Pro-democracy campaigner Chau Van Kham on Thursday thanked his supporters who helped secure his release from a Vietnamese prison this week four years into a 12-year sentence for terrorism offenses.
The 73-year-old Australian citizen returned to his family in Sydney on Tuesday after Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese urged that the retired baker be released from prison during a visit to Hanoi last month.
Kham thanked a broad array of supporters including the current and former Australian governments, rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, community groups, media and lawyers.
He said some of the Vietnamese prison officers he encountered “silently support me.”
Kham had been in custody in his birth country since he visited in January 2019. He was convicted that year on terrorism charges related to his support for democracy group Viet Tan and sentenced to 12 years in prison. The Vietnamese government considers Viet Tan a terrorist organization.
Australia’s previous conservative government had also urged the release of Kham, a South Vietnamese army veteran, on health grounds before Albanese’s center-left Labor Party won power in elections in May last year.
Kham has lived in Australia since the 1980s.
Amnesty International Australia said Kham was a “prisoner of conscience detained solely for his peaceful political beliefs.”