at risk, noting that this attack and the subsequent disciplinary measures are the latest in a series of attacks and retaliations against him since his arrest.
CSW’s Chief Executive Scot Bower said, “CSW is alarmed to learn of this attack on Bui Van Tham and the unfair limitations which have been imposed on him since it took place. We call on the prison authorities to ensure that these limitations are removed and that Tham is protected from further attacks by inmates. We further call on the authorities to review Tham’s case: we believe Tham has been imprisoned for his peaceful protest against the suppression of his community’s right to freedom of religion or belief. Furthermore, while we are pleased to learn of Nguyen Hoang Nam’s release, no one should be detained for peacefully exercising their basic human rights. The Vietnamese government should release all those imprisoned in connection with their religion or belief, and ensure that this fundamental human right is fully protected in line with Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a party.”