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Vietnam bans UBCV Vesak celebrations in Binh Thuan – Police surround Giac Minh Pagoda in Danang

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PARIS, 28 April 2012 (IBIB) The International Buddhist Information Bureau has received an urgent report from the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) on the intensification of Police controls and harassment in the run-up to the celebrations of the Vesak. The Vesak is the anniversary of the Birth of Buddha which takes place on 5, May 2012.

The UBCV reports that on April 20, 2012, the People’s Committee in Binh Thuan Province invited Venerable Thich Thong Hai for a “working session” (interrogation). Venerable Thich Thong Hai, who is the Youth Commissioner of the UBCV’s provincial committee in Binh Thuan, went with Tran Van Y and Le Cuong, two leaders of the UBCV’s Buddhist Youth Movement. Police refused to let the two youth leaders follow him into the building.

During the “working session” which lasted two hours, People’s Committee officials and Police told Thich Thong Hai that the UBCV in Binh Thuan would not be allowed to hold Vesak celebrations. They warned that if the UBCV persisted despite this ban, the authorities would take “preventive measures”. The Vesak is the most important event in the Buddhist calendar. Thich Thong Hai and the UBCV in Binh Thuan expressed deep concern that Police will forcibly impede them from celebrating this traditional religious event.

In Danang, UBCV Buddhist Youth leader Le Cong Cau reports that Security Police have imposed a round-the-clock surveillance on Giac Minh Pagoda, which is the headquarters of the UBCV provincial committee in Quang Nam-Danang and the UBCV’s Buddhist Youth Movement. In the local police station (To Dan Pho) just opposite the Pagoda, a camera is trained on the pagoda’s entrance, and an official sits at the window and takes down the number-plates of all cars entering the pagoda’s courtyard. Around twenty other officials are posted permanently around the entrance and in the surrounding cafes, ready to intercept anyone who enters or leaves the premises.

This tight Police surveillance has prevented deliveries of food and supplies to the Pagoda. Buddhists from the Giac Minh congregation are obliged to wait until nightfall to secretly bring bags of rice and basic necessities to the monks inside.

The situation in Binh Thuan and Danang reflects the continuous harassments and hardships experienced by members of the outlawed UBCV all over Vietnam. UBCV Patriarch Thich Quang Do, 84, a 2012 Nobel Peace prize nominee, is not even allowed to preach to Buddhists at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery where he is under de facto house arrest. This ongoing persecution belies Vietnam’s repeated declarations that it “respects religious freedom and human rights”. The International Buddhist Information Bureau calls upon the international community to press Vietnam to uphold its binding international commitments as a state party to UN human rights treaties and cease repression against the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam.

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