Vietnam accuses US diplomat of causing public disorder

Friday, January 7, 2011

HANOI - A US diplomat apprehended outside a Vietnamese dissident’s house had caused public disorder and the case would be considered by the authorities, state media said Friday.

Christian Marchant, an official of the US embassy in Hanoi, was interviewed by security forces after trying to visit Catholic priest and dissident Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly in Hue City Wednesday.

Friday’s edition of state-run newspaper Thanh Nien reported that a foreign man calling himself a diplomatic official became verbally abusive when he was “gently advised” not to enter Ly’s house by an officer of Thua Thian Hue province’s security forces.

Marchant loudly declared that as a diplomat he could go where he pleased without permission, before pushing the officer to the ground and punching a nearby civilian in the face, the paper said.

He was subsequently invited for an interview to the province’s external relations department, the security branch of the foreign ministry, but was uncooperative, the report said.

Ly said that Marchant was wrestled to the ground outside his house by police and bundled off in a car, according to a Wednesday report by US-funded Radio Free Asia. Ly was quoted as saying police did not allow Marchant to visit him because he was technically a prisoner.

Ly, 63, was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2007 for spreading anti-government propaganda. He was released for medical treatment last March after serving three years, but is still under house arrest.

The US has lodged an official protest with Vietnam, maintaining that Marchant was assaulted in the course of his normal, official duties.

US Ambassador to Hanoi Michael W. Michalak urged Vietnam Wednesday to comply with the Vienna Convention, which ensures the safe treatment of diplomatic personnel.

Hanoi responded by noting that “foreign diplomatic agencies and diplomats also have a responsibility to comply with the Vienna Convention and laws of the local country”, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said.

The authorities did not detain Marchant, but were considering his conduct, the spokeswoman and Thanh Nien report said.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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