Two Australians sentenced to death in Vietnam have been granted clemency after Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese paid an official visit to the Southeast Asian country.
Albanese told ABC Television on Monday night that the “substantial breakthrough” was due to improving diplomatic relations between the two nations.
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“I made representations to the [Vietnamese] prime minister yesterday morning and by yesterday afternoon, the president had signed the clemency orders,” he told the ABC’s 7.30 programme.
“Australia very much welcomed this. We make representations on behalf of Australian citizens and we are very pleased that Vietnam has agreed to the request and we thank them for it,” he added.
Albanese said he would not reveal the names of the people granted clemency as they had requested privacy.
Their families have been informed about the decision, he said.
Albanese had travelled to Vietnam over the weekend, where he met his counterpart Pham Minh Chinh.
It was the Australian prime minister’s first official visit to the country and he said the trip provided “an impetus for this outcome”.
He said Australia has also made representations on behalf of 73-year-old Chau Van Kham, a Vietnamese-Australian man sentenced in 2019 to 12 years in prison by a Vietnam court that had found him guilty of “terrorism” charges.
“That’s a different case. We were after an international prisoner transfer and we’re hopeful in that case. But we’ll continue to work on those issues,” he said.
Albanese, who said he wants Vietnam to become one of Australia’s “top-tier” partners, signed a raft of agreements during his visit to Hanoi, including a 105 million Australian dollar ($69.4m) package to help Vietnam decarbonise its economy.
The two nations are also hoping to finalise a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership by the end of the year, a move Albanese said would “signal the trust that we have in each other as top-tier partners and enduring friends”.
For his part, Pham said Vietnam was “keen to enter a new chapter of strategic collaboration and elevate the friendship with Australia to a higher level”.
He added that both leaders had “reaffirmed the importance of ensuring peace, stability, security, safety, freedom of navigation and overflight in the East Sea or the South China Sea”.
Vietnam has long been embroiled with China in a territorial dispute over a potentially energy-rich stretch in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which more than $3 trillion of commerce passes annually.
Australia, which has also become increasingly concerned over China’s growing military and economic clout in the Asia Pacific region, is seeking greater cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other partners, including the United Kingdom and United States.