The International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB) has received urgent information that Police have intercepted a mini-van with Venerable Thich Vien Dinh and nine other UBCV members at 5.30 am (Vietnam time) as they drove towards the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Ho Chi Minh City. The monks were going to accompany Venerable Thich Quang Do, Deputy leader of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) to visit the UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang, who is seriously ill in the Quy Nhon General Hospital. They had arranged to meet Thich Quang Do at 6.00 am.
“Yesterday, the Vietnamese authorities made a positive gesture by enabling Thich Quang Do to receive a delegation of US diplomats for the first time this year” said IBIB Director Vo Van Ai. “Today, they have destroyed all this credit by preventing him from going to the bedside of his friend and colleague Thich Huyen Quang. It is inadmissible that the Vietnamese government – which continues to tell the world that Thich Quang Do is a free man – can be so inhumane. The authorities must immediately order the Ho Chi Minh City Police to allow Thich Vien Dinh and his delegation to continue their journey and escort Thich Quang Do to Quy Nhon to visit UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang.”
Venerable Thich Vien Dinh told IBIB Director Vo Van Ai by telephone that the monks had just left Giac Hoa Pagoda in Binh Thanh Ward where Thich Vien Dinh is the Superior monk, when Police stopped them at the corner of Phan Dang Luu and Dinh Tien Hoang Street, opposite the Gia Dinh General Electricity Company. After checking the vehicle’s papers and the monks’ identity cards – all of which were in order – Police announced they were going to tow the van to the Police station. Thich Vien Dinh asked the reason for this, but Police gave no explanation. He refused to let Police impound the van, and alerted the nearby Giac Hoa Pagoda of the incident. Over 50 UBCV monks from Giac Hoa Pagoda joined the protest, and are now staging a sit-in around the van. Crowds quickly gathered on the scene, but were dispersed by the Police.
Thich Vien Dinh said the monks are determined to continue their sit-in around the van until the Police allow them to continue on their way to Thanh Minh Zen Monastery to meet Thich Quang Do and take him to Quy Nhon to visit the UBCV Patriarch.
Yesterday (Sunday, 21 November) Thich Quang Do received a visit from U.S. diplomats, including Elizabeth Dugan, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Labour and Human Rights and US Consul General Seth D. Winnick. He told them he intended to leave for Quy Nhon this morning at 6.00 am. Also on Sunday, the US Ambassador to Vietnam, Mr Michael W. Marine paid a visit to UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang at the Quy Nhon General Hospital.
Thich Vien Dinh is Vice-President of the UBCV’s Institute for the Dissemination of the Dharma (Vien Hoa Dao), and one of the UBCV monks arrested in the government crackdown last October. He has been subjected to continuous harassments because he refuses to join the State-sponsored Vietnam Buddhist Church, and maintains that the Giac Hoa Pagoda belongs to the banned UBCV.