HANOI, Oct 5 (AFP) – One of Vietnam’s most prominent religious dissidents Thich Quang Do urged the European Union to help improve human rights in the country, an EU diplomat said Wednesday.
The deputy leader of the banned Unified Buddhist Church met British Ambassador to Vietnam Robert Gordon and an EU adviser Friday despite being under de facto house arrest.
“The EU has consistently applied for the authorisation to meet him,” said the source, a European diplomat requesting not to be named. “We received the authorization Thursday.”
He said the EU considered Do, aged 77, “a prisonner of conscience”.
Do and church patriarch Thich Huyen Quang were placed under house arrest in October 2003 accused of possessing state secrets but the Vietnamese government says they are now free.
The church has been banned since 1981 for refusing to submit to communist party supervision.
Both dissidents have consistently asked for religious freedom and major political reforms in the communist country.
The Paris-based International Buddhist Information Bureau, which acts as a communication arm of the church, said Do urged the diplomats to request the EU assist in improving democratic rights in Vietnam.
“Freedom in Vietnam is like a painting of a cake. It looks wonderful on paper but you cant eat it,” Do was quoted as telling Gordon and the adviser, David Milliot, during the Ho Chi Minh City meeting at the Thanh Minh Zen monastery.
Vietnam has been repeatedly criticised for its lack of religious freedom and harassment of political dissidents.
The United States named Vietnam as a “country of particular concern” in 2004 in relation to religious freedom. Washington has yet to decide whether to retain Vietnam on the list this year.