PARIS, 15 March 2007 (IBIB) – At 9.00 (Vietnam time) this morning, Thursday 15th March, Ms Therese Jebsen of the Norwegian Rafto Foundation was arrested as she came to visit Venerable Thich Quang Do, Deputy leader of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Saigon where he is under house arrest. As she stepped inside the Monastery’s courtyard accompanied by two other people, five Security officials, one wearing Police uniform, the others in plain clothing arrived immediately and arrested them. Thich Quang Do protested they were breaking Vietnam’s traditional culture of hospitality, and insisted that Police let him talk with Ms Jebsen. But they refused, and took her away in the Police car immediately with the other two people. They said they were taking them to the Police Station in the 15th Ward (Phu Nhuan).
“This arrest makes me ashamed and humiliated for my country and people”
Thich Quang Do
The Rafto Foundation Bergen, Norway, awarded the 2006 Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize for human rights defenders in November 2006. Fours previous laureates of this prestigious award, including Aung San Suu Kyi, subsequently received the Nobel Peace Prize. Since Thich Quang Do was not allowed to travel to Norway to receive the prize, Mr. Arne Liljedahl Lynngård, Chairman of the Rafto Foundation asked to visit Vietnam in February to hand Thich Quang Do the award in person and meet the Vietnamese government in a spirit of dialogue. The Vietnamese government refused, stating that Mr. Lynngård was not welcome in Vietnam. Just last week, Norwegian diplomats raised the issue again with the Vietnamese authorities in Hanoi, but Vietnam refused to change its position.
Announcing the incident by telephone to UBCV Spokesman Vo Van Ai this morning, Venerable Thich Quang Do said: “The arrest of Therese Jebsen makes me ashamed for my country and my people. Under the Communist regime, 80 million Vietnamese people suffer such humiliations and harassments every day. Now Hanoi subjects foreign visitors to the same insufferable treatment. I am shocked, outraged and deeply ashamed for the people of Vietnam”.