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Security Police blockade Giac Minh Pagoda and assault Buddhists – UBCV leader Thich Quang Do sends protest to Hanoi leadership

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PARIS, 31 August 2010 (IBIB) – The Most Venerable Thich Quang Do, Patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) has sent a letter to the Vietnamese leadership denouncing violent Police assaults on UBCV Buddhists gathering peacefully at the Giac Minh Pagoda in Da Nang to celebrate the traditional “Vu Lan” festival on 24 August 2010. The UBCV Patriarch, 82, sent the letter by registered post to President Nguyen Minh Triet, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Communist Party Secretary-general Nong Duc Manh and National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong on 26 August 2010, with a copy to the International Buddhist Information Bureau, received today.

In his letter, Thich Quang Do said he had received an urgent report from Venerable Thich Thanh Quang, head of the UBCV’s Provincial Representative Committee in Quang Nam-Danang and Superior monk of Giac Minh Pagoda, where the UBCV provincial committee is based. According to Thich Thanh Quang, Security Police blockaded Giac Minh Pagoda (K356/42 Hoang Dieu Street, Danang) for two whole days from 23 to 24 August, assaulting Buddhists and preventing them from taking part in Vu Lan celebrations. The operation was supervised by Mr. Khoi, Head of the Quang Nam-Danang Religious Board, and Mr. Qui of the municipal security police Department PA38 (political security police).

On 23 August, the eve of Vu Lan, Police set loudspeakers around the Pagoda blaring out music at full volume the whole the day. They allowed no Buddhists to enter the building. At night, Security agents broke into the pagoda and roughly woke up all the monks on the pretext of controlling their residence permits (ho khau). At 3.15am the next morning (24 August), Police surrounded the Pagoda and shone bright spotlights on the building, lighting up the whole area and disturbing the local people. Hundreds of Police and security agents blocked all the roads and alleys leading to the pagoda. All Buddhists approaching the pagoda were intercepted and pushed back violently by Police.

At 9am, as the monks began prayers for the Vu Lan ceremony, Buddhists heard the chimes and chanting, and surged towards the entrance. Security Police beat them back with electric truncheons, pushing and hurling insults at the crowd. Several Buddhists were wounded, including UBCV monks Thich Thien Phuc and Thich Dong Thai, who were thrown down onto the pavement, and UBCV nun Thich Nu Dong Tam, who bled profusely from a beating on the head and had to be hospitalized. A member of the Buddhist Youth Movement, Ho Du, was pushed into a Police van and taken to an unknown destination.

“The Festival of Vu Lan is a traditional occasion to express filial piety to one’s father and mother, to honour one’s ancestors and to pray for tormented souls, so they may find peace and deliverance. It is a tradition treasured by all Vietnamese people. We call it the Seventh moon Wandering Soul’s Day. How can you wreck and disrupt this beautiful tradition of gratefulness and remembrance, this bond of warm affection between the living and the departed?” wrote Thich Quang Do.

After expressing his “vigourous protests against this repression of the peaceful religious activities of the Buddhist Sangha and followers at Giac Minh Pagoda”, Thich Quang Do called on the authorities to “severely sanction officials and police officers who took part in these unwarranted and unlawful acts”.

He concluded “As Chair of ASEAN for 2010 and Chair of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, can your tolerate such violations of human rights and religious freedom by local authorities as those that took place in Danang on 23 and 24 August ? I await your reply”.

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