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Australian MP Luke Simpkins visits Buddhist dissident Thich Quang Do in Saigon

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PARIS, 10 January 2011 (IBIB) – Mr. Luke Simpkins, Liberal Member of the Australian Parliament, paid a visit on Saturday 8th January to prominent dissident Thich Quang Do, Patriarch of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), where he is under house arrest. The meeting was arranged through the Australian Consulate in Saigon, but due to last minute problems, no-one from the Consulate came with Mr. Simpkins. He was obliged to ask the help of UBCV monks to bring him safely to Thich Quang Do’s residence.

Patriarch Thich Quang Do told the International Buddhist Information Bureau by phone today that he had discussed in English with Mr. Simpkins about the growing tensions in Vietnam prior to the 11th Communist Party Congress, such as increased controls and harassments of religious and political dissidents. There is no improvement in Hanoi’s religious or human rights policies, he told the Australian MP, raising examples such as the arrest of lawyer Cu Huy Ha Vu, the recent closures of Websites and blogs and evidence of a widespread clampdown on freedom of expression, association and the press. Despite being ill with a heavy cold, Thich Quang Do received Mr. Simpkins for almost two hours.

The 82-year-old UBCV Patriarch gave Mr. Simpkins a dossier on human rights violations in 2010, and asked him to urge Australia to raise these issues with the Vietnamese government. Thich Quang Do specifically appealed for Australia’s support in the following four specific areas:

1. To press Vietnam to cease violations of the rights to freedom of expression, the press, assembly and association, as well as freedom of religion and belief, and to strongly insist on concrete progress in Australia’s annual human rights dialogues with Vietnam;

2. To increase Australia’s efforts to urge Vietnam to uphold its international obligations to respect key UN human rights instruments it has ratified, and release all prisoners detained for the peaceful expression of their opinions and beliefs;

3. To call upon Vietnam to reestablish the legitimate status of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam;

4. To demand the respect of human rights as an essential element of all trade and diplomatic relations between Australia and Vietnam, and to condition development aid on concrete human rights progress.

Mr Simpkins promised to raise these issues with the government on his return to Australia. He took a photo with Thich Quang Do, and asked him to give a brief message in Vietnamese which he recorded for the Vietnamese community in Australia.

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