Thai police helped Vietnamese police abduct a dissident blogger seeking asylum in Thailand and return him to custody in Hanoi, revealing a pattern of cooperation between security services in the neighboring Southeast Asian countries, rights group Amnesty International said on Friday.
Truong Duy Nhat, a weekly contributor to RFA’s Vietnamese Service, disappeared in Bangkok in late January amid fears he was abducted by Vietnamese agents, and was revealed two months later to be in a jail in Vietnam.
Documents and other information obtained by Amnesty International now point to the involvement of Thai police officers in the abduction, with security services in both countries seen to be trading political dissidents wanted by the other side, the rights group said on Friday.
In extreme cases, dissidents appear to have been forcibly ‘disappeared’ from the country where they were seeking refuge, only to reappear in another state’s custody a week or two later, Amnesty International said in its June 21 statement.
On Jan. 26, a day after filing for refugee status with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Bangkok, Nhat was stopped by four Thai police officers at an ice-cream shop at a shopping mall, Amnesty International said, citing information received by the rights group.
The officers brought Nhat to a restaurant, ate with him for a couple of hours, and then, sometime after 8 pm, drove him a short distance away, delivering him to a group of Vietnamese police officials.
The Vietnamese officials forced Nhat into a van and drove away with him, Amnesty International said.
‘They worked together’
Thai police had earlier contacted a Vietnamese refugee living in Thailand, Nguyen Van Chung, asking if he knew Nhat, and Chung was surprised in a follow-up interview to see his questioners working together with a man they identified as a Vietnamese official, the Reuters news service said in a June 21 report.
Somehow, discreetly, police of Vietnam and Thailand worked together and knew everything, Chung said, speaking to Reuters from a third country to which he later fled to escape police attention.
Nhat’s abduction appears to be part of a deeply worrying trend in the region regarding the forced and often unlawful return of refugees and asylum seekers, Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s regional director for East and Southeast Asia, said in a statement Friday.
A number of countries in the region are trading off political dissidents and individuals fleeing persecution as part of an unholy alliance to shore up each other’s regimes, Bequelin said.
Jailed in Vietnam from 2013 to 2015 for his writings criticizing Vietnam’s government, Nhat now faces corruption charges for his alleged involvement in a land-fraud case while serving as bureau chief at a newspaper in Danang city in the 1990s.
Nhat’s attorney Tran Vu Hai told RFA on June 10 that he has so far been blocked from registering to represent the detained blogger in the state’s case against him.
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