Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International on Wednesday called for the immediate release of Thich Tri Luc, the dissident Vietnamese Buddhist monk who went missing in Phnom Penh in July 2002 one month after he was granted refugee status by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry said earlier this week that Thich Tri Luc, 49, would face trial in Vietnam on charges of undermining the government, Agence France-Presse reported.
Vietnamese officials had previously denied any involvement in the monk’s whereabouts, the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International joint statement said.
“The case of Thich Tri Luc highlights so many of the abuses that the Vietnamese government routinely commits,” Brad Adams, executive director of Human Rights Watch Asia, said in the statement.
“Harsh repression of a religious believer, the apparent abduction and incommunicado detention of a peaceful dissident, and complicity in violation of international refugee laws are all part of a broader pattern in Vietnam,” he said.
Ingrid Massage, Amnesty International’s Asia and Pacific program director, said Vietnam has shown a “flagrant contempt” for the UN and for international standards of justice.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International renewed a call to the Cambodian government to explain how Thich Tri Luc was returned to Vietnam. Ministry of Interior spokesman General Khieu Sopheak could not comment on the case on Wednesday.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung said in a statement seen by the AFP Saturday that Thich Tri Luc had conducted “anti-government activities, seeking to flee abroad to contact outside organizations in an attempt to undermine the Vietnamese government,” AFP reported.
Thich Tri Luc, a member of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and a human rights advocate, fled to Cambodia from Vietnam in April 2002 and was given refugee status by the UN after he claimed religious persecution in Vietnam.
Human rights groups have said that Thich Tri Luc was abducted from his Phnom Penh guest house on July 25, 2002, and repatriated to Vietnam.
Le Dung said in the Foreign Ministry statement that Vietnamese police arrested the monk on July 26, 2002, at a border gate in Tay Ninh province while he was trying to flee the country, AFP reported.
The Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International statement also quoted from a letter Thich Tri Luc sent to Human Rights Watch in June 2002. “I have described the difficulties and mistreatment I endured under the Communist government. It became clear to me that there was no way for me to continue living in Vietnam,” he wrote in the letter. “My rights and daily living were being trampled by the authorities. I knew I must flee across the border.”