Home / News / Press Release / IBIB / Prominent dissident Thich Quang Do calls on Vietnam to immediately lift the arbitrary detention order on himself and UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang

Prominent dissident Thich Quang Do calls on Vietnam to immediately lift the arbitrary detention order on himself and UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang

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The International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB) has obtained a copy of a letter sent by Vietnam’s most prominent religious dissident, Venerable Thich Quang Do, 76, to the Vietnamese Communist leadership summoning them to lift the arbitrary “administrative detention” order imposed on himself and the Patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), the Most Venerable Thich Huyen Quang since October 9th 2003, and restore their full political freedoms and citizenship rights.

The letter, addressed to Vietnamese Communist Party Secretary General Nong Duc Manh, President Tran Duc Luong, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and National Assembly President Nguyen Van An, was sent on Monday 25th October 2004 by registered post to the Vietnamese leadership by a UBCV member, since Thich Quang Do is prohibited from leaving the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Ho Chi Minh Ciy, where he has been detained incommunicado since he was sentenced “verbally” to arrest by the Ho Chi Minh City Peopl’e’s Committee on October 9th 2003. Thich Quang Do was arrested after he participated in the UBCV’s first free assembly at the Nguyen Thieu Monastery in Binh Dinh Province on October 1st 2003. The assembly was held to elect a new UBCV leadership following the promises of dialogue and religious tolerance made by Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai in his landmark meeting with UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang in April 2003.

In his first public statement after over twelve months in incommunicado detention, under house arrest, Thich Quang Do describes the arbitrary conditions of his detention and those of UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang: “Since the government crack-down on the UBCV’s new leadership on October 9th 2003 at Luong Son, near the city of Nhatrang, the UBCV Patriarch and I have spent 378 days under administrative detention… I have been detained in total isolation at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery on “verbal orders” of the Ho Chi Minh Security Police, and the UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang was also “verbally” sentenced to administrative detention by local Security Police at the Nguyen Thieu Monastery in Binh Dinh. In the civilized world, I have never heard of any country that imprisons its citizens by mere “verbal orders” as they do in Vietnam ! Needless to say, neither Thich Huyen Quang or I have ever been given the reasons for our detention. We have never been told what crimes we have committed, and we have never been formally sentenced or convicted of any criminal offence. For the past four years, my telephone has been cut off, secret police have keep round-the-clock surveillance on my Monastery, and all visits have been strictly prohibited”.

Venerable Thich Quang Do claims that he is detained in flagrant violation of Vietnamese law: “I was arrested and detained without any justification or due process of law, in violation of the Vietnamese Criminal Procedures Code (Article 10) which stipulates that “no-one will be held guilty until a court judgement has come into legal force”. Moreover, I have been detained beyond the legal limits stipulated in Article 71 of the Criminal Procedures Code, which states that pre-trial detention for investigation must not exceed six months in less-grave offences, or 12 months in case of grave offences, after which the defendant must either be put on trial or immediately released”.

Whilst he was never officially informed of his alleged “crimes”, Thich Quang Do says that he had heard that “the Foreign Ministry’s spokesman, Le Dung, told the international media on 10th October 2003 that the UBCV Patriarch and I were placed under investigation for “possessing state secrets”. In his letter to the authorities, the UBCV Deputy leader most vehemently rejects these allegations. “If the State effectively caught us in possession of State secrets, why didn’t they announce publicly what kind of “secret documents” these were, so as to inform the domestic and international media ? These events did not happen yesterday, they took place over a year ago… Yet the authorities have kept silent all this time and maintained us under investigation for over a year”…

Thich Quang Do emphasizes that “there are no provisions in the Vietnamese Criminal Code that penalize the mere “possession of State secrets”. What, therefore, is the legal justification for detaining Thich Huyen Quang and I for more than one year ?”… “I can only assume”, surmises the UBCV Deputy leader, “that these accusations are a prelude to a much more serious allegation – that of “espionage”, perhaps, under Article 80 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code, which is punishable by 20 years in prison, a life sentence, or even the death penalty ? Or that of “deliberately disclosing State secrets” under Article 263 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code, which is punishable by imprisonment of up to 15 years ?” Such unjust and arbitrary accusations, says Thich Quang Do, are not only routinely forced upon himself and other UBCV leaders, but “they are indicative of a widespread, ongoing climate of lawlessness in Vietnam today which is deliberately perpetuated in order to terrorize honest citizens”.

“The issue we are raising is extremely serious” he told the Communist leaders, “You, who are responsible for running the affairs of state, have no excuse for turning your backs on such a grave situation”.

“I am not begging for clemency”, he stressed, “nor appealing for a special amnesty or pardon. I am simply asking that justice be respected in our land, that the rule of law be implemented, and that every citizen be entitled to the protection of the law, whatever his/her political opinions or religious convictions may be. I am asking the State to respect the right of all Vietnamese citizens to enjoy the freedoms enshrined in the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Vietnam acceded on 24.9.1982. I am asking the authorities to tell us openly and clearly : what State secrets are Thich Huyen Quang and I accused of possessing? Who wrote these documents? By whom were they published? Thich Huyen Quang told me that all the Police found on him during their search at Luong Son was a handful of Vietnamese dongs. Are you telling us that Vietnamese dongs printed by the State mint are classified as “state secrets”?

“If the State deems us guilty of committing a crime, we demand the right to be put on trail and given a fair and impartial hearing with access to defence lawyers of our own choice, as guaranteed by the Constitution and the Criminal Procedures Code of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”.

In conclusion, Thich Quang Do reminds the Vietnamese leadership: “Last year, the State media announced that our country has embarked on a “Legal System Development Strategy (LSDS) – an important 7-year project to reform Vietnam’s legal system, running from September 2003 to 2010, which has won overwhelming support from the international community. I understand that the Communist Party and State has received 5 million US dollars from the World Bank, the UNDP, the Asian Development Bank, Sweden, Denmark, Japan, Canada, France and Australia for funding of LSDS’s first four-year period”.

“Since the State is inspired by the urgent need for legislative reforms, and is equipped with substantial financial support from the international community, I am convinced that it can rapidly resolve such a small legal problem as the false accusations of “possession of state secrets” and the arbitrary detention for over 1 year of the UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang and myself. The State’s capacity to resolve our situation will be a sign of its newly-made commitment to guarantee justice and the rule of law in the SRV”.

Mr. Vo Van Ai, international spokesman of the outlawed UBCV and Director of the Paris-based IBIB, welcomed Thich Quang Do’s letter of protest, but expressed concern for the safety of Vietnam’s most famous religious dissident. “Thich Quang Do is still held under tight Police surveillance at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery and he sent this letter to the authorities at great personal risk” he said. “Recently, the international community has expressed deep concern on Vietnam’s repression of religious and political rights, with the US State Department’s designation of Vietnam as a “country of particular concern” for egregious religious freedom violations, and the appeal by 109 Euro MPs for the release of UBCV leaders at the recent ASEM 5 Summit in Hanoi. Vietnam should acknowledge international concern and take concrete steps to improve its human rights record by immediately and unconditionally releasing the UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang and his Deputy Thich Quang Do”.

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