A Vietnamese monk considered by Hanoi to be a renegade human rights campaigner is feared kidnapped after fleeing to Cambodia, according to the Paris-based International Buddhist Information Bureau, an arm of the outlawed Vien Hoa Dao Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam.
Thich Tri Luc, an active member of the UBCV, was staying at a Phnom Penh guest house but disappeared July 25 after being invited to go with an unidentified man, according to a statement from the IBIB.
“The IBIB fears he may have been kidnapped, repatriated, or suffered an even worse fate,” the statement read.
Co-Minister of Interior You Hockry said Friday he had heard of the incident but had no official report yet.
Thich Tri Luc entered Cambodia April 10 and was granted refugee status by the UN High Commission for Refugees in Phnom Penh on June 28, but the agency has failed to obtain any information about his whereabouts, according to the IBIB.
Concerned about reports that “Vietnamese secret police routinely enter Cambodia to arrest, forcibly repatriate and even murder refugees from the ethnic Montagnards fleeing persecution,” the IBIB has written Prime Minister Hun Sen asking him to investigate Thich Tri Luc’s disappearance.
The disappearance has also come to the attention of the New York-based rights group, Human Rights Watch, which called the incident “unprecedented,” according to one of the organization’s representatives.
“We’re extremely concerned about his safety,” the rights official said.
Religious activities are tightly controlled in Vietnam. UBCV monks have refused to come under the control of the state- sanctioned Buddhist church.
Thich Tri Luc was first arrested in 1992 and detained for 10 months without trial.
He was rearrested in November 1994 for participating in a flood rescue mission and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison on charges of “abusing democratic freedoms to harm the interest of the state.” Since his release he has been under constant surveillance.
(Additional reporting by Pin Sisovann and AFP)