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AFP : Buddhist group concerned over escalation of “repression” in Vietnam

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HANOI, Oct 11 (AFP) – The overseas information arm of an outlawed Buddhist church said Saturday it was gravely concerned over an apparent escalation of “repression” by the Vietnamese authorities against its two leaders.

The Paris-based International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB) called on the international community to denounce recent actions taken by the communist regime against followers of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV).

Its comments followed the government’s announcement on Friday that UBCV patriarch Thich Huyen Quang and his deputy Thich Quang Do could face house arrest because they were in possession of documents containing state secrets.

Foreign ministry spokesman Le Dung said the documents were discovered when police stopped a vehicle taking the two monks to Ho Chi Minh City on Thursday morning. He said an investigation was ongoing.

“This is a very grave accusation, and it is obviously aimed as a warning to the UBCV,” IBIB president Vo Van Ai said. “It is also a totally absurd accusation, which demonstrates the total paranoia of the Vietnamese regime.”

In another statement released Saturday, Dung also accused the two monks of secretly re-organizing the UBCV through “political motivation and personal ambition” to “sabotage” the state-sanctioned Vietnam Buddhist Church.

“They also asked for help and received assistance from abroad to implement this conspiracy,” he said.

The monks were stopped by security police in Khanh Hoa province en route to the southern business capital from the Nguyen Thieu Monastery in the central province of Binh Dinh, and then taken for interrogation, the IBIB said.

Do, a 2003 Nobel Peace Prize nominee who was released from two years of house arrest in late June, was interrogated for four hours and was then taken back to the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Saigon.

On arrival, however, the 76-year-old monk, who suffers from high blood pressure, felt faint and had to hospitalised, Do told the IBIB’s Ai by telephone.

Quang, who has been under effective house arrest without charge or trial for more than two decades, was taken back to Binh Dinh province.

Three other UBCV monks travelling in the same vehicle were also taken for interrogation, the IBIB said, adding that it had not been able to contact either them or three other lay-followers accompanying them.

A fourth monk, Thich Vien Dinh, was interrogated for six hours in Khanh Hoa and then returned to the Giac Hoa Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City late Thursday, the group said.

Shortly afterwards security agents came and arrested him and he was placed in custody at a police station in the city’s Binh Thanh district, it said. A policeman there contacted by telephone claimed ignorance of Dinh’s arrest.

Speaking from the Nguyen Thieu Monastery, Quang denied that he was carrying any documents containing state secrets but said he could not vouch for his fellow travel companions.

On Wednesday, the pair were involved in a 10-hour stand-off with security police after they tried to leave the monastery.

Their vehicle was allowed to proceed after around 200 monks from the monastery and about 1,000 locals had formed a protective human wall around the vehicle, witnesses told IBIB. Quang confirmed the incident had taken place.

According to the IBIB, UBCV monks have suffered a wave of harassment since early last month when police heard that Quang and Do had called a special assembly on September 16-19 to reorganize the structure of the church.


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