U.S. Citizen Imprisoned in Vietnam
“The Vietnamese government needs to know that there will be consequences if they don't treat American citizens with respect,” Congressman Mimi Waters said of American citizen Michael Phuong Minh Nguyen, who is currently being detained by the Vietnamese government. Nguyen, who has been imprisoned since July of 2018, has had no contact with his family since then and is being held without charges and without access to basic necessities such as adequate food and hygienic products. Nguyen’s wife Helen was a guest of Rep. Katie Porter, a freshman congresswoman from California at the recent State of the Union Address. Porter along with Nguyen’s family and a bipartisan group of lawmakers are currently working to highlight his case and push for his release.
A visit to friends led to alleged subversive action against the government
After a visit to Hue City with friends Huynh Duc Thanh Binh, Tran Long Phi and Thomas Bao, where they met activist Le My Hanh, the group was detained in Dong Nai province while traveling from Da Nang to Saigon. Authorities told the families of the group that they had been arrested in Saigon and Binh was charged with subversion, while the charges against the others remain unknown. Nguyen’s family maintains that he has no history of activism.
A wife and four young daughters left without contact for 7 months
His family has not had contact with him since his arrest in July and authorities refuse to disclose any information regarding charges against him and has allegedly attacked and beaten family members who have attempted to visit him. Nguyen is currently being held in Ho Chi Minh city Police detention center, No. 4 where he is only provided one basic meal a day and a budget of $80 U.S. dollars a month – $2.67 a day on other food and necessities. According to the legal system in Vietnam, the government is not required to bring any charges against Nguyen during the investigative stage which can last months and can be extended arbitrarily. This denies Nguyen to access of due process and legal justice as he waits for his fate to be decided by officials.
A long road ahead
As no formal charges have been brought Against Nguyen and no trial has been scheduled, the possibility exists that he may be detained indefinitely. His family along with several members of the U.S. Congress including Mimi Walters (R-CA) are advocating for his release. A petition on change.org for Nguyen’s release has been created on change.org in hopes of gaining enough signatures to send to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The road ahead is long for Helen Nguyen and activists pushing for Nguyen’s release, but Helen said that she was honored to be able to attend the State of the Union address and hopes that it will raise the profile of her husband’s case. She also encourages all Americans to write and call their representatives to urge their support to bring home her husband, Michael Nguyen, and any other American citizens wrongly detained abroad.