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Buddhist New Year calendar is an “anti-State” document in Vietnam

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PARIS, 25.11.2014 (IBIB) – The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) reports that a young UBCV monk, Venerable Thich Minh Nghia, was intercepted and harassed by a group of plain-clothed security police on 21 November 2014 in Hue. He had just come out of a printing house where he had picked up 300 calendars ordered by the UBCV to offer to Buddhists in the coming Lunar New Year of the Goat. Security police confiscated the calendars on the grounds that they were “reactionary, anti-state documents”.

The incident took place at 3.00pm on Nguyen Lo Trach Street, when five plain-clothed men roughly accosted Thich Minh Nghia and pushed him towards a house. They told the monk he must go inside for a “working session” (a police expression for “interrogation”). Thich Minh Nghia refused, saying that only Police had the right to interrogate citizens. The five men then announced that they were provincial security policemen. At that point, another man stepped out of the house. He showed the monk his police badge, introduced himself as Phung Viet Quy from the Hue municipal security police force and ordered the monk to come inside to answer charges of “administrative offenses and possession of illegal documents”. When Thich Minh Nghia refused, the men dragged him inside the courtyard and locked the gate. Alerted by his cries for help, a crowd of people gathered outside. However, a group of youths – presumably also plain-clothed security agents – suddenly appeared and chased them away.

 

The security police drew up a statement accusing the monk of “transporting and possessing documents bearing the name of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, an illegal organization that is not recognized by the State and moreover is considered to be reactionary and anti-State”. Then they confiscated the “incriminating” documents, i.e. the 300 Lunar Year calendars (see facsimile). The men tried to force Thich Minh Nghia to sign the statement but he refused, stating that he had committed no crime. The young monk also demanded that the security police give him a receipt for the confiscated calendars, otherwise he would stage a sit-down protest in the house. After several hours and a telephone call to their superiors, the police finally let Thich Minh Nghia free.

Le Cong Cau, Secretary-general of the UBCVs Executive Institute Viện Hóa Đạo and leader of the Buddhist Youth Movement sent a letter to the Chairman of the Hue Provincial Peoples Committee protesting the incident and demanding the authorities to give the calendars back to the UBCV.

Although Vietnam has never officially banned the UBCV, it has branded it “illegal” since the creation of the State-sponsored “Vietnam Buddhist Sangha” in 1981. Since then, UBCV leaders and members have suffered continuous harassments, police surveillance and detention. The UBCV leader Thich Quang Do has spent three decades under detention for his peaceful advocacy of religious freedom, human rights and democracy.

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