Vietnam frees 14 foreigners ahead of Lunar New Year holiday

By Bao Ha   November 30, 2016 | 07:15 pm PT
Vietnam frees 14 foreigners ahead of Lunar New Year holiday
Policemen (center row) keep watch as inmates wait before being released from a prison in northern Vietnam several years ago. Photo by Reuters
Nearly 4,200 prisoners will have got to go home by late January.

Vietnam has freed 14 foreigners as part of an amnesty program that will let 4,200 prisoners out for Tet, the country’s biggest holiday.

Nine Chinese nationals, three Laotians, one Australian and one South Korean will leave jail early; 18 Vietnamese former police and military officers will also celebrate the Lunar New Year at home.

The Central Council for Amnesty Consultations reviewed the list before Vietnam’s president signed off on it.

The prisoners range in age from 16 to 84; nearly 700 are women. They were jailed for everything from murder and rape to drug violations.

The amnesty reflects the humanitarian nature of the Vietnamese people and aims to encourage the inmates to reform, according to an official statement that accompanied their release.

Tet, or Lunar New Year, is the most important holiday in Vietnam. The upcoming Year of the Rooster will begin on January 28.

Vietnam has granted amnesty to nearly 90,000 prisoners since 2009. On September 2, the most recent amnesty event, the country freed nearly 2,100 convicted criminals.

Officials say the process of freeing and reducing terms for prisoners is highly selective; the government also extends special privileges for good behavior.

Few convicted of drug-related crimes are eligible for amnesty. 

Only 83 (0.44 percent) of the 18,500 prisoners who received amnesty in 2015 went on to commit further crimes after their release.

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Vietnam to free prisoners under amnesty before Tet

Vietnam may allow conjugal visits to make prisons more humane

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