Norway MP told to leave Vietnam over rights trip

HANOI, Reuters

A Norwegian member of parliament was detained and asked to leave Vietnam last week after visiting dissident religious leaders under house arrest, a Norwegian embassy official said on Tuesday.

The politician, Lars Rise of the opposition Christian People’s Party, said in a statement on the dissident Free Viet Web site he was arrested in the central city of Hue on April 9 and “sent out of the country” after lengthy interrogation.

“He was taken in for questioning,” a Norwegian embassy official said. Asked if he was expelled, the diplomat said: “Shall we say he was asked to shorten his visit.”

Rise’s departure from Vietnam followed meetings with 73-year-old dissident Buddhist monk and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Thich Quang Do in Ho Chi Minh City and with dissident Catholic priest Nguyen Van Ly in Hue.

Both men are under restriction at their places of worship after criticizing religious restrictions imposed by the communist authorities.

The diplomat said Rise had come to Vietnam on a tourist visa, not with an official parliamentary delegation.

“In Vietnam’s view he violated the law by coming as a tourist then going to see persons under arrest,” the diplomat said, adding she had no statement yet from her ministry in Olso.

Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry did not comment, but released late on Tuesday a statement from a tourist company which arranged Rise’s tourist visa.