"Please let us die,' Vietnam death-row inmates implore

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 Two death-row inmates at a detention center in the northern province of Bac Giang, where 26 prisoners are awaiting their execution
PHOTO COURTESY OF LAO DONG

Everyone dies, sooner or later. People know that but rarely wonder when they will die. Except when they are given death sentences and have to wait for the execution day to come.

Over 530 death-row inmates have been waiting for their execution ever since Vietnam decided to switch from firing squad to lethal injection in November 2011, but has been unable to carry out executions due to the unavailability of drugs.

How should one feel while awaiting their death? Deranged? At least that is the case with the 26 prisoners on death row in the northern province of Bac Giang.

Colonel Nguyen Duy Duc, superintendent of the Bac Giang police's detention center, sighs and tells about a drug criminal he refers to as just Ngoc.

She has recently become "very demanding" and "irritable."

She is particular about her towel, insisting it must have a picture of a rose and not be too large or too small. If she is not given the right towel, she throws it away and screams in protest.

Ngoc used to keep her waste in a bucket in her room and throw it at jailors.

For the last few days she has been screaming constantly and refused to eat, demanding that she be transferred to a new room and her jailor be changed. She wants in atmosphere to feel "less desperate."

She also refused to meet her father when he came to see her.

Another prisoner, also named Ngoc but a man, keeps shouting and crying, claiming his room is full of mosquitoes or some other insects. Every night he washes his mat, blanket, and clothes and hangs it around the room.

Another prisoner keeps crying loudly, claiming he is crazy and needs to go to the hospital.

One female prisoner cries and screams whenever a jailor gives her a copy of her favorite newspaper.

One only eats rice with sodium glutamate, but cries and screams if given a seasoning he does not like.

Nguyen Duy Bien constantly attempts suicide. He once tore his clothes to make a noose and hanged himself, but fell down alive after the makeshift stool gave way.

He hit his head on the wall twice and stabbed himself in a vein with a hanger, but again the attempts failed.

"I have swallowed a needle to kill myself," Bien once told an officer, but an examination later found nothing in his body.

Elsewhere in the country, at least four inmates have killed themselves under the stress of waiting for their execution.

One inmate says: "We are fed up. If we are going to die, please let us die; it is miserable to keep living here."

But the prisoners' wish will possibly not come true until next year.

Senior Lieutenant-Colonel Hoang The Vinh, chief of the Bac Giang police's execution division, says the construction of facilities for execution by lethal injection will be finished by year end or next year.

Five out of 20 facilities have been built -- in Hanoi, the northern province of Son La, the central province of Nghe An, the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak, and Ho Chi Minh City.

Vinh says some inmates will probably be sent to Hanoi for execution.

Under an amended decree issued by the government, the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Defense were to have begun executions on June 27.

But on the same day the media quoted Lieutenant-General Cao Ngoc Oanh, head of the Ministry of Public Security's criminal punishment department, as saying preparations are still going on.

"Once we have things in place for executions, we will inform the media," he said.

Some 117 convicts were expected to be executed on June 27. 

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Vietnam has been unable to get the drugs for lethal injection after the EU banned their export. The EU has banned capital punishment.

The Vietnamese government has ordered related agencies to commission local production.

But nothing is known about the progress since it is classified information, Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper reported last week.

The decree on lethal injection says convicts will be given a shot containing three drugs: one to lose of consciousness, a muscle relaxant, and one designed to stop the heart.

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