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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Jailed editor returns to start over

Jailed editor returns to start over

AN ethnic Vietnamese journalist deported last year for allegedly plotting to topple

the Hanoi government is back in Cambodia and wants to reopen his newspaper.

Ly Chandara's paper was closed in late 1995 by the Information Ministry, which cited

intelligence reports that he was a top official in the anti-Hanoi organization, Tu

Do Vietnam (Free Vietnam).

He was arrested and deported to Vietnam with two other alleged anti-Hanoi activists

last March.

Chandara, after his return to Phnom Penh, said he had been held without trial in

a prison in Ho Chi Minh City for almost seven months.

"They accused me of being against the Vietnamese government. I am not anti-Hanoi

but my newspaper wrote the facts about human right violations [in Vietnam],"

he said.

Ly Chandara said he was taken to Cambodia and released Oct 10 after signing a declaration

to Vietnamese and Cambodian authorities that he would not plot against Vietnam or

get involved in politics.

His release followed a visit to him in prison by Cambodian Ministry of Interior officials,

he said.

"I agreed to sign because I wanted to get out of prison .... I think they considered

me a political prisoner," he said, adding that he had feared he would die in

prison if he did not sign.

Asked why Cambodian authorities should have visited him to arrange his release, he

said that he had been told they acted at the request of his wife in Cambodia. But

he believed international human rights groups' complaints about his treatment was

also a factor.

One of the two men deported with him had also been released but the third, Ly Thara,

was still in Vietnam, he said.

London-based Amnesty International and other human rights groups condemned the deportations

at the time and said the three men faced possible persecution in Vietnam.

Tu Do Vietnam is believed to be one of several anti-Hanoi groups led by former high-ranking

members of the erstwhile United States-backed South Vietnam military ousted from

power by North Vietnamese forces in 1975.

The Hanoi government has urged Phnom Penh to take action against such groups, claiming

they aim to overthrow the Vietnam government.

The Cambodian government began cracking down on them in 1995 and has since expelled

or deported around 30 people, including US citizens, for alleged involvement in these

groups.

Chandara's deportation prompted a group of 13 ethnic Vietnamese to rush into the

US Embassy to seek asylum. They left after Cambodian officials promised that no action

would be taken against them.

Chandara said he wanted to reopen his newspaper, but would publish it in Khmer, not

Vietnamese as he did before it was closed down.

The jailed editor - who said he was born in Cambodia and had documents to show he

is a Khmer citizen - admitted some concern that he could be deported again to Vietnam

in the future.

"Of course I must be careful about what I write, but I have to continue to write

the facts."

Information Ministry Secretary of State Khieu Kanharith said he has not seen any

application to restart his newspaper from Chandara.

But Khmer Journalists Association co-president Pin Samkhon said that Khieu Kanharith,

and Minister of Information Ieng Mouly, had indicated that they wanted to make sure

Chandara has "no problem with the Vietnamese Embassy".

Pin Samkhon said he had advised Ly Chandara to keep a low profile after his return

as he feared for his safety.

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