Vietnamese Dissident Turned Away in Attempt to Return Home From Exile

lethuha Le Thu Ha as pictured in the Vietnamese Political Prisoner Database
The 88 Project

An exiled Vietnamese activist was denied entry into Vietnam and put back on a plane on November 20, RFA sources say.

Le Thu Ha, who had been offered asylum by Germany following her June 7 exile, attempted to pass through immigration at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, but was not allowed to enter.

Her mother, Hoang Thi Binh Minh, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that Le “arrived at Noi Bai Airport in the evening and texted me telling me she was fine, but I lost contact with her after that.”

Le and five others, including prominent rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai had been given harsh sentences by the Vietnamese government after being convicted of conducting activities aimed at overthrowing the state under Article 79 of Vietnam’s Penal Code in April.

Le was sentenced to nine years in jail and two years of probation, but was released along with Nguyen in June and sent into exile in Germany.

Nguyen, still in Germany, told RFA over the phone, “German diplomatic sources told me that security [at the airport] didn’t want Le to stay there too long because they were worried that if the public became aware of her presence it would cause more trouble, so they forced her out of Vietnam.”

“She was sent back to Bangkok and now German diplomats are working to bring her back to Germany,” he added.

Nguyen also said that Le has been wanting to return home to Vietnam ever since she arrived in Germany in June, but he’s not sure why exactly.

Her mother speculated that homesickness might be the reason.

“I think maybe she’s not well. She gets sick very often. She loves me very much and misses [her home] country,” Hoang said. “I think she was just sad, and [was having difficulty] adapting to the new environment [in Germany],” she said.

“She told me that she wanted to come back and live with me but I told her to try to make a good life in Germany. I think she could not overcome her emotions, so that’s why she decided to return,” said Hoang.

The harsh sentences doled out to Le, Nguyen and the four others stem from their association with the Brotherhood for Democracy, a group founded by Nguyen in 2013 to defend human rights and promote democratic ideals in Vietnam.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Eugene Whong.


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