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Authorities bar priest and rights advocate from leaving Vietnam

HO CHI MINH CITY (UCAN): On May 14, Redemptorist Father Joseph Dinh Huu Thoai was stopped by army officers at a land border with Laos when he intended to travel onward to the United States to visit relatives and friends.
In an audio recording posted on Facebook, Father Dinh asked officers to explain why he was banned from leaving. Officials maintained that they were acting under orders from their superiors.
The priest said he had not violated any laws and was not the subject of any police ban order. Last November, he was able to travel out of Vietnam.
Father Dinh accused the government of taking away citizens’ freedom of travel and violating the law by interfering with the activities of independent groups.
In another incident on May 16, Maria Do Thi Minh Hanh, president of the labour rights group, Viet Labour Movement, was stopped at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, as she was about to take a flight to Germany to visit her mother.
In a video posted on Facebook, the 33-year-old Do recounted that officials at the airport told her that she was not allowed to leave the country for reasons of national security.
She said she wrote on an official document that “I am clearly deprived of my rights to freedom of travel.” However, security officials said the document with the complaint was not accepted.
Do said that authorities had earlier promised German officials that they would allow her to go abroad. She subsequently was able to travel to neighbouring Cambodia.
“The government tricked the German government and me when they allowed me to go to Cambodia, but have now barred me from travelling to Germany,” she said adding that she felt ashamed of the government’s unacceptable treatment of her.
This was the fourth such action against her in the past three years.
Do was arrested for allegedly disrupting security in 2010 and was sentenced to seven years in prison. She was released in 2014.
This year, the State Department of the United States of America recognised her as a human rights heroine for her efforts to promote human and workers’ rights in Vietnam.
Father Dinh regularly speaks out against human rights violations and abuses of religious freedom. He is also active in supporting former South Vietnamese soldiers who have lived in extreme poverty since the Vietnam War ended in 1975.
In 2011, the priest was also barred from going to Cambodia.
Since June 2017, three Redemptorists have been barred from going abroad.

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