HAMPTON, Va. - Dolly Khuu was detained by the communist Vietnamese government for six days before getting on her flight home to Hampton Roads. Back home on U.S. soil, she tells News 3 what happened when she was behind bars.
On May 11, Khuu embarked on a trip to Vietnam to do charity. She would travel through the country and into rural areas to help people and children. Five hours before her flight headed home, she was arrested at her hotel.
"There are 16 men come to the room and around them in the hallway all the way downstairs, there were a total up to 40 policemen who come to arrest me, this one woman," said Khuu.
Khuu said the policemen, who weren't wearing uniforms, claimed she used an unauthorized I.D., which turned out to be her U.S. passport. Then, they took her to a prison in Saigon.
"They put me in a room with a huge giant metal door with a big lock outside," said Khuu. Her room had a dirty bamboo sheet for sleeping. Khuu said it was rotten, dirty and looks like it had been used by countless people. The only toilet was in the floor, not one you sit on.
Khuu was held in the cell for six days, thinking she might never see her family including her two young daughters again.
"That dark time has come across my mind but I try to block it. Because I feel like if I think about my daughter I would break down and do stupid things. So I said you know what? I'm in this situation, I have to find how to deal with it and get through it," said Khuu.
While Khuu was behind bars, Vietnamese policemen told her some items she had with her, including blue t-shirts, blue hair ties and a scarf with the yellow Vietnamese flag were illegal in Vietnam. Khuu told News 3 she was held because of how outspoken she is about the communist regime in Vietnam. On social media thousands of people follow her video posts about injustices in the country, something they held against her in prison.
Khuu said, "I have to stay strong and be confident in myself I`m not going to say something that I haven't done to please them so they can let me go."
The Vietnamese government threatened Khuu and told her to shut down her social media pages, but she never backed down.
"That just showing me that you are very controlling. Controlling everything. You can only do what they allow you to do. It doesn't matter right or wrong, it's their order," said Khuu.
During rough times in her dirty room, Khuu thought of the people she was trying to help.
"After six days, each day they torturing me for 10 hours per day, they don't find any evidence to prove that I'm wrong," said Khuu.
So they got her on a new flight to return to the U.S. When she touched down in Norfolk, she ran straight into her family's arms, so thrilled to be home.
"I'm very honored to be living in the U.S and to hold the US Citizenship. I can't ask for anymore. This country give me hope, give me future that everyone wants to have," said Khuu.
Despite being detained and tortured, Khuu told News 3 she would return to Vietnam to continue doing charity work. She said she promised all the children she would come back and visit and she doesn't want to break that promise. She doesn't want them to think she doesn't care and wants them to have that hope better things will come.