Doan Thanh Liem – Reflections on My Days in Jail


Doan Thanh Liem

Human endurance has its own limits. I suffered terribly in the first two years in jail. I fell into despair. I fell hopeless and helpless. When I was alone in my dark cell, I could rarely sleep soundly. I did not sense any joy whatever in the world. That really was the darkest time of my life.

But gradually I have recovered from this internal crisis, thanks to some inmates who are also political prisoners. I regained my enthusiasm for social service, making some plans for my future action. As my age advances, I will mainly devote my efforts to sociocultural rather than political activities. Certainly I could act as an adviser and supporter to young activists in the political sphere, but personally I like to keep a low profile in public life.

That dream really cheered me up during the long time of trial. I was very much touched by the affection and solidarity from relatives and friends during these long days. And I was much amused that my captors created the kind of publicity for me that caught the attention of wide circles both in and out of the country.  Truly, as the saying goes “ A quelque chose malheur est bon”. This adversity did bring some good, attracting recognition and support to my cause.

At this moment, I’ve already spent 66 months in jail, including 10 months in isolated special cells. But I don’t feel any hatred or enmity vis-à-vis the communists. I rather feel pity for them. For I’m deeply convinced of the Right Cause of Non-Violent Struggle for Human Rights and Dignity. And I haven’t suffered in vain during these days in jail. I’m still optimistic and confident for the brighter future of our people in Vietnam.

Ham Tan Camp, October 1995
Doan Thanh Liem

NOTE: Published with the kind permission of the author.

Doan Thanh Liem is a Vietnamese constitutional law scholar. In 1992, he was sentenced in a secret trial to 12 years of imprisonment for “anti-socialist propaganda.” Doan Thanh Liem was released in 1996 and allowed to emigrate to the US with his family. George McGovern and many congressmen wrote letters to Hanoi on his behalf, and one petition was signed by Ed Asner, Daniel Berrigan, Noam Chomsky, Jane Fonda, Frances FitzGerald, Tom Hayden, Seymour Hersh, Ron Kovic, David Rabe, Oliver Stone and Cora Weiss.
(Source, HERE.)

You may also find HERE the New York Times article published June 14, 1992, announcing the sentencing of Doan Thanh Liem.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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