|VIETNAM TO FREE 21 FOREIGNERS AMONG 10,400 PRISONERS ON NATIONAL DAY|
|Hanoi (ANTARA News) – Vietnam will release 21 foreigners, including four US nationals, among more than 10,400 prisoners to be amnestied on its 60th national day this week, vice-foreign minister Le Van Bang said Monday.
Bang, speaking at a press conference ahead of Friday`s anniversary of its independence declaration, did not say what offences the foreigners had committed and how long they had been incarcerated.
Apart from the Americans there are five Cambodians, four from Taiwan, three Malaysians, two Chinese nationals, a South Korean, a Laotian and a citizen of Cameroon.
“Vietnam combines severe punishments with leniency and reeducation. There is no discrimination in terms of amnesty to Vietnamese or foreign nationals,” said Nguyen Van Bich, a senior official in the president`s office at the same press conference to announce the amnesty.
He said 10,307 people were being set free and 121 others yet to begin serving their sentences would also benefit from the amnesty.
Bang said four Vietnamese who had committed national security offences were among those to be released. He did not specify their crimes.
Vice Minister of Public Security Le The Tiem said 28 ethnic minority people from the Central Highlands would also benefit from the amnesty.
They had been accused of organising illegal trips out of Vietnam for members of the mainly Christian Montagnards.
Authorities cracked down on the Montagnards in April last year after they held protests about land rights and religious persecution.
The action caused many to flee to neighbouring Cambodia, and the government has arrested some Montagnard leaders for trying to encourage this migration.
The massive prisoner release is to mark the September 2 declaration of independence by late communist leader Ho Chi Minh 60 years ago.
Imprisoned political and religious activists are officially classified as criminals in communist Vietnam, which is widely criticised for not allowing political and religious freedom.
Vietnam, which says the number of people in its jails is a state secret, has over the past year freed nearly 25,000 prisoners during major events including the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon on April 30.
Critics have long said Hanoi must do much more than occasional prisoner releases to shore up religious and political freedoms, AFP reported.(*)