Concern Mounts for Missing Vietnamese Monk

Vietnamese monk Thich Tri Luc’s disappearance in Cambodia last month has shocked human rights workers, but the religious dis­sident’s case follows a long string of alleged forced deportations arranged be­tween the Cam­bodian and Viet­namese governments.

After fleeing Vietnam, Thich Tri Luc was staying in a Phnom Penh guest house until July 25, when he went missing after going to meet an unknown man for coffee, Buddhist officials claim.

“He may have been kidnapped, re­patriated, or suffered an even worse fate,” the Paris-based Inter­national Buddhist Information Bu­reau said in a statement Fri­day.

Thich Tri Luc is a well-known member of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and has been jailed in the past by Viet­namese authorities.

“It’s the habitual approach to get these guys out. It’s been go­ing on for awhile,” said one hu­man rights worker in Phnom Penh.

It is known that several members of the anti-Hanoi Free Viet­nam movement have been arrested in Cambodia and reportedly sent back to Vietnam, de­spite the Cambodian government’s efforts to do so quietly.

More recently, rights workers have accused Cambodian authorities of arresting and forcibly de­porting as many as 550 Mon­tagnard asylum seekers fleeing unrest in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. But Thich Tri Luc’s case is even more “outrageous,” in the words of one observer, be­cause the UN High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees had granted the monk refugee status and the almost certain prospect of resettlement before he went missing.

The UNHCR has refused to comment on the case. But international organizations, including Human Rights Watch, are pressing for a full investigation.

“There is urgent concern for the safety of Thich Tri Luc. He is at serious risk of being deported to Vietnam, where he is at great risk of persecution and imprisonment,” said Mike Jendrzejczyk, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch Asia.


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