Tran Van Suong
A Vietnamese political prisoner who had served more than three decades in jail has died in captivity due to medical complications, according to his sons.

Prominent Dissident Dies in Jail

2011-09-12 A Vietnamese political prisoner who had served more than three decades in jail has died in captivity due to medical complications, according to his sons.

Truong Van Suong , a former military officer for South Vietnam's Army serving a life sentence for his role in a failed attempt to overthrow the communist Vietnamese government, died Monday morning in Nam Ha prison in Ba Sao at the age of 68.

Truong Tan Tai, his son, said he was notified by prison authorities later in the day.

"Around 1:00 p.m., someone from the prison called my brother, saying our father had passed away at 10:20 a.m.," he said.

"After I got the news, I called a representative of the prison to confirm. The person said the situation was serious and that I needed to go there as soon as possible. I asked him again to tell me what happened, but he just told me to go there quickly."

Tai said his brother called again and was told by the same prison official that his father had died.

A prison official contacted by RFA would not confirm the report.

"We don't know. We don't have a responsibility to answer you. You must speak with my supervisor," the prison official said, without providing his name.

One of Suong's sons was on the way to the prison at the time of publishing.

Freedom fighter

Truong Van Suong was born in Vietnam in 1943 to a Chinese-Vietnamese father and a Cambodian-Vietnamese mother.

During the Vietnam War, he served as an officer in Southern Vietnam's Army fighting the Communist Vietcong alongside the U.S. Army until 1975 when the north invaded Saigon.

At the end of the war, he spent six years in a reeducation camp in Quang Binh, in central Vietnam.

After his release, Suong fled to Thailand, where he joined the The United Front of Patriotic Force for the Liberation of Vietnam led by French national Tran Van Ba in fighting to bring freedom and democracy to his homeland.

Unbeknownst to them, the Vietnamese government had embedded a spy in the group and after returning to Vietnam, Suong and Ba were among 200 people arrested by authorities and charged with treason in 1983.

Ba was tried and executed, while Suong was given life in prison for a lesser role in the organization.

Suong was transferred to several different facilities, but eventually was placed in Nam Ha, where he would spend the majority of his sentence and live out his final days.

In November 2010, prison officials at Ba Sao notified Suong's family that he had developed a serious heart condition and would be granted medical parole for one year.

He spent his parole convalescing at a medical center along with Catholic priest and democracy activist Nguyen Van Ly, who had been granted medical parole from prison for the treatment of a brain tumor.

On Aug. 19, authorities suddenly returned Suong to prison, despite objections from his sons who said his heart was still too fragile to survive the conditions of captivity.

Phil Robertson, of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, condemned the Vietnamese government for returning Suong to prison when he "urgently needed proper medical treatment."

"By locking him up again in such terrible health, the government of Vietnam essentially condemned him to die alone, separated from family and friends in his last days," he said in a statement.

Including his time in reeducation camp, Suong had spent more than 33 years in Vietnam's prison system.

Reported by Gwen Ha for RFA's Vietnamese service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Vietnamese political prisoner Truong Van Suong dies in detention

Human rights campaigners condemn Vietnam's communist government over second such death in past three months

Human rights campaigners have condemned the Vietnamese authorities over the death of a political prisoner who spent more than three decades in detention.

US-based Human Rights Watch said Truong Van Suong died on Monday in Ha Nam province outside Hanoi. Fellow political prisoner Nguyen Van Trai died in custody in July.

Vietnam's foreign ministry spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi confirmed the death, claiming Suong died from a serious illness despite receiving treatment from doctors at a hospital.

Nghi said Suong was released from prison in July 2010 for a year of medical parole, after which he was returned to jail in "stable health".

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch in Asia, said: "By locking him up again in such terrible health the government of Vietnam essentially condemned him to die alone, separated from family and friends."

Robertson said Suong, who was 68 and who had been a soldier in the former South Vietnam, had been suffering from heart disease and high blood pressure.

He was sent to a "re-education" camp from 1975 to 1981 after the fall of the Saigon government, then fled to Thailand and joined an anti-communist group.

He returned to Vietnam in 1983 and was immediately arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment on spying charges, said Human Rights Watch.

The organisation urged Vietnam's government to release all political prisoners unconditionally, prioritising those with serious health problems.