Vietnam detains senior official for global rights group

A senior executive for an international human rights group was detained by Vietnamese authorities on Sunday as she arrived in the capital to attend a World Economic Forum meeting and is expected to be deported.

Debbie Stothard, secretary general of the International Federation for Human Rights, was prevented from entering Vietnam at Hanoi's airport, Fon Mathuros, a spokeswoman for the WEF, said in a statement, adding that Stothard will travel to Malaysia on Monday.

"We regret the government's decision to deny her entry. Her invitation to the meeting stands and we will continue to facilitate her participation in the meeting," Mathuros said.

Stothard said on her Facebook page that she was detained at the airport by immigration officials "because the Vietnam government has blacklisted me 'under article 21' to prevent me from speaking" at the World Economic Forum event.

Article 21 under the Immigration Law stipulates that a person can be stopped from entering Vietnam for reasons including national defense and security.

Vietnam has recently stepped up its crackdown on dissent, jailing dozens of people for violating national security laws.

"Whatever inconvenience I am being subjected to is nothing compared to the attacks on Vietnam human rights defenders and the media," Stothard wrote on Twitter.

Vietnam will host a three-day World Economic Forum this week focusing on Southeast Asia, with several heads of state or government from the region and hundreds of business leaders from around the world expected to attend.

Some Western governments and international human rights groups often criticize Vietnam for jailing people for peacefully expressing their views, but Hanoi maintains that only lawbreakers are put behind bars.

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