By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife) -- A leading Vietnamese human rights lawyer and pro-democracy activist has been forcefully injected with unknown drugs in a mental hospital where she has been confined since last year, fellow dissidents said Tuesday, January 9.
Bui Thi Kim Thanh, 47, was detained by police at her home in Ho Chi Minh City early November 2 and initially taken to a nearby hospital, human rights group Amnesty International said previously.
Two psychiatric doctors reportedly assessed her and concluded that she was not suffering from mental illness.
Police took her to Bien Hoa Mental Hospital about 20 miles (32 kilometers) outside Ho Chi Minh City, where several other religious and political dissidents, including devoted Christians, have been held.
Confined to a room in the hospital since November, she "has been injected with some poisonous chemical substances," said dissidents of the 'International Movement For Democracy And Human Rights In Vietnam' in a letter to the US Embassy in Hanoi.
UNABLE TO TALK
She was reportedly described as being unable to talk as an apparent consequence of the injections. Bui was also "verbally charged with mental illness," despite being healthy, the International Movement added in the letter obtained by BosNewsLife.
The International Movement, comprising activists in and outside Vietnam, suggested there were indications that Communist officials tried to silence her because she tried to start legal procedures "for hundreds of homeless people."
As a lawyer, Bui worked free of charge defending low-income families in her community who had properties confiscated by authorities and were seeking redress.
In addition she is a lawyer for the Democratic Party of Vietnam, an unauthorized grouping calling for a multi-party democracy and human rights, including religious freedom, in the Communist nation. The International Movement asked to US Embassy to intervene and help end the detention.
PASTOR'S FAMILY DETAINED
News of the alleged ill treatment of lawyer Bui came amid fresh reports that family members and fellow Christians of another prominent rights activist, Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang, were briefly detained Tuesday, January 9.
Police reportedly burst into his Vietnam Mennonite church and residence broke up a prayer meeting and arrested 17 people, including his 12-year-old son Huy and elderly mother-in-law.
Others detained included 12-year-old child, identified as Truc and a woman named Thuong who is five months pregnant, said Compass Direct News, a Christian news agency, citing local sources.
They were reportedly released at 5 p.m local time after officials allegedly demolished part of the familyâ€™s church and residence. Last year BosNewsLife obtained video footage of a similar raid in the Vietnam Mennonite church.
GOVERNMENT DENIES WRONGDOING
However Vietnamese government officials have denied human rights abuses saying police acts within the laws of the land. Yet, investigators and church groups have expressed concerns over what they regard as a new wave of persecution in the Communist-run nation.
Amnesty International linked the reported harassment to attempts in 2006 by "dissidents and political activists to exercise their right to freedom of expression, forming a small number of unauthorized political parties."
They also tried, "to publish bulletins about freedom of expression, and using the Internet and online petitions to advocate democracy and human rights. The authorities have harassed and interrogated many of those involved," Amnesty International said.
Dissidents told BosNewsLife that they noticed a crackdown in the run-up to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit meetings held between November 12 and November 19.
BUSH URGES FREEDOM
That summit in Hanoi was attended by world leaders, including United States President George W. Bush, who briefly hinted to the importance of religious freedom after a church visit.
"A whole society is a society which welcomes basic freedoms," Bush said in November, after visiting the Cua Bac Church, a Catholic basilica on a tree-lined street in the diplomatic district of Hanoi.
He stressed that that there's none more basic than "the freedom to worship as you see fit." However the United States removed Vietnam from its list of 'Countries of Particular Concern' regarding religious freedom, a move that has angered dissidents and human rights groups. (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from Vietnam).
Copyright 2007 BosNewsLife. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without our prior written consent.