HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam has not given the United States any evidence of reports in state-run media that four Vietnamese-Americans arrested last month were suspected of terrorism, the U.S. Ambassador said on Tuesday. Envoy Michael Michalak also said he had not yet been told of any charges against the four U.S. citizens, although consular officials have been allowed to visit them at a detention centre.
“If they are being detained for peaceful expression of their political views then we will protest vigorously and call for their release,” Michalak said at a media briefing.
Asked what impact the arrests would have on warm diplomatic relations between the former war enemies, Michalak said, “That will depend a lot on what the charges are and what happens to the people under detention.
“At this point we have to wait and see.”
The Viet Tan (Vietnam Reform Party), a U.S.-based group opposed to communist rule, says six of its activists were arrested in mid-November and that police seized thousands of leaflets promoting peaceful democratic change.
Officials have confirmed they include two U.S. citizens, a French national, a Thai national and two Vietnamese citizens.
A Vietnam government spokesman last week confirmed state media reports that, separately on November 23, two other U.S. citizens were arrested. He said the two were arrested for smuggling arms into the country.
Official media has linked them with the group of six, but the Vietnam Reform Party rejects any connection, saying it does not support the use of violence in any circumstance.
Michalak said on Tuesday that Viet Tan is not on a U.S. list of terror organizations.
“We have seen no information that would support charges of terrorism that have been suggested by the local media,” the diplomat said.
The ruling Communist Party rejects calls for multi-party democracy and has arrested about 30 political activists this year. Some were put on trial for “spreading propaganda against the state”, a criminal offence in Vietnam.