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Security Police prevent Thich Quang Do from visiting Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang and forcibly escort him back to Ho Chi Minh City

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The International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB) has received further reports on the new crackdown on the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV). Venerable Thich Quang Do, 76, prominent dissident and Deputy leader of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) was forcibly prevented today from traveling to Binh Dinh to visit UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang, 87, who is gravely ill in Quy Nhon hospital. At 11.30am Vietnam time this morning (Monday 22nd November), Police intercepted a mini-van transporting Thich Quang Do and 9 senior UBCV Buddhists at Trang Bom, a remote spot in Thong Nhat district, Dong Nai province about 45 kms from Ho Chi Minh City. The monks were held on the road for four hours before Police forcibly escorted them back to Ho Chi Minh City, where they arrived around 5.00 pm (Vietnam time). Security Police were posted outside the monks’ respective pagodas and monasteries. It is not known whether any of them have been formally charged or placed under house arrest.

“Just as we feared”, said IBIB Director Vo Van Ai, “this is a repeat of the crack-down in Binh Dinh last year, where Security Police waited until Thich Quang Do and his colleagues were out of sight before intercepting them. These underhand acts show once again that Vietnam’s one-Party regime is not only lawless and repressive, but also cowardly and cynical. No civilized country could possibly use such methods to prevent Buddhist monks from visiting their sick Patriarch at his hospital bed”.

Tension sparked off this morning at 5.30am when Police stopped Thich Vien Dinh, Thich Duc Chon, Thich Duc Thang, Thich Nguyen Thanh (all senior members of the UBCV’s newly-elected leadership) and 5 other UBCV members in Binh Thanh Ward as they set off in a mini-van to pick up Thich Quang Do at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery to take him to Quy Nhon. After a tense 4-hour stand-off, in which 50 UBCV monks staged a sit-in protest around the vehicle and large crowds of people gathered on the scene, Police eventually allowed the UBCV monks to drive on the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery.

When Thich Vien Dinh and the UBCV monks arrived at the Monastery at 9.30 am, the building was surrounded by a crowd of Security Police. Police tried to prevent Thich Quang Do from leaving. They asked him to delay the trip for a few days, pretexting that there were “serious storms” in Quy Nhon. Thich Quang Do said that no storms could ever stop him from visiting the Patriarch, and insisted upon leaving for Quy Nhon at once.

After an hour of discussions, at 10.30 am, Police finally let Thich Quang Do leave Ho Chi Minh City (former Saigon) in the van, with Security Police in a jeep and on motorbikes following behind. At 11.25, however, as they reached Trang Bom, an isolated location in the depths of a rubber plantation, local Security Police intercepted the vehicle. They ordered Thich Quang Do to return immediately to Saigon where the local Police had “invited” him to attend “working sessions” (interrogations). “Am I being “invited” or “arrested” ?” he asked the Police, “in either case, you must have a mandate in conformity with Vietnamese law. If you have one, I will obey you, If not, I will continue my journey”. Thich Quang Do refused to turn back to Saigon, and remained inside the vehicle with the other UBCV monks.

Tension continued to mount, and suddenly, over a hundred under-cover Security agents on motorcycles, masquerading as local thugs and hooligans, appeared out of nowhere. These under-cover Security agents, popularly known by the Vietnamese people as “bull-headed Security Police” (Cong an dau bo), are well-known for specializing in provoking violent incidents to obtain the arrest of dissidents and government critics. Thich Quang Do told IBIB Director Vo Van Ai that the 100 under-cover agents surrounded his van, blocked the road to Binh Dinh and threatened to assault the monks if they attempted to drive on. During his conversation with Thich Quang Do over the monks’ mobile phone, Vo Van Ai could hear them hurling aggressive threats against the monks in the background…

At one point, a man claiming to be a Security agent climbed into the mini-van to drive the monks back home. But when Thich Quang Do asked for his papers, he turned out not to be a Policeman, but one of the under-cover agents. In this climate of rising violence, Thich Quang Do decided that it was impossible to continue the journey to Quy Nhon. Surrounded by the 100 Security agents on motorbikes, flanked by Security Police in two jeeps and on motorbikes, the UBCV monks’ mini-van was forced to turn back. Security agents blocked the road behind them to make it impossible for the monks attempt to turn back to Binh Dinh.

UBCV monks in Binh Dinh province also report that a young UBCV monk, Venerable Thich Quang Dung, one of UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang’s assistants, was arrested at 7.00 am this morning on his way to the Quy Nhon hospital, where he has been caring for Thich Huyen Quang since he was hospitalised last week. Thich Quang Dung’s current whereabouts is unknown.

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