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AFP : UN refugee agency hopeful in talks with Vietnam over dissident

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AFP - Agence France Presse - http://www.afp.com Agence France Presse


GENEVA, April 2 (AFP) – The UN refugee agency said Friday it was holding talks with Vietnamese authorities about a jailed Buddhist dissident and was hopeful that it could secure his resettlement.

Pham Van Tuong, 50, who has refugee status, reportedly disappeared in Cambodia until last year, when authorities in Hanoi said he was arrested at the Vietnamese-Cambodian border.

«UNHCR is in touch with Vietnamese authorities on this case and we are discussing with them a humanitarian solution,» said Ron Redmond, a spokesman for the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

«We are hopeful we’ll be able to solve this,» he told AFP, declining to give further details.

The former monk, also known as Thich Tri Luc, was sentenced to 20 months in prison on March 12 for undermining internal security following a trial in Ho Chi Minh City which reportedly lasted less than an hour.

Washington had urged the Vietnamese government to grant UN refugee officials access to Tuong, and US officials were able to speak with him earlier this week.

Redmond indicated that the UN hoped to be able to resettle Tuong outside Vietnam.

Human rights groups said Tuong, who had fled Vietnam in 2002, had revealed during telephone contact with them on March 26 that he had been arrested in Cambodia and forcibly repatriated to Vietnam.

«Vietnamese authorities hid him for a year… and ended up ‘legalising’ his 20 month arbitrary detention,» Vo Van Ai, head of the Paris-based Vietnam Committee on Human Rights told the UN’s top human rights assembly here.

Van Ai condemned «repression» on freedom of expression in Vietnam and the crackdown on the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, urging Hanoi to release 11 other detained Buddhist leaders.

Tuong is a member of the church, which was outlawed in 1981 after it refused to come under the control of the ruling Communist Party.


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