After his release from prison last week, Vietnamese dissident blogger Dieu Cay said authorities only gave him the option of leaving for the United States.
In an exclusive interview with VOA's Vietnamese service from California Monday, the blogger, whose real name is Nguyen Van Hai, said he agreed to leave Vietnam so he could draw attention to others who are still in prison.
"My case is grossly unfair. I’m here partly to draw the world’s attention to my case again so that my other fellow detainees could follow suit," Dieu Cay said. "… I believe even when I’m in the U.S., I can still operate actively and effectively as I was in Vietnam."
Vietnam officials said last week that his release was a humanitarian gesture. But Dieu Cay, who endured long periods of solitary confinement in prison, said no nation that jails its people for peaceful activities should be considered "humanitarian" for releasing them.
"I have seen too many sickening things in Vietnam’s prisons," Dieu Cay said. He was jailed in 2012 for a 12-year term for disseminating "anti-state propaganda," Britain’s Guardian had reported.
"In Vietnamese society, the rule of law is not respected," he said. "… My job is to expose those shortcomings of the society."
Aiding his cause from afar
Dieu Cay said he aims to use his new freedom to promote civil society and independent bloggers inside Vietnam.
"We hope international media pays attention to what Vietnamese independent bloggers are saying, reports on their writings and helps spread their message to protect them, creating a communication network that supports them and helps them develop," the blogger said.
The exposure "could lead to actions," he added. "I hope freedom of press, freedom of speech is the path that we should to take first."
Dieu Cay's release followed the lifting of the decades-old U.S. ban on lethal weapon sales to Vietnam. Washington has been calling on Vietnam to improve its human rights record in exchange for better U.S. relations.
His wife and two of his children are still in Vietnam and it is not clear whether they will join him. One daughter, whose home is in Canada, is now with him in the United States.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.