HANOI, April 21 2006 (AFP) – Rights activists have urged the European Union to press Vietnam for the release of several dissidents, as a top EU official arrived in Hanoi on Friday for talks with leaders of the communist country.
Media rights watchdog Reporters without Borders (RSF) called on the European commissioner for external relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, to help free five jailed cyber-dissidents.
Pham Hong Son, Nguyen Vu Binh, Truong Quoc Tuan, Truong Quoc Huy and Lisa Pham “are being held for speaking out in support of democracy in articles posted on websites and discussion forums,” the Paris-based group said.
Vo Van Ai, president of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, also wrote to Ferrero-Waldner, asking her to appeal for the release from house arrest of detained Buddhist dissidents Thich Huyen Quang, 86, and Thich Quang Do, 77.
Quang, patriarch of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), and his deputy Do have both spent almost 30 years under effective house arrest in their monasteries for promoting religious freedom and human rights, Ai said.
“The Vietnamese government claims that these prominent Buddhists are free, yet in February 2006 Thich Quang Do was arrested, assaulted by security police and forcibly returned to his monastery as he attempted to travel to Binh Dinh (province) to visit the UBCV patriarch,” Ai wrote.
Ferrero-Waldner arrived Friday and was due to meet Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and Foreign Minister Nguyen Dy Nien during her two-day visit, which comes amid the ruling communist party’s national congress, held every five years.
RSF said three of the cyber-dissidents — Truong Quoc Tuan, Truong Quoc Huy and Lisa Pham — were arrested in Ho Chi Minh City last October after discussing democracy in an online forum and have not been heard from since.
Son was arrested in March 2002 for spying because he translated articles about democracy and human rights and posted them online, said the group, adding that he was now seriously ill.
Binh is a former journalist with a communist party newspaper who was arrested later the same year, accused of links with “subversive dissidents” as well as criticizing a Chinese-Vietnamese border agreement.
“Vietnam should be required to make progress in the areas of human rights and freedom of expression as a prior condition for membership of the World Trade Organisation, to which it aspires,” RSF said.