PARIS, 3 April 2008 (IBIB) – With less than two weeks to go before the 5th United Nations Day of the Vesak (Birth, Enlightenment and Passing away of the Buddha) is celebrated in Vietnam, Security Police in Lam Dong Province continue pressure to expel UBCV monk Thich Tri Khai, Superior monk of the Giac Hai Pagoda in Don Duong district, and take over the Pagoda for Vesak celebrations by the State-sponsored Vietnam Buddhist Sangha. A “Secret” Communist Party document (see IBIB Press Release 18.4.2008) revealed a plan to “struggle against the illegal activities of Thich Quang Do’s so-called “Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam” and Thich Tri Khai at Giac Hai Pagoda”.
On Monday 29.4.2008, whilst Thich Tri Khai was absent from the Pagoda, local officials of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha, the Fatherland Front, the Communist Party’s Mobilization Department, Government Religious Board, and Security Police from the district and provincial levels broke the locks on Giac Hai Pagoda’s gates and forcibly entered the building. They then broke locks on four rooms inside the Pagoda and occupied the building, claiming they were placing it under control of the State-sponsored Vietnam Buddhist Sangha for the 2008 UN Vesak Day celebrations.
Giac Hai Pagoda in Don Duong district, Lam Dong province, where Thich Tri Khai is Superior monk
When Thich Tri Khai returned, they told him that the pagoda now belonged to the VBS, and they were holding a meeting to prepare for Vesak. Thich Tri Khai protested this violation of his right to privacy and inviolability of domicile, repeating that he was a member of the UBCV, and they had no right to seize his Pagoda. Thich Tri Khai then called UBCV monks Thich Nhu Tan and Thich Tam Man, Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the UBCV Lam Dong Representative Board, in the nearby district of Duc Trong, to come and help. When they arrived, monks from the State-sponsored VBS immediately called Security Police to arrest them. Police swiftly arrived with a summons to go for “working sessions” (interrogations) at the Police Station. Thich Nhu Tan and Thich Tam Man refused, protesting that they had committed no crime. Police then ordered a gang of shady individuals (possibly plain-clothes security agents) to seize the two monks and shove them bodily into their car. “They dragged us like animals”, Thich Nhu Tan told IBIB Director Vo Van Ai by phone.
Police interrogated the two monks for over three hours, accusing them of belonging to an “illegal organisation” (the UBCV), engaging in “political activities” and “disturbing public order”. The Police said that the UBCV was not allowed to celebrate the Vesak, only the State-sponsored VBS. The monks denied any unlawful activities, stressing that they were simply exercising their right to freedom of movement and religion enshrined in the Constitution. “If political activities are a crime”, they said, “the government should be arrested and put on trial. They are more political than anyone, and their politics harm our people. Just look at the way they gave away the Spratly and Paracel islands to China”.
Police eventually released the two monks, ordering them to return immediately to their district and never set foot in Don Duong district again. As they left the Police Station, Security Police rudely insulted and threatened them. “If you come back here again, you’re dead !”
Thich Tri Khai says he is determined not to leave Giac Hai Pagoda. When he called IBIB by cell-phone on Thursday, Security Police and their hired men were still surrounding the pagoda. Thich Tri Khai appealed to the international media, the United Nations, world governments and international organisations to press Vietnam to cease repression against all UBCV followers, and fulfil the peaceful aspirations of all Vietnamese for the respect of human rights and religious freedom in Vietnam.
l As Hanoi prepares to host UN International Vesak Day in May 2008, Vietnam expels monks of Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam from pagodas in Lam Dong and Quang Tri and intimidates Buddhists (IBIB, 3 April 2008)
l Secret Communist Party Document orders repression against the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (IBIB, 18 April 2008)