HANOI, January 4, 2007 (dpa) – Vietnam on Thursday denied a report that provincial authorities have forbidden the ailing patriarch of a banned Buddhist sect from travelling to Ho Chi Minh City for a medical examination.
The government dismissed as a “total fabrication” a claim that security police denied health care for Thich Huyen Quang, 87, head monk of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV).
“There is no obstacle for the medical checkup of Thich Huyen Quang,” government spokesman Le Dung said in a written statement.
However, a Paris-based group of Quang’s supporters, the International Buddhist Information Bureau, said Wednesday that the patriarch remained under house arrest in a pagoda in Binh Dinh province, 600 kilometres north of Ho Chi Minh City.
The patriarch was transferred to Ho Chi Minh City in October for treatment of heart and lung conditions and underwent minor surgery on his prostate gland before being returned to Binh Dinh.
At the time, the hospital gave him a follow-up appointment at the end of December so doctors could monitor his progress, but the Buddhist Information Bureau said he had been blocked from travelling to keep the appointment.
“It is intolerable that Hanoi prevents this elderly Buddhist leader from receiving medical care,” said Vo Van Ai, a spokesman for the Unified Buddhists in Paris.
Ai said Vietnam has increased religious repression since it was removed late last year from a US list of the worst violaters of religious freedom.
“Hanoi no longer feels the need to pretend,” he said. “Over the past few weeks, we have observed a significant increase in religious abuses, notably against the UBCV, the Protestants and Hoa Hao Buddhists.”
The Unified Buddhist sect is not recognized by Vietnam’s communist government as part of the state-sanctioned Buddhist sangha because Quang and his followers reject government control over church affairs.
Thich Huyen Quang has been under police supervision since 2003, when he and his deputy Thich Quang Do, 79, attempted to hold a nationwide congress of the sect’s monks. dpa kj ls