Vietnamese authorities released a Hoa Hao Buddhist follower from prison this week after he served a two-and-a-half year sentence for disrupting public order in a case that saw two other activists also jailed.
Nguyen Van Minh, a member of a branch of the religious group that operates outside government control, was freed on Aug. 11 and returned to his home in Phuoc Hong village in the An Phu district of southwestern Vietnam’s An Giang province.
“I’m on my way home now. I’m a bit tired,” Minh told RFA’s Vietnamese Service in a telephone interview on Thursday.
“I had some issues when I left this morning, because the authorities had deliberately created problems for me while I was in prison.”
“My family told me on the phone this morning that the police were all around my house,” he said.
Minh, along with fellow Hoa Hao follower Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh and rights activist Bui Thi Minh Hang, was arrested in February 2014 on charges of having created a “serious obstruction to traffic” while they were on their way to visit a former political prisoner.
Hang, a prominent blogger, was handed a three-year prison term, while Quynh was sentenced to two years and Minh received a two-and-a-half year term.
Vietnam’s government officially recognizes the Hoa Hao religion, which has some 2 million followers across the country, but imposes harsh controls on dissenting Hoa Hao groups that do not follow the state-sanctioned branch.
Rights groups say that authorities in An Giang routinely harass followers of the unapproved groups, prohibiting public readings of the Hoa Hao founder’s writings and discouraging worshipers from visiting Hoa Hao pagodas in An Giang and other provinces.
Reported by Cat Linh for RFA’s Vietnamese Service, Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Richard Finney.