The International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB) has received an urgent appeal for assistance from members of the provincial representative board of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) in the central province of Khanh Hoa. They report that local officials and Police have expelled Buddhist nun Thich Nu Thong Man from the Dich Quang Pagoda in Thuan Loi village, Khanh Hoa, where she has been Superior nun for the past 10 years. The expulsion order, issued by Nguyen Van Ton, Chairman of the local communist authorities, following directives from the Head of the Khanh Hoa Provincial Religious Board, Bui Huu Thanh, stated that Thich Nu Thong Man had “committed wrongful acts by being a member of the Unified Buddhist Church, in violation of the [State-sponsored] Vietnam Buddhist Sangha’s Charter and the laws of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”.
Venerable Thich Tam Tri, head of the UBCV’s representative board in Khanh Hoa told IBIB that Security agents from Department A38 (Political and Religious Security Police) had systematically harassed and interrogated all monks and nuns on the UBCV local board since it was founded on 27 August 2005, and subjected Thich Nu Thong Man to particularly harsh treatment. On 8 December 2005, Security agents broke into her pagoda (Dich Quang) at midnight to make an “identity check”. The next day, Police summoned over 100 villagers to take part in a “denunciation session” outside the pagoda and paid them each 30,000 dongs to participate in the protest. Bui Huu Thanh told the villagers that the UBCV was “engaged in political activities”, and ordered them to “isolate, denounce and cut off all contacts with Thich Nu Thong Man unless she withdraws her membership of the UBCV representative Board in Khanh Hoa”. Police threatened the villagers that they would lose their jobs and their children would be expelled from school if they did not denounce the nun and force her to leave.
Prior to this, an “Announcement” No. 181 dated 29 November 2005 issued by the Khanh Hoa provincial Religious Board, declared the UBCV provincial representative board “illegal”, “taking advantage of Buddhism to sabotage national unity, acting in violation of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha’s Charter and the laws of the State”, and demanded that the board be immediately disbanded.
Since July 2005, the UBCV has set up 13 representative boards to defend the fundamental rights of local people in the provinces of Quang Nam-Danang, Thua Thien-Hue, Binh Dinh, Khanh Hoa, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Dong Nai, An Giang, Bac Lieu, the Hau Giang region, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and the 4th, 11th and Binh Thanh districts of Saigon. The government has declared these boards “illegal” and subjected all their members to harassments and continuous Police interrogations, where they are accused of “engaging in political activities”, “plotting to overthrow the government” and “advocating democracy and pluralism”. The creation of these provincial boards, despite the government’s ban on the UBCV, is a significant challenge to the government, for it affirms de facto existence of the outlawed UBCV. Their formation has been carried out with complete transparency by Venerable Thich Quang Do, Deputy UBCV leader and Head of the UBCV’s Executive Institute “Vien Hoa Dao”, who has sent letters to the communist authorities informing them of the creation of each new representative board.