HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam's government has officially labeled a California-based anti-Communist group a terrorist organization and warned that anyone involved with it will be considered an accomplice in terrorism and will be dealt with in accordance with Vietnamese law.
The Ministry of Public Security said in a statement that Viet Tan, or the Vietnam Reform Party, has been carrying out terrorist activities to end Communist rule in Vietnam.
The government has long considered Viet Tan a terrorist group, but this is the first time it has officially given it that designation.
The group was formed in 1982 by a vice admiral in the former U.S.-backed South Vietnamese government.
Viet Tan says it is committed to nonviolent struggle to end Communist rule. The U.S. government has said it has seen no evidence that the group is engaged in terrorism.
The statement, posted on the ministry's website on Tuesday, said Viet Tan in its early years recruited and trained members to use weapons and explosives and sent armed groups to Vietnam to carry out terrorist activities, but the plans were thwarted by Vietnamese and Lao authorities.
It said the group still sends members to Vietnam to stir up anti-government protests and unrest.
Several Viet Tan members from the United States and Australia have been brought to trial or deported.
"Viet Tan is a terrorist organization, therefore, anyone who joins, propagandizes, instigates others to join, sponsors, receives sponsorship from Viet Tan, participates in training courses arranged by Viet Tan, operates under instructions of Viet Tan will be an accomplice in terrorism ... and will be dealt with in accordance with Vietnamese law," the statement said.
Viet Tan said in a statement that the Ministry of Public Security "is regurgitating baseless propaganda that they have routinely used against peaceful voices." It said that to justify its suppression of political expression and human rights, Hanoi portrays its critics as engaging in terrorism.
"The Vietnamese Communist Party has a long history of violence and terror against the people of Vietnam. No amount of propaganda can shift attention from Hanoi's human rights abuses and repression of peaceful political opposition," the statement said.
The U.S. State Department did not immediately comment.