PARIS, 29 September 2012 (IBIB) – Venerable Thich Vien Dinh, head of Viện Hóa Đạo, the Executive Institute of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) and Deputy leader of the UBCV, has asked the International Buddhist Information Bureau to forward to the international community the following letter protesting the recent unfair trial of bloggers Nguyen Van Hai (Dieu Cay), Ta Phong Tan and Phan Thanh Hai.
OF THE EXECUTIVE INSTITUTE
OF THE UNIFIED BUDDHIST CHURCH OF VIETNAM
ON THE ABSURD TRIAL OF THREE BLOGGERS
On 19 June 1919, four Vietnamese patriots in Paris signed a petition under the name of “Nguyen Ai Quoc” which they sent to the Peace Conference in Versailles. This 8-point Petition (also known as the “Claims of the Annamite People”) called on Western powers to recognise the civil rights of the Vietnamese people, notably the rights to freedom of the press and expression; freedom of association and assembly. These rights have since been recognised by the United Nations as the inherent and inalienable rights of all humankind. Vietnamese people dreamed of attaining these rights under French colonial rule. Yet today, in 2012, almost one hundred years later, they still cannot enjoy these basic human rights. The absurd trial in which three peaceful bloggers, Nguyen van Hai (Dieu Cay), Ta Phong Tan and Phanh Thanh Hai were sentenced to harsh prison sentences amply proves this point.
The trial was absurd because vague charges of “violating national security” and “anti-Socialist propaganda” were invoked to imprison people who had simply expressed their patriotism by demonstrating against Chinese expansionism, or exercised their right to freedom of speech as enshrined in the UN human rights treaties which Vietnam has signed. It was absurd because, not only did the bloggers receive heavy sentences, but the authorities even harassed and intimidated their families, supporters and friends.
Brazenly disregarding the appeals of international human rights groups such as the FIDH, Human Rights Watch, the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights and international figures such as US President Barack Obama, the Vietnamese authorities handed down extremely harsh sentences: 12 years for Dieu Cay (Nguyen Van Hai), 10 years for Ta Phong Tan and 4 years for Phan Thanh Hai. The three must also serve 5 and 3 years under house arrest after completing their prison sentence.
This verdict is a challenge to the civilized world, to the United Nations, and all governments and international institutions that cherish democracy and human rights.
The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) shares the suffering of all Vietnamese who are deprived of their human rights and democratic freedoms, especially the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of religion or belief, freedom of assembly and association…
The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam calls upon the United Nations, the US Congress, the European Parliament, all international human rights organizations, the media, artists, intellectuals, and all concerned persons in the world to continue to press for the release of Dieu Cay, Ta Phong Tan and Phan Thanh Hai, and of all other prisoners of conscience in Vietnam who are languishing in prison as a result of unfair, absurd trials and the unlawful, arbitrary practices of the Vietnamese communist authorities.
On behalf of the UBCV Patriarch
Head of the UBCV Executive Institute Vien Hoa Hao
Bikkhu Thich Vien Dinh