HANOI, March 18, 2004 (dpa) – A British junior minister raised concerns over human rights and the use of the death penalty Thursday during a three-day visit to Vietnam.
The kidnapping and forced repatriation of a United Nations-registered refugee from Cambodia to Vietnam was raised as a matter of concern, Mike O’Brien told foreign and domestic journalists.
“I raised the issue of the Buddhist monk who appears to have been removed from Cambodia and spirited into Vietnam”, the deputy foreign minister said.
Thich Tri Luc, whose secular name is Pham Van Tuong, disappeared from a guest house in Cambodias capital in July 2002.
Luc had been granted refugee status by the United Nations because of persecution he faced in communist Vietnam.
Vietnam repeatedly denied knowing anything about the whereabouts of the dissident monk, but then a year after his disappearance, announced that he was to face trial in Vietnam.
At a one-hour closed door trial Friday, Luc was given a 20 month jail term for distorting the governments national unity policies, state-controlled media reported Saturday.
“There was a period of time when it was not accepted that he was in Vietnam prisons, it turns out he was. He has now been tried and sentenced, we hear that he will be released at the end of this month, and so thats positive news. Still, the fact that it happened is a matter of concern”, O’Brien said.
“Luc is a member of a banned Buddhist organization, the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, whose elderly leaders have spent most of the last 20 years in jail or under house arrest, another issue the British politician raised in meetings with senior Vietnamese officials”, he said.
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