During its visit to Melbourne of from 12-17 December, VietCatholic met with several Victorian State Members to inform and discuss with them on latest persecutions against the Church in Vietnam. Below is an interview with Murray Thompson, Victorian MP, by Chau Xuan Hung.

Thanks for your time, Murray in this afternoon. Could you please to tell us, how Fr. Ly’s case was known to you?

Within the Victorian parliament members had gathered together with the encouragement of some important members of the Vietnamese community to campaign for the release of political prisoners. There was a serious letter writing campaign to important senior members and the president of Vietnam campaigning for the release of political prisoners. There was a successful outcome in 2005 with the release of Professor Huy. Father Ly had also been subject to arrest for his political views. Along with many people in Australia, we believe in the fundamental human rights and freedoms, to speak, to worship and to express ones opinion and its important those matters be pursued.

Now to the bad news, recently, last month, in November, he suffered a stroke, quite a bad one that caused paralysis on one side of his body. Since then he has been receiving medical treatment in the prison hospital, which is administered by the Lead of Public Security in Hanoi. Now the choice in Vietnam, and his family requested for the government to release him, so that his family can take care of him at home. However, on December 11th, just a few days ago, the authorities in Vietnam returned him to prison. So what is your view?

Well the international community has taken a very strong interest in the circumstances of Father Ly, and I think it is most unfortunate that a person in his middle sixties who has suffered a stroke is only in there because of his views.

In June this year, 37 U.S. senators sent a letter to the president of Vietnam urging the release of Father Ly. In December, just a few days ago the President of Vietnam met with the Pope in Rome. The Holy See had promised with archdiocese of Hue to take this important opportunity to raise Father Ly’s case and call the government to release Father Ly. We are convinced that the Holy See did that. However, nothing happened. We haven’t heard anything. In your opinion, what else, in this case could we do to help Father Ly?

I think it’s important to engage the international political community in the case and rights of Father Ly. And I believe that it is important that United Nations and democracies around the world campaign strongly for the release of Father Ly.

Earlier to mentioned the freedom of speech and religion. Father Ly is a perfect example of how these rights have been violated. In Australia we are free to do anything we want to do. In your point of view, what can we do further to add pressure on the Vietnamese government to apply, follow the freedom of speech and worship?

Essentially I call upon my parliamentary colleagues in Victoria to write their own letter to the government in Vietnam and also actively lobby through the Australian foreign affairs minister and other senior government officials to work towards the Father Ly who is suffering poor health and whose only offence is to express his own lawful, democratic opinion regarding matters relating to freedom of speech and religion and there I find it being unconscionable that he remains detained in a Vietnamese jail.