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Venerable Thich Quang Do is gravely ill under house arrest in Saigon – Buddhists stage protest against religious repression outside Vietnamese Consulate in San Francisco

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The International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB) has received alarming reports on the serious health condition of Venerable Thich Quang Do, 2003 Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Deputy leader of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), who is currently under effective house arrest at the Thann Minh Zen Monastery in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). According to UBCV Buddhists in Saigon, Venerable Thich Quang Do is currently critically ill. For the past three days he has been too weak to eat solid food, or even to drink milk. He has not been allowed to receive visits from his doctor.

Venerable Thich Quang Do, 75, suffers from a heart condition, diabetes and high blood-pressure, and is still recovering from the heart operation he underwent in late August this year, UBCV Buddhists report that his health has deteriorated rapidly since the 10-hour standoff with Police in Binh Dinh Province on October 8th, and the subsequent long hours of intensive Police interrogations after he was arrested with other members of the new UBCV leadership on October 9th in Luong Son, near Nhatrang. Thich Quang Do fainted twice during “working sessions” with Security Police, and had to be taken to hospital before being placed under house arrest at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery.

The IBIB is also deeply concerned about the harsh detentions of Venerable Thich Quang Do. UBCV Buddhists report that he is detained in total isolation, denied all rights to communicate or receive visits, and deprived of adequate medical treatment. The Thanh Minh Zen Monastery is totally closed to the public. Only the main entrance gate is kept open – all other doors, including the entrance to the main Prayer Hall and Thich Quang Do’s own room, are locked and guarded by Security agents. This is unheard of in Vietnam, where Buddhism is the majority religion.

Mr. Vo Van Ai, IBIB President and UBCV Overseas Spokesman, strongly condemned the arbitrary repression against this eminent Buddhist dignitary and scholar : “The detention of Venerable Thich Quang Do is inhumane, arbitrary and totally and inconsistent with domestic and international law. But also, it totally contradicts the 2,000-year tradition of Buddhism in Vietnam. Throughout our history, Buddhist Pagodas have always been places of refuge. Their doors are open to everyone, day and night. Today, the Hanoi authorities are turning Pagodas into prisons, locking their doors to detain monks and prevent followers from practising their faith.” Vo Van Ai appealed to Embassies of the European Union Delegation, the United States, all EU member States, Canada, Australia and Asian countries in Hanoi to call on Vietnam to immediately release Venerable Thich Quang Do, lift all restrictions on his freedom of movement and expression, and allow him to seek urgent medical treatment. He also urged diplomats to visit Thich Quang Do as soon as possible to monitor his situation and health.

Mr Ai also urged the international community to press Vietnam to cease the ongoing crackdown against the UBCV and lift the sentences and other restrictions imposed upon 30 monks appointed to the new UBCV leadership in October 2003. Although only four monks have been formally sentenced to 24 months administrative detention, i.e. Thich Tue Sy, Thich Thanh Huyen, Thich Nguyen Ly and Thich Dong Tho (secular name Nguyen Huu Phuoc, the personal assistant to UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang), all 26 others, including the UBCV Patriarch and his Deputy Thich Quang Do, have either been “orally” sentenced to administrative detention or unofficially placed under house arrest without any form of legal process. Hundreds of UBCV Pagodas all over central and southern Vietnam remain under round-the-clock Police surveillance, their phone lines are cut, and Buddhists are harassed and intimidated by Police if they try and enter the Pagodas or communicate with the monks. Security Police continue to monitor cell phones and cut them off after the first call.

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