May 12, 2008

His Excellency Nguyên Minh Triêt
President, Socialist Republic of Vietnam
C/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Prime Minister Nguyên Tân Dung  
1 Hoang Hoa Tham Street
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Lê Doan Hop, Minister of Culture and Information
1 Hoang Hoa Tham Street
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,400 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our concern regarding the psychiatric detention of human-rights lawyer, Internet writer, and member of the banned Democratic Party of Vietnam, Bui Kim Thành.

According to our information, Bui Kim Thành was taken to the Bien Hoa Mental Hospital by police on March 6, 2008, after they broke into her house in Ho Chi Minh City. She was previously detained on November 2, 2006, and held for eight months at the Bien Hoa Psychiatric Hospital, after being assessed by two psychiatrists who concluded that she was not suffering from mental illness. The hospital is located about 30 km north of Saigon in the south of the country. Neither her relatives nor human-rights advocates have been allowed to visit her at the hospital, and there are serious concerns for her well-being.

PEN American Center believes that Bui Kim Thành has been detained in opposition to her right to freedom of expression as guaranteed under Article 19 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a signatory.  We therefore respectfully call for her immediate and unconditional release. 

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Hannah Pakula                   
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee   

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: Ambassador Le Cong PHUNG
1233 20th Street NW, Suite 400,
Washington, DC 20036
FAX: (202) 861-0917

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