CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The Australian government is urging Vietnam to release on health grounds a 72-year-old Vietnamese Australian serving a 12-year prison sentence for supporting a pro-democracy group.

A Ho Chi Minh City court convicted Chau Van Kham in 2019 of terrorism convictions related to his support for the democratic group Viet Tan.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she advocated for Kham’s release during a conversation with Vietnamese Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính in Hanoi last year and during a phone call with Vietnam’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Affairs Bùi Thanh Sơn last week.

“Regarding Mr. Chau Van Kham, respecting the Vietnamese legal system and we do, our concern however is his age. He’s over 70, he’s not well,” Payne told reporters.

“We have asked for an appropriate review of his situation in light of these facts and to allow him to return to Australia,” Payne said.


The South Vietnamese army veteran had lived in Australia since the early 1980s. He is a retired baker from Sydney and was arrested during a visit to Vietnam in 2019.

The Tuoi Tre newspaper reported that Kham was found guilty of “terrorism for opposing the people’s administration” after a half-day trial.

He said two Vietnamese men, Nguyen Van Vien and Tran Van Quyen, were also sentenced to 11 and 10 years respectively on the same charge.

The newspaper described the three men as members of Viet Tan, which Vietnam’s communist government has labeled a “terrorist” since 2016.

He said Kham was in charge of the group’s Australian branch and had been tasked with raising funds to finance what he called “reactionary activities” in Vietnam.

Viet Tan called the charges “baseless” and said the lawsuits were a sham.

The newspaper said Kham was arrested as he crossed the border from Cambodia into Vietnam using fake IDs.

He will be deported after serving his prison sentence, the newspaper said.

Human Rights Watch said Kham received “what is essentially a death sentence” due to his age and health needs.

His family say his health issues include glaucoma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, prostate problems and kidney stones.