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UBCV Deputy leader Thich Quang Do calls for UN inquiry mission on freedom of expression and religion in Vietnam

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Venerable Thich Quang Do, prominent dissident and Deputy leader of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) issued a statement today applauding the recent U.N. “Opinion” pronouncing UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang and himself to be victims of arbitrary detention, and urging the United Nations’ Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Religion and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to visit Vietnam to monitor human rights abuses in situ.

In a 3-page statement received by the International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB) today, Thich Quang Do declared : “On behalf of the UBCV, I warmly thank the United Nations for issuing Opinion 18/2005, which exposes the Vietnamese government’s attempts to deceive international opinion and establishes the truth regarding the arbitrary detention suffered by the UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang and myself in violation of international law”. Citing the words of an audio message he sent to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva in April 2005, he stressed that his situation was unchanged : “As I speak to you today, I am under house arrest at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Saigon. Secret Police keep watch on me day and night. My telephone is cut, my communications are monitored, and I am forbidden to travel…”. Noting that the U.N. had communicated this “Opinion” to the Vietnamese government, Thich Quang Do declared : “The Hanoi authorities no longer have any justification to contest or reject the U.N.’s formal recognition that we are both arbitrarily detained”.

The 77-year-old Buddhist Deputy leader expressed his shock that the Vietnamese government had told the UN Working Group that both he and Thich Huyen Quang were “living and practising their religion”… “completely free from any administrative surveillance or detention”, and that allegations on their detention were “sheer fabrication”.

“There can be no improvements in the Communist Party’s human rights and religious policies as long as they persist in this total lack of transparency and continue to blatantly deceive public opinion both at home and abroad” wrote Thich Quang Do. “Vietnam should release Thich Huyen Quang and I before they tell the world that we are free. They should re-establish the legitimate status of the banned UBCV as well as that of the Protestants, the Cao Dai, Hoa Hao and all other non-recognized religions before allowing Prime Minister Phan Van Khai to declare to the U.S. media during his recent trip to Washington D.C. that “there are no religious prisoners and no religious repression in Vietnam”.

Venerable Thich Quang Do called on the U.N. to “continue to closely monitor the abysmal situation of human rights and religious freedom in Vietnam, and implement necessary measures to enforce “Opinion 18/2005”. He also called upon “the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to visit Vietnam to investigate human rights abuses”. He urged the Vietnamese government to issue standing invitations to all these U.N. experts, in compliance with its obligations as a U.N. member and state party to the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Venerable Thich Quang Do concluded by calling on “all U.N. member states who cherish freedom and democracy in the world to urge Vietnam fulfil its international obligations by implementing Opinion 18/2005 and all other recommendations issued by U.N. bodies to enhance the respect and promotion of human rights and religious freedom in Vietnam”.

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