hanoi – Two human rights groups on Friday condemned Vietnam for detaining a dissident Buddhist monk who they allege was kidnapped in Cambodia and forcibly returned to Vietnam to face trial.
Thich Tri Luc, 49, was granted refugee status in June 2002 in Phnom Penh by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on grounds he fled religious persecution in Vietnam.
Luc, a human rights advocate and member of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, was forcibly taken from a guest house on July 25, 2002, by unidentified men and has not been heard from since, according to the Paris-based Vietnam Committee on Human Rights and the International Federation of Human Rights League.
At the time of the alleged kidnapping, both Cambodian authorities and Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry denied knowledge of his whereabouts.
Human rights groups feared he had been forcibly repatriated by Vietnamese security agents, who were also accused of hunting down ethnic minority Vietnamese in 2001 who fled a repressive crackdown in the Central Highlands.
After more than a year without news, Luc’s family received a recent summons from a Ho Chi Minh City court ordering them to attend his trial on Aug 1.
No criminal charges were specified.
The trial has since been postponed and Luc’s family members do not know where he is being held.
Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
The two human rights groups expressed relief that Luc was alive, but said they were “deeply shocked” that he had been repatriated and detained for more than a year without his family being notified.
They expressed concern that he would not be given a fair trial and called for his “immediate and unconditional” release in an open letter to Vietnam’s leaders.