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
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.