Hanoi, Oct 8, 2003 (dpa)- The elderly leader of a banned Buddhist sect in Vietnam began a hunger strike after being prevented from traveling from his monastery to Ho Chi Minh City, a Buddhist group alleged Wednesday.
The leader of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, Thich Quyen Quang, 86, and his deputy, Thich Quang Do, attempted to travel in the early hours of Wednesday morning from a monastery in Binh Dinh province to Ho Chi Minh City, but were stopped by police, the International Buddhist Information Bureau said Wednesday.
The police blocked the road and a crowd of people had surrounded the minivan, breaking windows and slashing tyres, IBIB said.
Local security police flatly denied the allegations that Quang and Do had been prevented from traveling.
“Thich Huyen Quang is as free as any other citizen, and can travel everywhere he likes,” Tran Van Dong, from Binh Dinh province’s public security department told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa Wednesday morning.
“Thich Quang Do registered to stay in Binh Dinh for a certain period,” said Dong. “Now the time is over and he should leave Binh Dinh. Therefore there is no reason to stop him leaving.”
The IBIB said Wednesday morning that they had been in contact with Thich Huyen Quang and Thich Quang Do late Wednesday morning and both leaders confirmed that the stand-off was continuing.
Thich Huyen Quang reiterated his announcement that he would continue his hunger strike until the order to detain them was lifted and they were allowed to travel freely.
Last week, Vietnam’s spokesman said that there were no restrictions on the elderly Patriarch.
“Regarding Venerable Thich Huyen Quang, we would like to confirm that he is still practicing normally in Nguyen Thieu pagoda, Binh Dinh province,” Le Dung, Vietnam’s foreign affairs spokesman told reporters and diplomats.
Amnesty International recently expressed concern about the number of elderly prisoners of conscience in Vietnam, including Thich Huyen Quang who has spent most of his time since 1977 under house arrest.
There had been signs that Hanoi’s stance against the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam may have been softening.
In June Thich Quang Do was released two months early from a two-year sentence of administrative detention. In April, Thich Huyen Quang was shown on state-run television meeting Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Van Khai.
In Vietnam only a handful of state-approved religions are permitted, and the U.B.V.C. has been banned since 1981.
dpa st pw