Chau Van Kham

Current Status: Released - exiled

Photo of Chau Van Kham

Other Names: Châu Văn Khảm

Date of Birth:

Gender: M

Ethnicity: Kinh

Occupation: Retired

Last Known Prison: Thu Duc Prison, Binh Thuan Province

Areas of Activism:

  • Democracy
  • Human rights

Known Affiliations:

Highlighted Human Rights Concerns:

  • Former Political Prisoner
  • Denial of Legal Representation
  • Denial of Adequate Medical Treatment or Supplies
  • Prolonged Incommunicado Detention
  • Harsh Physical and Administrative Conditions
  • Denial of Family Visit/Punitive Prison Transfer

July 2023:

Australian Chau Van Kham was released from a Vietnamese prison and reunited with his family in Australia. A member of Viet Tan, an overseas pro-democracy organization labeled as terrorist by the communist regime, Kham was arrested four years prior and sentenced to 12 years in prison for his “attempt to overthrow the government” under Article 113.


Radio Free Asia interviewed 74-year-old Australian citizen and democracy activist Chau Van Kham after his release from a Vietnamese prison last week. Activist says he’ll continue to struggle for democracy in Vietnam. RFA; July 30, 2023.

Details - Background, History of Activism.

Chau Van Kham is an Australian citizen of Vietnamese descent.

Photo Source: Viet Tan


Kham is a member of the overseas pro-democracy group Viet Tan.

Arrested January 13, 2019. Sentenced to 12 years in prison under Art. 113 (2015 Code). Released July 10, 2023.

January 13, 2019
  • Art. 113 (2015 Code)
Ho Chi Minh city public security, Ho Chi Minh city
Ho Chi Minh City (map)
November 11, 2019
The People's Court of Ho Chi Minh City
Trinh Vinh Phuc
12 years in prison
January 13, 2031
July 10, 2023
  • freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention
  • liberty and security of the person
  • freedom of association
  • fair trial
  • Human Rights Watch
  • Amnesty International
  • UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
  • International government officials

Vietnam arrested two more activists, Chau Van Kham, an Australian citizen, and Nguyen Van Vien, a member of the Brotherhood for Democracy, on January 13 in Ho Chi Minh City. According to a press release from the Brotherhood for Democracy, police arrested Vien when he was on the way to pick up Kham, who was in Vietnam for a “fact-finding” mission after crossing the land border with Cambodia. Kham has not been permitted consular communications.

Chau Van Kham's wife wrote an open letter published on February 4, 2019, in which she confirmed that her husband was arrested on January 13, 2019, and is currently under investigation for "violating Vietnamese law." According to her letter, two weeks after the arrest, the Australian Embassy was informed of his arrest. But the exact charges against him are still unknown.

July 2019:

On July 23, 2019, Australia’s ABC News reported that the Vietnamese authorities had decided to extend the investigation period in the case of Chau Van Kham until September 2019. Kham, a member of the overseas democracy group Viet Tan, was arrested in January 2019 and charged with “overthrowing the People’s Government” under Article 109 of the 2015 Criminal Code after travelling to Vietnam and meeting with a member of the Brotherhood for Democracy, Nguyen Van Vien (who was also arrested). Kham has not been allowed to meet his family, friends, or lawyers. He has only met with a representative from the Australian Embassy. The Australian Vietnamese community has supported Kham and defended his peaceful activism.

August 2019:

Australian national Chau Van Kham will be prosecuted under Art 109 of the 2015 Criminal Code for subversion, according to a statement from Vietnamese authorities. 

November 2019:

On November 11, Australian citizen and retiree Chau Van Kham was sentenced to 12 years in prison, local activist Nguyen Van Vien to 11 years, and camera installer Tran Van Quyen to ten years. They were convicted on charges of “terrorism" under Article 113 of the 2015 Criminal Code, having been targeted for being part of overseas democracy group Viet Tan. Vien is also a member of the Brotherhood for Democracy. All three men were arrested in January 2019 and originally charged under Article 109 of the 2015 Criminal Code, for subversion. At 70 years old, many are concerned about Kham's health, which has already declined since his arrest. 

March 2020:

On March 2, 2020, the High People’s Court, Ho Chi Minh City branch, upheld the decisions from lower courts in the case of Chau Van Kham, Nguyen Van Vien, and Tran Van Quyen, upholding also their prison sentences of 12, 11 and 10 years, respectively. Kham, Vien, and Quyen were accused of being involved in “terrorist activities against the people’s regime.” They are allegedly members of Viet Tan, a pro-democracy political organization which is considered a terrorist group by Vietnamese government. Kham is an Australian citizen and was accused of using a fake ID to go to Vietnam; he argued that other than this, he has committed no crime and only wishes for improved conditions in Vietnam. He is facing several health issues. Vien and Quyen were accused of receiving money from Kham. Many attorneys have said that the sentences and accusations are harsh and arbitrary.

Early June 2020:

Neither his family nor the Australian government has had contact with jailed Australian retiree Chau Van Kham in over four months. Kham is serving a 12-year prison sentence for his democracy activism and is dealing with a myriad of health issues, such as glaucoma, high blood pressure, and kidney stones-- all likely exacerbated by prison conditions. His son, Dennis, said of his current condition: “My father is of old age now without any forms of communication to the outside world, I worry not only for his health but his mental state … it frightens me how he’s doing inside. He’s now on a long journey until his release with no support from the Australian government at all, it seems like they’ve forgotten about him.” Kham was recently transferred to a new prison and hasn’t been allowed to see his sister, who had been providing him with some supplies and medication, since February. The Australian consulate has been unable to visit due to restrictions in place from COVID19. 

Late June 2020:

Chau Van Kham was located in Thu Duc Prison in Binh Thuan Province after neither his family nor the Australian government had contact with Kham in over four months. Kham is serving a 12-year prison sentence for his democracy activism and is dealing with a myriad of health issues, such as glaucoma, high blood pressure, and kidney stones– all likely exacerbated by prison conditions.  His supporters say that the Australian government needs to do more to press for his release.

January 2021:

Chau Van Kham was reported to have been subjected to long hours of hard labor in prison. Since his arrest and imprisonment in 2019, Kham’s family has not been allowed to communicate with him. Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has raised Kham’s case with Vietnam nine times but to no avail.

January 2022:

The family of Chau Van Kham asked the Australian government for help getting the 72-year-old released. Jailed since 2019, Kham had not been allowed to talk to his family for three years, and his wife, Truong Quynh Trang, feared that his health might be worsening and “he may die” in prison. Australian Foreign Minister Marisa Payne said she raised his case with the Vietnamese authorities during her visit to Vietnam in November 2021.

July 2022:

The 96-year-old mother-in-law of Australian-Vietnamese political prisoner Chau Van Kham wishes to see him before she dies. Nguyen Thi Thao had only days to live due to COVID complications, according to her doctor in Sydney.

He reportedly takes medication for prostate issues. As of June 2020, he was suffering from glaucoma, high blood pressure, and kidney stones. 

September 2021:

The family of Chau Van Kham asked the Vietnamese government to vaccinate the 72-year-old, who is serving a 12-year sentence. They were hoping he would be pardoned on September 2, Vietnam’s Independence Day, but that did not happen.

August 2019:

Human Rights Watch urged Australia to raise Kham's case, and those of other political prisoners, during the Vietnam-Australia Human Rights Dialogue in Canberra.

November 2019:

Human Rights Watch called for Kham and his co-defendants' releases ahead of their trial. 
December 2019:
Human Rights Watch (HRW) sent a letter to Australia’s foreign minister, Marise Payne, urging her to press for the release of Australian citizen Chau Van Kham and his co-defendants, Nguyen Van Vien and Tran Van Quyen. The three were tried in November and handed long prison sentences, targeted for their affiliation with overseas pro-democracy group Viet Tan. Elaine Pearson, Australia director of HRW, said of the men: “They are being prosecuted simply for their affiliation with a foreign political group deemed a threat to the Communist Party of Vietnam.” HRW also raised concerns about potential procedural issues with the detentions and the trial. Read the full letter, here.
October 2020:

Amnesty International is petitioning for the release of Kham. Kham’s family says he’s in poor health, and they fear for his well-being. You can sign the petition here.

December 2021:

Ahead of the Human Rights Dialogue between Australia and Vietnam, Human Rights Watch and other campaigners were urging the Australian government to press for the release of Chau Van Kham, a baker from Sydney.

January 2022:

Australian Foreign Minister Marisa Payne said she raised his case with the Vietnamese authorities during her visit last November.

June 2022:

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued two separate opinions regarding the arrest and imprisonment of Chau Van Kham and Nguyen Bao Tien. The Vietnamese government was found to have violated multiple articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in the arrest and detentions of the two defendants.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong raised the case of Chau Van Kham with President Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and Foreign Minister Bùi Thanh Sơn in Hanoi, calling for his release.

Vietnam Arrests Two More Democracy Advocates, Radio Free Asia, January 25, 2019

One More Member of BFD Arrested, Charged with Subversion, Radio Free Asia, January 25, 2019

Australian democracy activist 'detained' in Vietnam, Channel News Asia, January 25, 2019

Vietnam reportedly detains Australian activist, The Sydney Morning Herald, January 25, 2019

Thư ngỏ của Bà Châu Văn Khảm,, February 4, 2019

Concern for Australian citizen jailed without charge in Vietnam, The Guardian, July 23, 2019

Australian citizen Van Kham Chau detained in Vietnam for six months without a lawyer, ABC News, July 23, 2019

Việt Nam kéo dài thời hạn điều tra công dân Úc Châu Văn Khảm, SBTN News, July 23, 2019

Australia: Press Vietnam to Respect Rights, Human Rights Watch, August 27, 2019

Australian retiree Van Kham Chau to be prosecuted by Vietnam on terrorism charges, ABC News, August 30, 2019

Supporters rally for Australian retiree detained in Vietnam, SBS News, September 28, 2019

Vietnam: Drop Terrorism Charges Against Political Campaigners, Human Rights Watch, November 7, 2019

Australian citizen jailed in Vietnam for 'terrorism', Yahoo, November 11, 2019

Australia: Press for Release of Vietnam Detainee, Human Rights Watch, December 4, 2019

Please, bring him back’: family fear Australian democracy activist will die in Vietnamese jail, The Guardian, December 6, 2019

Retired Australian baker loses appeal in Vietnam on controversial 'financing terrorism' charges, The Guardian, March 2, 2020

Jailed Australian democracy activist has 'disappeared' inside Vietnam's prison system, The Guardian, June 6, 2020

Australian Van Kham Chau located within Vietnam's prison system as Government urged to act, ABC News, June 29, 2020


Australian Van Kham Chau subject to 'hard labour' in Vietnamese prison, former inmate says, ABC News, January 13, 2021

Show solidarity with Chau Van Kham, Amnesty International, January 2021

Jailed Australian Van Kham Chau should be vaccinated as Vietnam's COVID cases explode, family says, ABC News, September 1, 2021

Australia: Press Vietnam to Respect Rights, Human Rights Watch, December 6, 2021

‘It has been three years’: Australian activist’s wife pleads for government help in freeing him from Vietnam jail, The Guardian, January 29, 2022

Opinion by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, June 2022

Sydney man Chau Van Kham freed from Vietnam prison and returned to Australia, ABC News, July 10, 2023

Australian democracy activist Chau Van Kham released from Vietnam jail and reunited with family, The Guardian, July 10, 2023

Profile last updated: 2023-08-03 01:08:31

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