The International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB) has received urgent information from the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) that a delegation of UBCV monks from Hue was intercepted this morning by Security Police as they sought to pay a visit to UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang at the Nguyen Thieu Monastery in Binh Dinh, where the UBCV Patriarch is under house arrest. The monks are currently detained for questioning at a Police station in Go Gang (An Nhon district), about 4 miles from Nguyen Thieu Monastery.
The monks had traveled to Nhatrang for the funeral of a senior UBVC monk, Venerable Thich Dong Minh, and decided to visit the Patriarch on their way back to Hue. The delegation of monks includes the Venerables Thich Thien Hanh, Thich Nhu Dat, Thich Chi Thang, Thich Thai Hoa, Thich Hai Tang, Thich Tri Tuu, Thich Hai Lac and several young monks. Almost all are members of the Bicameral Institutes (Executive Institute and Institute of the Sangha) which make up the leadership of the UBCV.
As the monks approached the Nguyen Thieu Monastery this morning, plain-clothed Security agents intercepted their mini-van. They prevented them from entering, stating that no visits to the UBCV Patriarch were allowed. The monks protested, and asked for the Security agents’ identification, but they refused. The Security agents aggressively seized the monks’ mobile phones and confiscated the drivers’ identity papers. They forced the driver to take the monks to the nearby Police station in Go Gang, then ordered him to leave them and return to Hue. The monks have been held for questioning since 1.30 pm (Vietnam time).
This incident confirms the strict conditions under which the UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang, 87, is detained, in spite of Vietnam’s claims that he is “completely free”. The UBVC Patriarch was placed under “administrative detention” in October 2003 along with his Deputy Thich Quang Do and nine other UBCV leaders. This is the 25th year the UBCV Patriarch has spent in detention for his advocacy of religious freedom, human rights and democratic reform.
The UBCV’s International Spokesman Mr. Vo Van Ai, who testified at a Congressional hearing on Monday on Human Rights in Vietnam, in which he highlighted on-going repression against the UBCV, commented : “This incident contrasts starkly with Prime Minister Phan Van Khai’s recent claims that Vietnam upholds religious freedom, and there are no religious prisoners in Vietnam. Prime Minister Khai meets President Bush today to discuss a range of issues, including religious freedom and human rights. But all his fine words cannot hide the grinding reality of day-to-day repression endured by religious followers, human rights defenders and democracy activists in Vietnam”.