EFFORTS to delay the repatriation of Vietnamese dissidents, writers and journalists held in Hong Kong came from a very unlikely quarter yesterday - the Czech Republic. Czech President Vaclav Havel launched a personal appeal to Chris Patten this week asking that the Governor stall their return until an alternative could be found. Playwright Mr Havel's appeal follows an attempt by the International PEN organisation to secure political asylum for Nguyen Thi Thoi. Ms Thoi, who has been held in detention centres since 1989, claims to have been convicted in absentia of producing anti-Vietnamese Government writings in Hong Kong detention centres for boat people. She says she has been sentenced to five years in jail if she returns to Vietnam. A copy of a document detailing the conviction has been seen by PEN's Hong Kong president, Fred Armentrout. PEN, a writers' club known for defending human rights, has asked Mr Havel to grant political asylum to Ms Thoi whose works are mainly essays based on her observations of Vietnam. A Czech government representative flew to Hong Kong a few weeks ago and visited the Tai A Chau Vietnamese detention centre and met senior officials involved in the Vietnamese repatriation programme. 'On Tuesday, the President [Mr Havel] sent a personal message to Governor Christopher Patten asking him to postpone the repatriation of political dissidents, writers and journalists,' Mr Havel's spokesman said. Mr Havel has urged wealthy nations to take in the 40,000 boat people detained in camps throughout Asia. A Government House spokesman was not available yesterday to comment on the plea to Mr Patten.