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AFP : Members of Buddhist youth dissident group in Vietnam banned from traveling

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HANOI, Nov 4 (AFP) – A group belonging to the banned Vietnamese Buddhist Youth movement has been banned from leaving the country to attend a Buddhist festival abroad, official sources said Thursday.

The International Buddhist Information Bureau, an arm of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, said 21 leaders of the youth movement were intercepted at Ho Chi Minh City’s international airport earlier this week.

“The Buddhists, all of whom possessed the necessary travel documents and visas, were intercepted by security police as they prepared to board flights to India on Monday and Wednesday,” the bureau said in a statement.

A security police officer at Tan Son Nhat airport confirmed the information. “We received an order from another service not to let these people leave the country. Their names were printed in a list we were given,” he said.

The group, who was going to make a pilgrimage to Buddhist holy sites and attend a festival at Buddha’s birthplace in Bodhgaya in India’s Bihar state on November 8-9, was then subjected to “working sessions” with police and subsequently released, the statement added.

All of them came from central provinces of Thua Thien-Hue, Quang Nam, Khanh Hoa, Lam Dong as well as Ho Chi Minh City, where most of the Buddhists opposed to the communist regime live.

“Police simply declared that they were prohibited from traveling for ‘national security’ reasons,” the bureau added.

“The ban is a flagrant violation of the right to freedom of movement enshrined in the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” its president, Vo Van Ai, said.

“Vietnam must uphold its international obligations and respect its citizens’ fundamental freedoms and rights.”

The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam was officially banned in 1981 because it refused to come under the ruling Communist Party’s control. It was subjected to a renewed crackdown on October last year.

Its patriarch, 87-year-old Thich Huyen Quang, who has been under effective house arrest without charge or trial for more than two decades, is currently being detained at a monastery in central Binh Dinh province.

The church’s number two, Thich Quang Do, 76, is being held at a monastery in Ho Chi Minh City.

The International Buddhist Information Bureau says the Vietnamese Buddhist Youth Movement was founded over 60 years ago. An affiliate of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, it was outlawed in 1975 by the communist government.

In September, the US State Department designated Vietnam as one of the world’s worst offenders in denying religious freedom.


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