The International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB) is informed that Security Police in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) arrested Buddhist monk Thich Nguyen Vuong, member of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) this morning as he left Thanh Minh Zen Monastery after visiting the UBCV Deputy leader Thich Quang Do. Thich Nguyen Vuong managed to escape from Police, however, and take refuge inside the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery, where he remains at this time. Police are posted outside, and he risks arrest if he attempts to go outside. This is the second time in less than two weeks that a UBCV monk has been arrested after visiting Thich Quang Do. IBIB is deeply concerned that Vietnam is deliberately seeking to isolate the prominent UBCV dissident to prevent him from launching appeals for religious freedom and democracy in Vietnam.
Thich Nguyen Vuong called IBIB Director Vo Van Ai by cell phone from the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery to report the incident and appeal for help. Mr. Ai is currently attending the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, where religious freedom is one of the salient issues under debate.
Thich Nguyen Vuong said he was arrested by traffic police at 10.30 am on Tran Huy Lieu Street as he left the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery on his Honda to return to his residence at the Gia Lam Pagoda. The Police asked to see his papers. Thich Nguyen Vuong said he had forgotten them at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery and turned back to fetch them. Suddenly, a group of more than 20 plain clothes security agents appeared on the scene. Two of them grabbed Thich Nguyen Vuong, and marched him towards a local Police station just opposite the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery. Thich Nguyen Vuong protested that they had no cause to arrest him, and asked them to let him get his papers. One of the security agents, who was evidently in charge, refused his request, and ordered the others to block the entrance of the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery. At that point, Buddhists from the Monastery came outside and surrounded Thich Nguyen Vuong, who was able to slip out of the Police’s hold and take refuge inside the Monastery.
Thich Nguyen Vuong’s arrest is an exact repeat of the incident on 30th March 2005, when UBCV monk Thich Vien Phuong was arrested after visiting UBCV Deputy Thich Quang Do. Thich Vien Phuong was also intercepted for a traffic offence, then detained for questioning by political security agents. They seized Thich Vien Phuong’s video camera which contained a message from Thich Quang Do to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights and subjected him to intensive interrogations for several days.
Despite this, however, UBCV sources succeeded in smuggling out a sound recording of the message to IBIB Director Vo Van Ai. This rare public statement in English by Vietnam’s most prominent Buddhist dissident was released at the UN Commission on Human Rights. In his statement to the Commission, Mr. Vo van Ai denounced Vietnam’s confiscation of Thich Quang Do’s message as a “grave violation of the right to freedom of opinion and expression enshrined in Article 19 of the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Vietnam is a state party. Article 19 guarantees the right of everyone “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers”.