HANOI, Vietnam, Oct 16 (AP) — Three monks from a banned Buddhist church have been placed under house arrest for allegedly violating national security laws, the Vietnamese government said Thursday.
The detained monks belong to an outlawed sect that has clashed repeatedly with Hanoi.
Thich Tue Sy, Thich Thanh Huyen and Thich Nguyen Ly — all from the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam — were placed under two years’ house arrest on Oct. 11 by the chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee, said a statement from Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung.
Vietnamese law allows detention without trial for up to two years for anyone deemed a national security threat.
Dung insisted that the arrests didn’t violate the monks’ religious freedoms, and that “there is no such thing as ‘religious repression’ in Vietnam, but only the handling of law-breaking acts.”
Police last week surrounded a vehicle carrying 11 members of the church who were trying to leave a monastery in central Vietnam, the Paris-based International Buddhist Information Bureau said.
The vehicle was allowed to leave after several hours, it said.
But the group — including the three monks placed under house arrest — was later stopped by traffic police and accused of carrying national secrets and setting up an illegal organization, Dung said in an earlier statement.
Vietnam allows only a handful of government-backed churches to operate. In 1981 it ordered the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam merge with the state-sponsored Vietnam Buddhist Church. The Unified Buddhist Church has defied the order.