The mother of university student Nguyen Phuong Uyen, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Nhung, was very worried when she went to Saigon to look for her daughter. While talking to us, she could not hold back tears when she mentioned her child, “At home she used to remind me that I should not buy Chinese products, worrying that I might forget she noted down in a notebook the bar codes so that I could recognize which one was Chinese. For the last few days, each time I picked up the notebook I missed her terribly. Uyen’s maternal grandmother is in the emergency room due to a leaky heart valve, I did not want my mother to worry so I only told her that Uyen was busying studying for exams and therefore could not be home… Now I don’t know where to find her”.We took her to the rental unit where Phuong Uyen lived, a tiny room about 15m2 in the alley at the end of Duong Duc Hien Street, Tan Phu District. Here, we met Phuong, Uyen’s roommate. Phuong was amongst the three roommates summoned to the local police station and questioned for more than 7 hours on the 14th October about Uyen ‘s activities. “I asked what crime did Uyen commit but they would not tell, when they released me they told me that I was not to let Uyen’s family know. After that I took some food up (for Uyen) but they would not let me see her…”, Phuong said.
After 2 days a man came down to our rental unit, produced a City Police ID card with the name Phong, confiscated Uyen ‘s camera, her clothes and personal items, together with some school books which Uyen had sent for. Phuong asked Mr. Phong about Uyen ‘s situation and was told by Mr. Phong that Uyen was staying with the police women, as they needed to interrogate her, so for now she could not be allowed home. Mr. Phong left a phone number for Phuong to inform him of any new information.
“I asked when would Uyen be released, Mr. Phong said when a crime was found they would send notices to the family”, Phuong recounted.
When asked about Uyen, Phuong said “I got to know Uyen through the ads looking for a roommate. Uyen was very friendly, we shared the unit for 1 year without any problem. Uyen was a very bright student. Mr. Phong (the policeman) complimented her on this and felt sorry for her when he took Uyen’s report card from the university”.
According to the neighbours, recently there had always been strangers lurking 24/24 but they did not know whom they were watching, now they realized it was this student. When asked for Mr. Phong’s phone number, Phuong was too scared to give it out because he had told her not to. Uyen ‘s mother had no choice but to leave and to wait for those who were supposed to protect the citizens, if they still have any remaining conscience, to contact her regarding the whereabout of her daughter.
We took Uyen’s mother to the train station in the afternoon rain. She temporarily put aside her fear for the disappearance of her daughter to worry about her own mother who was still struggling in the emergency room.