PARIS, 23 December 2008 (VCHR) – Prominent Member of the European Parliament, Marco Pannella, and Italian Senator Marco Perduca, were prevented from boarding a plane from Phnom Penh to Saigon today to visit Vietnam. They were scheduled to visit Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam leader Thich Quang Do today before travelling to Hanoi to meet Vietnamese officials and members of the National Assembly on 24-25th December. The trip followed an invitation extended by a delegation of members of the Vietnamese National Assembly during an Inter-parliamentary meeting at the EP in Strasbourg last week.
Mr. Pannella, a member of the EP Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, and Senator Perduca, who are both members of the Italy-based Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty, had obtained regular visas to enter Vietnam. Yesterday, however, after they arrived in Phnom Penh to meet with members of the Cambodian Parliament, the Italian Embassy in Hanoi informed them that the Vietnamese government had “received several letters and messages of protest concerning the visit”, and were “not in a position to guarantee the personal security” of the two men.
They decided to continue the trip nevertheless, beginning with a meeting with UBCV leader Thich Quang Do at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery at 2.00pm today. However, as they prepared to leave for the airport, they received a fax informing them they could not take the flight and would “not be permitted to enter/exit Vietnam any more”.
Marco Pannella told Quê Me President Vo Van Ai by phone: “We were told that the news of our arrival had triggered off a surge of protests from people in Vietnam who considered us as “enemies of Vietnam” and that the Vietnamese government feared for our security. Can you imagine it, the powerful Communist regime is afraid of a meeting between two non-violent members of parliament and Thich Quang Do, the symbol of the worldwide resistance movement against tyranny. They are so afraid that they cannot guarantee our security. What an admission of the regime’s impotence! I am determined to visit Thich Quang Do, and sooner or later I will succeed”.
When Vo Van Ai informed Thich Quang Do of the visit’s ban, the UBCV leader sent a letter to Marco Pannella and Senator Perduca to thank them for their concern for the UBCV, and deeply regretting that they were not allowed to meet. Thich Quang Do wrote: “The Communists are devious and dishonest. They make promises that they never keep. We have a saying in Vietnam: “Don’t listen to what the Communists say. Just look at what they do. I am sad, and I am ashamed to be Vietnamese.”
Euro MEP Marco Cappato wrote to EP President Hans Poettering to express his deep concern about Hanoi’s attitude, especially “given the upcoming renewal of the EU-Vietnam [Cooperation] Agreement”. Marco Cappato authored an EP Resolution on Vietnam adopted in October 2008 calling for concrete mechanisms to monitor human rights in the new EU-Vietnam Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. Among other human rights concerns, the Resolution called specifically for the release of Thich Quang Do and the reestablishment of the UBCV’s legal status.
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