International PEN is alarmed by reports that imprisoned writers Nguyen Hoang Hai and Pham Thanh Nghien are at risk of ill-treatment, in poor health, and denied full access to family visits. They are part of a group of writers who were detained during a crackdown against peaceful dissent in Vietnam in August and September 2008. PEN continues to call for their immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights to which Vietnam is a signatory. PEN seeks assurances of their well being, and urges that they be given full access to all necessary medical care and be allowed family visits as a matter of urgency.

Background Information

According to PEN’s information, there are particular concerns for the welfare of two writers who remain detained following a crackdown on peaceful protests carried out by dissidents during August and September 2008.

Nguyen Hoang Hai (pen name: Dieu Cay), an independent journalist and blogger, was sentenced by a Court in Ho Chi Minh City to two-and-a-half years’ imprisonment  for alleged ‘tax fraud’ on  September 10, 2008. He is widely believed to be targeted for his criticism of the Vietnamese government. On April 1, 2009, Nguyen Hoang Hai’s family was told that he had been transferred to Cai Tau Prison, in U Minh, nine hours from from his family’s home. It is extremely difficult to obtain a visitor’s permit to that area. Cai Tau prison is reportedly notorious for its brutal treatment of prisoners and alleged corruption. The family believes that Nguyen Hoang Hai was transferred there to limit the frequency of their visits, and is very concerned for his well-being.

Pham Thanh Nghien, an Internet writer and independent journalist, has been detained without charge since November 11, 2008. She is believed to be held under Article 88 of the Criminal Code on charges of "propaganda against the state," but has not yet been brought to trial. When arrested, she was reportedly suffering from severe migraines due to previous beatings by local authorities in the streets near her home.  Pham Thanh Nghien’s family has not been able to visit her since her arrest, and they have no information on her health.


The writers below were also detained in the crackdown and continue to be held:  

  • Nguyen Xuan Nghia: poet and writer, member of the Hai Phong Association of Writers and founding member of the banned democracy movement known as Block 8406. Arrested on September 11, 2008.
  • Le Thi Kim Thu: online reporter and photographer, arrested on August 14, 2008.
  • Pham Van Troi: dissident writer and activist, known for his contributions to the underground dissident review Tu Do Dan Chu (Freedom and Democracy). Arrested on September 10, 2008.  
  • Nguyen Van Tuc: farmer, poet and human rights defender, known for his numerous writings on social injustice and satirical poems published on overseas websites. Arrested on September 10,  2008.
  • Ngô Quỳnh: student and dissident writer, author of online dissenting articles, including "Viet Nam needs to compile a new History-book" and "Journey to Lang Son’s Dairy," published on overseas web sites. Arrested on September 10, 2008.

Write A Letter

  •  Expressing concern about reports that writers remain detained or under heavy surveillance as a consequence of their peaceful activities and protests during August and September 2008;
  • Seeking assurances of the well-being of writers Nguyen Hoang Hai and Pham Thanh Nghien, and urging that they are given full access to all necessary medical care and are allowed family visits;
  • Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all those detained for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression in Vietnam in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a signatory.

Send Your Letter To

His Excellency Nguyên Minh Triêt
President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
c/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Nguyên Tân Dung
Prime Minister
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

Please note that there are no fax numbers available for the Vietnamese authorities, so you may wish to ask the diplomatic representative for Vietnam in your country to forward your appeals. It would also be advantageous to ask your country’s diplomatic representatives in Vietnam to intervene in the case.

Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN if sending appeals after May 9, 2009: ftw[at]