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Woman held in Vietnam 'terrorist plot'

world Updated: Apr 29, 2010 13:17 IST

A Vietnamese woman has been arrested for alleged links to a "terrorist plot" targeting the communist state, reports said on Thursday, part of an ongoing crackdown against critics of the regime.

Pham Thi Phuong, 64, was arrested with her husband Pham Ba Huy on April 19 while attempting to return to Vietnam from Thailand, the state Vietnam News Agency said, citing the Ministry of Public Security's Anti-Terrorism Department.

It said she fled to the neighbouring country in 2002 and became acquainted with people linked to the Government of Free Vietnam, a US-based exile group which Vietnam labels a terrorist organisation.

"They trained her in how to make contact through the Internet and in the use of explosives and weapons for terrorist activities to sabotage Vietnam," the Vietnam News Agency said.

She told investigators she was given 5,000 dollars on April 18 and ordered to return to Vietnam and "implement the terrorist plot" in Ho Chi Minh City, the report said.

Hanoi previously blamed Nguyen Huu Chanh, of the Government of Free Vietnam, for a series of failed attempts to bomb the Vietnamese embassy in Bangkok in 2001 and for various attacks on state facilities in Vietnam in 1999 and 2000.

In 2006 Chanh was arrested while on a visit to South Korea but a court there ruled he was a political refugee and refused Vietnam's request for his extradition.

At least 20 activists have been jailed in Vietnam since October.

Press reports last week said four people accused of associating with the banned opposition Party for the People had been jailed between three and five years in the central province of Lam Dong.

The rising influence of political hardliners could be behind Vietnam's worsening crackdown against a small but increasingly diverse group of critics, analysts have said.

Some see a possible link with next year's Communist Party Congress, a five-yearly event that determines high-ranking leadership posts.