Vietnam Blocks Catholic Priest, Sister of Labor Activist from Leaving Abroad

Catholic priest Nguyen Ngoc Nam Phong

By Defend the Defenders, June 27, 2017

On June 17, Vietnam’s security forces blocked Catholic priest Nguyen Ngoc Nam Phong and Mrs. Do Ngoc Xuan Tram, an older sister of labor activist Do Thi Minh Hanh from leaving the country, saying the two separate blockage cases were made based on national security.

Priest Joan Nguyen Ngoc Nam Phong, an outspoken priest from the Hanoi-based Thai Ha Redemptory Church, was not permitted to leave for Singapore where he is scheduled to participate in a program related to religious affairs.

Security forces in the border gate of the Noi Bai International Airport said the ban is based on the proposal of the Hanoi Police Department’s Immigration. They also cited the government Decree 136 as the reason for their move.

Priest Phong is among outspoken religious clerks in Vietnam, often calling for human rights enhancement and democracy as well as talking about environmental issues and China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea).

Recently, he was granted a passport after years of being refused by the Ministry of Public Security.

In recent weeks, authorities in Hanoi have launched a campaign to denounce him in a bid to expel him from the Thai Ha Redemptory Church to silence him.

Meanwhile, Ho Chi Minh City’s security force in the border gate in the Tan Son Nhat International Airport did not allow Mrs. Tram to leave for Austria where she is a permanent resident. She has lived in the European country for five years with her family, including sick mother and small daughter.

The reason for the ban is similar to that in priest Phong’s case.

Mrs. Tram is contacting Austria’s Embassy in Vietnam for help.

In mid-June, Ms. Hanh, chairwoman of the unsanctioned Viet Labor Movement, was also barred from going to Cambodia where she planned to go to Austria to visit her sick mother and sister’s family.

Vietnam has blocked hundreds of local activists from leaving the country in a bid to prevent them from meeting with foreign diplomats, officials, and international activists or to study.

Many Vietnamese who reside in foreign countries have also been not allowed to return to their home country.

Meanwhile, Vietnam has expelled a number of local activists, forcing them to leave in exile. The victims include France-trained legal expert Cu Huy Ha Vu, bloggers and government critics Nguyen Van Hai and Ta Phong Tan, human rights activist Dang Xuan Dieu and Pham Minh Hoang.