[Vietnam] Radio Free Asia blogger goes missing after seeking refugee status in Thailand

Vietnamese blogger Truong Duy Nhat has been missing since 26 January 2019, and no one knows his whereabouts. Just three days ago, on 5 February 2019, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported that they have lost contact with Nhat and are “extremely concerned” about his safety and well-being.  

Until his disappearance, Nhat was a weekly contributor to the U.S. broadcast and nonprofit organization’s Vietnamese Service’s blog section. He has a personal blog called “Nhat Mot Goc Nhin Khac (Another Point of View).” He had worked for newspapers in his hometown Da Nang city.

“As much as we are firmly hoping that Mr. Nhat is alive and safe wherever he may be, and that his disappearance has nothing to do at all with his work and being an independent voice in Vietnam, it is difficult to expect otherwise,” said Tess Bacalla, executive director of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA). “The signs to the contrary are writ large, and those responsible for his disappearance must be held to account and punished.”

As an activist, he was arrested in May 2013 and served in prison from 2014 to 2015 for “conducting propaganda against the state” and “abusing democratic freedoms.”

According to RFA, sources suspect his disappearance had to do with his knowledge of the “infighting within the Vietnamese Communist Party,” particularly information that could be “detrimental” to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

On 25 January 2019, Nhat went to Bangkok, Thailand to apply for an asylum with the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR).

Based on news reports, he was last seen at an ice cream shop inside the Future Park shopping mall in the Thai capital before the “alleged abduction” or “illegal detention,” as other reports invariably indicate, by unidentified men took place.

Immigration chief Surachate Hakparn denied his office had taken Nhat into custody, adding that they had “ordered an investigation into this matter,” reported Reuters.

Human rights groups are “extremely disturbed” and “deeply alarmed” over Nhat’s fate, and have called for an immediate investigation of his case, as well as assurances that he is not in danger.

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