Home / News / Press Review / AFP : US calls on Vietnam to let UNHCR have access to jailed Buddhist

AFP : US calls on Vietnam to let UNHCR have access to jailed Buddhist

Download PDF


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


HANOI, Mar 17, 2004 (AFP) – The United States urged the Vietnamese government to grant the United Nations (news – web sites) refugee agency access to a Buddhist dissident jailed for 20 months for undermining internal security.

Pham Van Tuong was found guilty on March 12 of distorting “the government’s policies on national unity” and contacting “hostile groups to undermine the government’s internal security and foreign affairs,” according to state media.

“The proceedings against Pham Van Tuong were conducted in secrecy and we have no independent information on the facts of the case and question whether the case met international standards of due process,” he added.

“We urge the government of Vietnam to grant UNHCR access to Mr Tuong for refugee status determination.”

The 50-year-old Tuong is a member of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), which was outlawed in 1981 after it refused to come under the control of the ruling Communist Party.

Last year, the authorities said he was arrested at the Vietnamese-Cambodian border.

But according to IBIB, he was kidnapped and forcibly repatriated to Vietnam in July 2002 from the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, two months after fleeing his country, despite being granted refugee status by the UNHCR.

Bhairaja Panday, the UNHCR’s deputy regional representative, said the agency had also requested access to Tuong.

“He continues to be a refugee under our mandate,” he told AFP from Bangkok.

“The circumstances about where he was caught and how he was taken to Vietnam is a concern but right now his protection is our main priority.”

Panday also said he expected that Tuong, who has already been in detention for over 19 months, could be released shortly.

“There are indications that this could happen. Our understanding is that his 20 month sentence includes time served,” he said.

Over the past six months Hanoi has been the target of international criticism over a renewed crackdown on the UBCV.

In October, its elderly patriarch Thich Huyen Quang and his deputy Thich Quang Do — Vietnam’s most prominent religious dissidents — were accused of being in possession of state secrets and trying to reorganize the church with the help of outside forces.

The pair were placed under unofficial house arrest.

In December, the US State Department grouped Vietnam in a worst offenders category of totalitarian and authoritarian states that view religious groups as “enemies of the state”.

Human rights organizations have urged Washington to designate Vietnam among the list of “countries of particular concern” over violations of religious freedom, a move that could ultimately lead to the imposition of sanctions.

Check Also

EU–Vietnam 8th Human Rights Dialogue in Brussels: Interview with Maya Kocijancic & Umberto Gambini

On Monday 4th March 2019, the European Union and Vietnam held their annual human rights …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *