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UBCV monk Thich Khong Tanh is arrested in Hanoi as he distributes aid to “Victims of Injustice”

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PARIS, 23 August 2007 (IBIB) – Venerable Thich Khong Tanh, Commissioner for Social and Humanitarian Affairs of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) was arrested by Security Police in Hanoi at 8.00 this morning as he distributed aid to peasants and farmers gathered outside the Government Complaints Office at 110 Cau Giay Street. His current whereabouts is unknown.

Thich Khong Tanh arrived in Hanoi with a UBCV delegation this week to distribute relief aid collected by the UBCV following an “Appeal to Save Victims of Injustice” launched by Deputy leader Venerable Thich Quang Do on 10th August 2007. Venerable Thich Quang Do launched this appeal after hundreds of farmers and peasants known as the “Victims of Injustice” (Dan oan), marched to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in August to protest against State confiscation of land, official corruption and inadequate compensation. In his Appeal, Thich Quang Do recalled that farmers and peasants have staged such demonstrations since the 1980s, yet the government has taken no action to address their grievances. “These “Victims of Injustice” have suffered grievously in the past, and will continue to suffer in the future. As long as we have no Justice in this land, their suffering will continue. We must take immediate action to help these people in dire need” .

In his Appeal, which was circulated worldwide by the International Buddhist Information Bureau, Venerable Thich Quang Do announced the creation of a UBCV “Fund for Victims of Injustice”, and called on Buddhists and Vietnamese at home and abroad to urgently contribute aid. He appealed to Vietnamese “to take heed of the sufferings of your people, and take action to relieve the “Victims of Injustice” who, all over the country, have been living for years in misery, on the margins of Injustice, totally ignored by the authorities”. Thich Quang Do’s Appeal met with overwhelming support from the Vietnamese community overseas. The UBCV began to distribute this aid with a first delegation to Hanoi led by Thich Khong Tanh.

Thich Khong Tanh and the UBCV delegation intended to begin distributing relief aid yesterday, 22nd August. However, crowds of Security Police surrounded the demonstrators outside the Government Complaints Office in Cau Giay Street. Faced with this tense situation, the delegation decided to delay their action until this morning. After Thich Khong Tanh and the UBCV delegation arrived at 8.00am today, Security Police vehicles drew up and blocked all access to Cau Giay Street. They began pushing demonstrators into buses and evacuating them. Thich Khong Tanh managed to contact the UBCV delegation on his mobile phone to tell them he had been arrested. His phone is now cut.

The UBCV Buddhist delegation reports that a number of people supporting the peasants and farmers’ movement were arrested last night. Buddhist nun Thich Nu Dam Binh was arrested and taken to Ha Tay because she was in contact with the UBCV delegation.

Previously, on July 17th 2007, Venerable Thich Quang Do broke out of house arrest to express his solidarity and bring aid to peasants and farmers demonstrating outside the National Assembly’s Southern Office in Ho Chi Minh City. He urged: “We must immediately settle the pressing questions of demanding justice, land rights and compensation for farmers. But after that, we must all work together for human rights, democracy and freedom. Everyone must do his part. We must work together until we succeed in winning democracy, freedom and human rights for all the Vietnamese people. There can be no justice under the one-Party State”.

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