January 25, 2019 | Erin Handley and Emilia Terzon
Australian authorities have confirmed Australian citizen and pro-democracy activist Chau Van Kham has been detained in Vietnam.
A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) released a statement confirming the department had sought consular access to an Australian man detained in Vietnam, but for privacy reasons were unable to provide further details.
The family of Mr Chau feared the 70-year-old retired small businessman from Sydney had been arrested after they lost contact with him almost two weeks ago.
Dr Phong Nguyen, his friend and fellow member of pro-democracy group Viet Tan, said Mr Chau visited Vietnam on a fact-finding mission and was detained while meeting with a Vietnamese friend, Nguyen Van Vien, a member of Brotherhood for Democracy, on January 13 in Ho Chi Minh City.
Vietnamese authorities told Mr Nguyen’s wife her husband was arrested, but provided no reason for his detention, Dr Nguyen said.
“They haven’t allowed her to visit him,” he said.
“We assume both of them were arrested at the same time because they were together.”
Mr Chau’s family informed DFAT of his suspected detention last week and were told DFAT was working on his case.
Dr Nguyen said Mr Chau had not been allowed consular assistance.
“We still don’t know about his whereabouts and safety … [his family] want to send medication over, but first we have to locate where he is,” he said.
The Viet Tan describes itself as a peaceful pro-democracy group, but is branded as a “terrorist” organisation by Hanoi.
“We are mindful that the Vietnamese police have a history of framing peaceful activists with fabricated charges,” Dr Nguyen said.
The news comes a day after DFAT confirmed Chinese-Australian Yang Hengjun, an outspoken political commentator and blogger, had been detained in China.