Fears for US activist as Obama begins visit

Nancy Nguyen went missing after she reported large numbers of security officials outside her hotel

Nancy Nguyen went missing after she reported large numbers of security officials outside her hotel

The White House is looking into reports that an American civil rights activist has been detained in Vietnam as President Obama begins his first trip to the country.

Human rights campaigners contacted an official from the National Security Council and the US consulate in Ho Chi Minh City to express their concerns about the whereabouts of Nancy Nguyen from Anaheim California.

She went missing three days ago in HCMC after going to Vietnam to join activists campaigning for transparency over the mass fish deaths in central Vietnam.

The alarm about her disappearance was raised as President Obama left for three days of talks with Vietnamese leaders.

The detention of an American citizen, who has been a vocal campaigner for human rights and political pluralism in Vietnam, could lead to awkward encounters between the two sides.

Nancy Nguyen arrived in Vietnam from Cambodia on May 17. Two days later she reported from Ho Chi Minh City that some twenty security officials were outside her hotel. She has not been heard from since.

Unconfirmed reports said that she had been detained by officials of the homeland security department and was being questioned by agents from the “department against reactionaries”.

She had posted messages of support for environmental activists on Facebook, including advice on how to respond if arrested by the police.

The authorities have cracked down on protests over the environmental disaster, breaking up demonstrations in major cities and temporarily detaining activists.

The Communist government released a long serving political prisoner, Father Nguyen Van Ly, on the eve of President Obama’s visit.

However, Vietnamese officials have repeatedly denounced American pressure over human rights as interference in their internal affairs.

The issue remains the main stumbling block in relations despite efforts by both sides to upgrade economic and strategic ties.