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Wife of prisoner of conscience banned from leaving Vietnam

U.S.-based non-profit organization Boat People SOS (BPSOS) released a video on Monday of a speech given by Bui Thi Kim Phuong to the 2022 International Religious Freedom Summit.

In it, the wife of prisoner of conscience Nguyen Bac Truyen said she was banned from leaving the country by the Vietnamese government to prevent her speaking in the U.S. about her husband’s situation and the issue of religious persecution in Vietnam.

Nguyen Bac Truyen was arrested in July 2017 under the charge of “subversion” and was sentenced to 11 years in prison during a trial in Hanoi in April 2018.

Phuong told RFA she has been banned from leaving the country since 2019.

“In 2019, I was invited to attend a conference by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, but when I arrived at Tan Son Nhat Airport, I was blocked from leaving the country,” she said. “They said the reason I was stopped was for security, social order and safety reasons.

“I lodged a complaint with the Ministry of Public Security and the Immigration Department, and they replied giving the same reason.”

Phuong said she has been invited every year since 2019 to attend a conference on religious freedom, and, although every year she still submits a complaint to the Ministry of Public Security to ask to be allowed to leave the country, she is not allowed to leave Vietnam.

“In 2020, I was also invited,” she said. “I applied to the Vietnamese Government to ask if I was allowed to leave the country, and they answered with the same reason. In 2021, I also filed a petition to prepare to leave the country to attend the conference but the COVID-19 pandemic occurred.”

“This year, before this conference, I also submitted a petition to the Ministry of Public Security and the Immigration Department, but until today they have remained silent.”

Her husband Nguyen Bac Truyen is an independent Hoa Hao Buddhist and an active human rights activist. When he was arrested, many organizations believed the arrest to be politically motivated and a case of religious persecution.

The International Religious Freedom Summit is an annual event. This year’s conference runs from Tuesday to Thursday. Part of the program will be devoted to victims of religious persecution around the world to publicize and discuss their cases.

When asked about her feelings when being prevented from attending an international conference to fight for her husband, Ms. Bui Thi Kim Phuong said:

“Of course, deep down I am very angry and frustrated but, since I live in this regime, if they block me and I still go it will be very difficult since I am still living in this country.”

She added that she still planned to speak out strongly to denounce the government persecution faced by her family and her religion.