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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Trial looms for kidnapped monk

Trial looms for kidnapped monk

A Vietnamese Buddhist monk who disappeared from Cambodia last year is set to face

trial in his home country, human rights groups reported.

Thich Tri Luc, whose secular name is Pham Van Yuong, is a member of the banned Unified

Buddhist Church of Vietnam. Luc fled Vietnam in April 2002 and was granted refugee

status by the Cambodia office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in June.

But a month later he was kidnapped from a Phnom Penh guest house by unidentified

persons and forcibly repatriated to Vietnam, the International Buddhist Information

Bureau stated.

The 46-year-old monk was not heard of again until July when his family was summoned

to attend his hearing in the Ho Chi Minh People's Court.

Last November, the then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, raised

the arrest with Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng during their meeting in Phnom Penh.

At the time Sar Kheng promised to investigate the matter, but, speaking on September

16, Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak indicated that the Cambodian government

considered the case closed.

"We have no information about this monk and we don't have the official police

report", he said. He added that there was "nothing to investigate"

since there was no complaint from the government of Vietnam or the monk's family.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) called on the Cambodian government

to provide an explanation of the incident in a joint statement on September 17.

"Returning a refugee to a country where he faces persecution is a serious violation

of the Refugee Convention," said Brad Adams, executive director of the Asia

Division of HRW. Cambodia is a signatory to the treaty.

Under the agreement, the Cambodian government is obliged to provide protection for

people deemed to be "persons of concern" by the UNHCR for reasons of political


Shortly after Luc disappeared, a Chinese couple belonging to the persecuted Falun

Gung movement were also reportedly deported to China.

When asked about the monk's impending court appearance, MoI's Sopheak was unconcerned

about him standing trial soon.

"I don't know," he said. "Ask the Vietnamese government."

The human rights organizations' statement condemned the arrest as a "mockery

of justice" and called for the monk's immediate release.

It said that Luc was expected to be tried on charges of fleeing abroad to oppose

the Vietnamese government, a charge which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.



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