Vietnam arrests foreign citizens: political group

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnamese police have arrested six political activists, including citizens of the United States, France and Thailand, a U.S.-based group opposed to one-party communist rule said.

A Vietnam government official declined immediate comment on Wednesday and a U.S. embassy official said it had confirmation of the arrest of one U.S. citizen and had asked Hanoi for access.

Officials at the other embassies could not be reached for comment on the statement received by email from the Viet Tan (Vietnam Reform Party).

The group said that on Saturday police in Ho Chi Minh City had arrested two U.S. citizens of Vietnamese descent, two Vietnam citizens, one French citizen of Vietnamese descent and one Thai citizen after “they participated in discussions with other democracy activists on promoting peaceful democratic change”.

The group has advocated a multiparty political system for Vietnam, whose Communist Party rulers arrested about 20 activists earlier this year, drawing criticism from Washington and the European Union.

Several were jailed in one-day trials for up to 8 years on charges of defaming the Communist Party and “spreading propaganda against the state”, a criminal offence under Vietnamese law.

Some are part of a new generation of Internet-based political activists with supporters overseas such as Viet Tan.

The group counts among its members Vietnamese whose families left or did not return after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 when the Communists unified the Southeast Asian country.

Reporting by Grant McCool; editing by Roger Crabb