Aussie democracy activist Kham freed from Vietnam jail

Australian citizen and pro-democracy activist Chau Van Kham has been released from a Vietnamese jail.

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles thanked the Vietnamese government for its action.

“They’ve done this on the basis of humanitarian grounds and in the spirit of friendship, which exists between Australia and Vietnam,” Mr Marles said on Tuesday.

“This is a result of careful advocacy which has been undertaken by the Australian government with the Vietnamese government over a number of months.”

The 74-year-old retired Sydney baker was arrested in 2019 on terrorism charges and sentenced to 12 years in prison over his membership of the overseas, pro-democracy political party Viet Tan.

Mr Kham’s wife and two children thanked the government for securing his release.

They also thanked their legal team and many organisations involved.

“We share this happy news that Chau Van Kham is well and has returned to his family today,” his family said in a statement.

Mr Chau’s wife, Trang, told the ABC it had been four years and seven months since the family had seen him.

“I’m very happy today… My husband got home, [he’s] happy and healthy,” she said.

The family’s lawyer Dan Nguyen said it was a long road to get Mr Chau home safely.

“Twelve years is almost like a death sentence for somebody his age, but we’re so happy that he’s home, and we’re so happy that he’s home a free man,” she told the ABC.

Ms Nguyen said his family was “absolutely emotional”.

“Words cannot describe how happy they are. But I’m also happy that I’ve been able to help to bring him home and we thank the Australian government tremendously for their effort in bringing him home,” she said.

Human Rights Watch’s Asia director Elaine Pearson said while the release was fantastic news, more than 150 political prisoners remained in detention in Vietnam for peaceful acts of free expression.

Among those still in jail were journalist Pham Doan Trang and environmental activists Mai Phan Loi, Dang Dinh Bach and Hoang Thi Minh Hong.

“The one-party state has no tolerance for anyone who expresses a narrative contrary to the government and the Australian government should continue to call on Vietnamese authorities to release all political prisoners,” Ms Pearson said.

-with AAP

Topics: Vietnam
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