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AP : U.S. ambassador meets with deputy head of banned Vietnamese church

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Associated Press - http://www.ap.org


The U.S. ambassador to Vietnam met with the deputy head of a dissident Buddhist church who is currently under house arrest, the embassy said Thursday.

Thich Quang Do, the No. 2 at the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, has been under virtual house arrest at his monastery in Ho Chi Minh City since last fall.

Ambassador Michael Marine met with Do for an hour on Wednesday, said embassy spokesman Lou Lantner. He called the meeting “positive”, but declined to give further details.

Marine met with church patriarch Thich Huyen Quang in November when the Buddhist leader was being treated in a hospital in the central city of Quy Nhon.

Do and Quang have both spent about 20 years in prison or under house arrest because of their refusal to accept the state-sanctioned Buddhist Church of Vietnam in 1981.

Their church has been banned since then, and has routinely clashed with the government over religious freedom and human rights.

The U.S. State Department has repeatedly criticized Hanoi for its strict controls on religious freedom, and in September placed Vietnam on the list of countries with the worst religious and human rights violations.

Washington has until March 15 to decide whether to remove Vietnam from the category of “countries of particular concern”. If Vietnam is not taken off the list, economic sanctions could be imposed.

Hanoi denies the allegations, saying it guarantees human rights for its people and only jails law breakers.

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