Vietnamese Dissident’s Disappearance Probed

Police are investigating the disappearance of a Vietnamese political dissident who fled to Cam­bo­dia in April and was under UN protection in Phnom Penh while seeking asylum, the Interior Min­istry said Friday.

UN High Commissioner for Re­fugees spokeswoman Inge Stur­ken­boom said that Le Tri Tue, who was designated a person of concern by the UNHCR and had applied for asylum through her agency, disappeared from his place of residence last week.

“We received this information. This case is under investigation by police,” Interior Ministry spokes­man Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said.

The investigation will be difficult because the UNHCR did not inform the Interior Ministry that it started interviewing Le Tri Tue for asylum, Khieu Sopheak claimed.

“If UNHCR is concerned they should inform the Interior Mi­nis­try,” he said, adding that the UNHCR is supposed to notify the min­istry whenever they receive an application for asylum.

“This is not a ter­ritory controlled by the UNCHR,” he added. “We are a sovereign country.”

Sturkenboom, however, said that UNHCR had informed the gov­ernment of Li Tri Tue’s asylum application.

“Like with all asylum seekers who come to UNHCR we in­form­ed the government,” she said.

“We hope the government can help us find him,” she added.

In July 2004, rights groups claimed that dissident Vietna­mese Buddhist monk Thich Tri Luc, who was granted asylum by the UNHCR, was abducted by Cam­bo­dian and Vietnamese agents and forcibly returned to Vietnam. Officials at the time denied the involvement of Cam­bo­dian au­thorities in the monk’s abduction and forcible return.

Le Tri Tue, 29, a Vietnamese trade union leader, fled to Cam­bo­dia in the midst of a government crackdown on democracy activists in Vietnam, according to Human Rights Watch. Le Tri Tue had fallen afoul of the government for circulating letters and online publications calling for greater freedom and democracy in Vietnam, Rights Watch said.

Officials at the Vietnamese Em­bassy could not be reached for comment on Friday.

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