The Richmond Register

Local News

January 6, 2011

Diplomat from Richmond assaulted in Vietnam

State Department has lodged protest

VIETNAM — Christian Marchant, the political officer for the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam, reportedly was “roughed up” and “wrestled to the ground” Wednesday by Vietnamese police as he attempted to visit a dissident Roman Catholic priest who had been sentenced to eight years in prison by Vietnam’s Communist government in 2007.

Marchant is a graduate of Model Laboratory School and recently was selected to receive a human rights award from the U.S. State Department.

Father Nguyen Van Ly, 63, a well-known dissident who founded the pro-democracy movement, Bloc 8406, was paroled for medical reasons last year, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA). However, he remains under house arrest at a home for retired priests.

RFA first reported the incident in a Vietnamese-language broadcast which was monitored by a man of Vietnamese origin, who identified himself as “Mr. Tran,” and who lives in California. He telephoned the Richmond Register after reading a story published Monday about Marchant on the newspaper’s website.

Next month, Marchant is slated to receive the State Department’s Human Rights and Democracy award for his work on behalf of religious freedom and the rights of political dissidents, including those imprisoned, in Vietnam.

Marchant’s parents, Dr. Marlow and Kristy Marchant, live in Richmond, where he teaches at Eastern Kentucky University.

According to an English-language version of the RFA broadcast, which the network supplied to the Register, Marchant, who is a large man, struggled with police officers, about 30 of whom blocked his path to the priest’s home.

Ly told RFA that Marchant was wrestled to the ground, but got up and dusted off his clothes and again continued his attempt to enter the priest’s home. The police finally subdued him, however, and hauled him away in a van, according to the RFA report.

Hundreds of people witnessed the incident, Ly told RFA.

“They all saw police’s brutality toward Mr. Marchant,” he said in the interview. The diplomat “resisted hard” and shouted at the officers, Ly was quoted as saying.

The California caller asked the Register to inform Marchant’s parents, who were unaware of the incident until called by a Register reporter.

Marlow Marchant then telephoned his son’s Hanoi home. His daughter-in-law answered and said her husband was home but could not speak on the phone. She did not say why or give information about her husband’s physical condition.

“Marchant was assaulted by Ministry of Public Security Officials,” Andy Laine, a State Department spokesperson confirmed, when called by the Register.

Laine could not confirm whether Marchant was injured in the assault.

“The State Department is aware of and deeply concerned” about the incident, Laine said, and has “officially registered a strong protest with the Vietnamese government in Hanoi.”

Registering a strong protest means “a formal letter of protest,” the State Department official said.

Laine said he was unaware of any previous attacks or assaults on U.S. diplomats in Vietnam.

“Diplomats are entitled under international law to be free from attack,” Laine said.

The State Department also planned to raise the issue with the Vietnamese Ambassador to the United States, Le Cong Phung, in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, Laine said.

“The government of Vietnam has a responsibility to take appropriate steps to prevent any attack on the person, freedom or dignity of diplomats,” he said.

Register News Writer Emily Burton contributed to this story.

Bill Robinson can be reached at brobinson@richmondregister.com or at 624-6622.

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