HANOI, March 15, 2007 (AFP) – Vietnamese police on Thursday arrested three Norwegians as they tried to visit a dissident Buddhist monk being held under house arrest, diplomats and activists said.
Therese Jebsen of the Rafto Foundation and two compatriots were arrested at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in the southern metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City, a Norwegian embassy official confirmed.
“They were temporarily arrested,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Police interrogated them and then released them.”
The foundation last year awarded its annual human rights prize to the 78-year-old monk Thich Quang Do, deputy head of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), which has been outlawed by the communist government.
Paris-based UBCV spokesman Vo Van Ai quoted Thich Quang Do as saying: “The arrest of Therese Jebsen makes me ashamed for my country and my people.”
The Norwegians were arrested by five security officials, one in police uniform and the others in plain clothes, said the UBCV.
The UBCV has been banned since 1981 for refusing to submit to Communist Party supervision. Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang and his deputy Thich Quang Do have been under what activists call “pagoda arrest” since.
The Rafto Foundation’s chairman Arne Liljedahl Lynngard was last month refused a visa for a planned visit to the monk during which he planned to hand Thich Quang Do the award and meet Vietnamese government officials.
Four previous laureates of the Rafto award, including Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, later received the Nobel Peace Prize.