He is on death row in his home province of Quang Ninh, 100 kilometres east of Hanoi.

A police official at the jail where Hai is being held, who declined to be identified, said Hai had written a letter to President Nguyen Minh Triet, which he gave to prison authorities.

"This is the first such case in our detention centre, so our leaders sent his request to the central level for approval," the police official said.

"I have been found guilty, so I want to be executed and to donate my body to science, to help people suffering from illness," Hai wrote, according to the newspaper Phap Luat Ho Chi Minh City.

The newspaper quoted police Colonel Le Duy Tan, director of the detention centre, as saying he had no knowledge of any legal document stipulating that executed prisoners could donate their bodies to science or medicine.

Article 5 of Vietnam's Law on Body and Organ Donation, passed in 2006, states that people 18 years or older "possessing full civil rights" have the right to donate organs and body parts. It is not clear whether prisoners also have such a right.

Deutsche Presse Agentur - March 12, 2010