Jennifer Truong of Fountain Valley was detained by authorities in Vietnam along with two others – Nguyen Ly Trong of San Bernardino and Centennial, Colo. resident Nguyen Quang Khanh. All three are members of a U.S.-based democracy group called Viet Tan, whose goal is to get rid of the communist regime in Vietnam and bring democracy to the homeland.

Trong was released Monday and called his family members from Thailand, said Bao Mai, a Garden Grove resident and long-time Viet Tan member, who was detained himself by Vietnamese officials during a trip three years ago.

But Truong and Khanh remain in custody and there was no news as of Tuesday, said Duy Hoang, a spokesman for Viet Tan.

"We're waiting anxiously for the U.S. Embassy there to see the detainees, make sure they are OK and provide them legal assistance, if they are facing charges," he said.

Truong, who is divorced, has a 16-year-old daughter, Monica Tran, who attends Edison High School. In her free time, Truong volunteers at local Buddhist temples and teaches Vietnamese over the weekend, said her brother, Hoa Truong.

She works as an underwriter for an insurance company in Irvine and told family members that she was going on a vacation to Vietnam, he said. She did not want her mother, who is ill, to worry about her, he said. But she told her brother about the purpose of her trip right before she left.

Group members did nothing wrong, Duy Hoang said, and were there to support peaceful demonstrations staged by farmers who lost their land to communist officials. The farm land was replaced by golf courses, he said.

"(Truong) and the others attended a peaceful demonstration for social justice," Hoang said. "They did nothing against the interests of the people of Vietnam."

Hoa Truong said his sister's heart went out to the poor and needy in her homeland. Their family, who fled Vietnam by boat in 1980, was no stranger to communist oppression, he said.

"They took our homes and refused to give my dad his truck driver's license if he wouldn't join the union," said Truong, also a Viet Tan member.

He said his sister has been back to Vietnam at least three times. The poverty and misery she witnessed brought tears to her eyes, Truong said.

"The last time she went back, she didn't buy anything for herself and she didn't even bring back souvenirs for family members," he said. "She gave away all her money to the poor in Vietnam."

Mai said he has known Truong for nearly 15 years. He described her as a gentle, soft-spoken woman who was passionate about her homeland.

"She was very emotional about what is happening in Vietnam, especially with the farmers," he said. "Her view is that we should do more for the people in Vietnam who have no voice – who cannot speak for themselves. She went there knowing fully well that she could be detained."

Mai said he was lucky enough in 2008 to be released after being detained for a little over two days.

"But with these two members, it's been more than a week now," he said. "We are really concerned about their well-being and hope they return home soon."

By Deepa Bharath - The Orange County register - March 22, 2011