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Aust urged to rap Vietnam over prisoners

AAP logoAAP 2/08/2016

Australia must take Vietnam to task over its detention of political prisoners, Human Rights Watch has urged.

Senior government officials from Australia and Vietnam will meet in Hanoi for annual human rights talks on Thursday.

"Vietnam has a record of sentencing peaceful bloggers and activists to harsh prison terms for exercising their basic rights," the rights group said, adding that more than 100 such people are behind bars.

The organisation is also concerned about the treatment of people returned to Vietnam after trying to reach Australia on asylum seeker boats.

It claims eight people from two boats in April and July 2015 have been convicted and sentenced to up to three years' jail for "organising for others to flee abroad illegally".

Human Rights Watch's Australian director, Elaine Pearson, argued they didn't benefit financially, which is the definition of people smuggling under international law.

"They were punished for leaving their own country and helping their families, relatives and friends who willingly went with them," she said.

The submission also raises questions about the religious persecution of ethic Montagnard Christians in Vietnam's central highlands.

Hundreds of Montagnards have fled to Cambodia and other parts of southeast Asia in recent years.

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