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AP : Vietnam denies human rights group’s request to present award to dissident

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Associated Press - http://www.ap.org


HANOI, 14 February 2007 (AP) – Vietnam has rejected the request of an international human rights group to present an award to a leading dissident, the organization said.

Arne Liljedahl Lynngard, chairman of the Norway-based Rafto Foundation, had sought to visit Vietnam to present the group’s annual human rights award to the Venerable Thich Quang Do, deputy leader of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam.

Four winners of the Rafto prize have later won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Lynngard also requested a meeting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss Vietnam’s ongoing legal, political and economic reforms.

But the Vietnamese Embassy in Copenhagen informed Lynngard that he was not welcome to visit, the Rafto Foundation said Tuesday.

The Norwegian Embassy in Hanoi has asked Vietnam to reconsider the decision.

Vietnam’s communist government strictly controls religious organizations, and only officially approved religions that accept communist supervision are allowed to operate.

Demanding independence, Do and his church have refused to join the government-approved Buddhist Church of Vietnam.

Do and Thich Huyen Quang, the Unified Buddhist Church leader, have spent years under virtual house arrest, with police monitoring their contacts and restricting their movements.

Government officials could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

“How can Vietnam expect the international community to learn about the progress happening inside the country if such visits from international persons are denied ?” the foundation said in a statement.

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