Reliable reports that independent journalist and former prisoner of conscience Truong Duy Nhat is being detained in Viet Nam raise major questions about his safety and the circumstances of his disappearance in Thailand in late January.
“It has been nearly two months since Truong Duy Nhat disappeared from a Bangkok shopping centre, shortly after submitting an asylum claim and following growing harassment by Vietnamese police. Reports that Nhat is now in a Hanoi prison are extremely worrying, and we are calling on the Vietnamese authorities to confirm whether he is in their custody and disclose his whereabouts at once,” said Joanne Mariner, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Adviser.
“The Vietnamese and Thai authorities need to come clean about why and how Nhat returned to Viet Nam so soon after he applied for asylum in Bangkok. There is a strong possibility that he was transferred to Vietnamese custody despite the real risk of serious human rights violations,” said Joanne Mariner. “Nhat is a journalist and a former prisoner of conscience who has already suffered greatly for peacefully expressing his political views. If he is being detained he should be given immediate access to legal counsel and brought before a judge. Unless the Vietnamese authorities can show valid grounds to detain Nhat they must free him immediately.”
According to several media reports, including from Radio Free Asia (RFA), where Nhat published a regular blog, Nhat’s friends and family have recently been able to confirm his detention in Hanoi’s T-16 jail, although they have not yet been able to visit him. He has been reportedly held at the prison since January 28, 2019, shortly after he was last seen in Bangkok.
Credible information indicates that Nhat was seized by unidentified men in a Bangkok shopping centre called Future Park on January 26, 2019.
Truong Duy Nhat fled Viet Nam in early January 2019. He submitted an asylum claim at the Bangkok office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on January 25, 2019, the day before he disappeared. That day, he sent his relatives two photos of himself at the UNHCR gate. He was also in touch with his employers at RFA. He had not been heard from since the following day.
Truong Duy Nhat was previously jailed from 2013 to 2015 on charges of ‘conducting propaganda against the state for his work as an independent journalist and commentator. Amnesty International considered him a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression. After his release he continued working as an independent journalist. In December 2018, he received reports that he was likely to be re-arrested, and he noticed a heightened police presence near his house, prompting him to leave the country.