September 10, 2018 / 12:44 PM / 15 days ago

Vietnam bars second rights campaigner from World Economic Forum

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam has refused to let a campaigner from Amnesty International attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) set to be held in the southeast Asian nation this week, the rights group said on Monday, the second such refusal in as many days.

Vietnamese soldiers check chemical weapons at the National Convention Center, the venue for World Economic Forum on ASEAN in Hanoi, Vietnam September 10, 2018. REUTERS/Kham

Hanoi will host the World Economic Forum on the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) from Tuesday to Thursday, an event touted as the country’s biggest diplomatic gathering this year.

Amnesty condemned the decision to block the entry of Minar Pimple, its senior director of global operations, adding that the step came at a time when freedom of expression was under threat in Vietnam.

“The government’s actions undermine an event that depends on a plurality of views, and they are giving ASEAN a bad name,” Amnesty’s secretary general, Kumi Naidoo, said in a statement posted on its website.

“We condemn this decision to stifle debate from a regular contributor to the WEF, who has spoken at the highest levels on human rights issues around the world.”

An earlier event program showed Pimple was to have spoken as part of a panel called “ASEAN Pluralism: Under Threat?”

FILE PHOTO: Participants walks past the logo of the World Economic Forum on Latin America in Sao Paulo, Brazil March 15, 2018. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker/File Photo

Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately comment on the issue.

A spokeswoman for the World Economic Forum said it had been informed that Vietnam had denied Pimple’s request for a visa.

“Should the situation change, his invitation to our summit remains in place,” the spokeswoman, Fon Mathuros, added.

On Sunday, Debbie Stothard, the secretary general of the International Federation for Human Rights, was denied entry to Vietnam before being deported to neighboring Malaysia early on Monday.

Despite sweeping economic reform and increasing openness to social change, Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party retains tight media censorship and does not tolerate criticism.

The country has jailed several human rights activists in recent years, accusing them of attempting to overthrow the state.

The World Economic Forum on ASEAN, a grouping of ten southeast Asian nations, is expected to attract several regional leaders and focus on the innovation needed to propel the region through the next phase of its growth.

Reporting by James Pearson; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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