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New attack on the Freedom of Religion. The EU must respond with the utmost firmness !

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Brussels, 23 October 2003. The Vietnamese authorities have effectively placed 11 dissident monks belonging to the outlawed United Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) under house arrest for two years. Among them is the Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang, whose arbitrary detention has now lasted over 20 years, and his deputy Thich Quang Do, who had supposedly been released last June. The spokesman for the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs referred to “breaches of the laws on national security”. In flagrant violation of international conventions, Vietnamese law allows local authorities to place people under “administrative detention” for 6 months to 2 years, without trial, for breach of national security (decree 31/CP of 1997 on “administrative detention”).

The repression of the UBCV followed the election of 41 monks (including the 11 arrested) to key positions in the UBCV at its assembly on 1 October 2003 at the Nguyen Thieu Pagoda (province of Binh Dinh), and the departure of the Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang and Thich Quang Do for Ho Chi Minh City. The Vietnamese security services held up their convoy for over 10 hours, after which they took the Venerable Thich Huyen Quang, 86, to the Nguyen Thieu Pagoda, and the Venerable Thich Quang Do, 75, to the Zen Thanh Minh monastery in Ho Chi Minh City. According to the Paris-based International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB), this strong-arm police action came a few days after the conclusion of the first extraordinary assembly of the UBCV since it was outlawed by the Communist authorities in 1981.

Question from Olivier Dupuis, Member of the European Parliament, Radical, to the European Commission:

“What information does the Commission have concerning the sentence to two years’ house arrest of three UBCV monks and the arbitrary imprisonment of eight others, including the Patriarch and his number two? Does the Commission not agree that this further episode of repression towards the heads of the UBCV by the Vietnamese authorities demonstrates the dishonesty of the Vietnamese authorities and their lack of real will to guarantee the right to the freedom of religion and to proceed to the legalisation of the UBCV? Does the Commission not agree that this situation demands an extremely firm response on its part, including the suspension of the EU-Vietnam Co-operation Agreement? Does the Commission not agree that the extremely serious situation in Vietnam, Laos, Burma and, albeit to a lesser extent, Cambodia, should lead it to propose to the Council and the Parliament the appointment of a special EU representative for these countries?”

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