Vietnam Monk Freed After Kidnapping

A dissident Vietnamese Buddhist monk kidnapped from Cambodia and forcibly imprisoned in Vietnam in 2002 arrived  in Sweden Wednesday after being permitted to leave Vietnam, human rights groups said Thursday.

Thich Tri Luc, 50, was a UN-recognized refugee at the time of his kidnapping in Phnom Penh, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said.                                    Thich Tri Luc fled to Cambodia in early 2002 to seek asylum after years of persecution by Vietnam­ese authorities because of his religious beliefs and outspoken criticisms of the Vietnamese government, the rights groups said.

He has been imprisoned many times in Vietnam, according to a statement from the groups.

Thich Tri Luc was granted refugee status by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in June 2002, but on July 25 he “was abducted by Cambodian and Vietnamese agents and forcibly returned to Vietnam.”

General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, denied Thursday the involvement of Cambodian au­thor­ities in the monk’s abduction and forcible return.

“We did not even know who Thich Tri Luc was until we re­ceived the statement,” Khieu Sopheak said.

In a written account provided in the statement, Thich Tri Luc said Cambodian authorities aided Vietnam in his kidnapping.

“On the Vietnamese side of the border, Vietnamese Security officials were waiting. I saw the Cambodian and the Vietnamese Security police shaking hands, smiling and talking to each other,” Thich Tri Luc wrote in a statement to rights groups.

On March 12 he was sentenced to 20 months in prison for distorting “the government policies on national unity” and contacting “hostile groups,” but was released March 26 after 20 months on pre-trial detention.

“Thich Tri Luc’s shocking treatment by the Cambodian authorities demonstrated the absence of protection for refugees and asylum-seekers in Cambodia,” the rights groups said.


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