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Vietnam prohibits 21 Buddhist Youth leaders from attending the World Movement of Vietnamese Buddhist Youth Festival in India

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The International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB) is informed that 21 leaders of the Vietnamese Buddhist Youth Movement (Gia Dinh Phat Tu Viet Nam) were intercepted at Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh City and banned from leaving Vietnam. The Buddhists, all of whom possessed the necessary travel documents and visas, were intercepted by Security Police as they prepared to board flights to India on Monday (November 1st) and today (November 3rd). Security Police had put up a notice in the airport with the names of the 21 Buddhist Youth leaders banned from leaving the country.

The group was subjected to “working sessions” with Security Police, and subsequently released. Police simply declared that they were prohibited from traveling for “national security” reasons, with no further explanation. According to IBIB sources, Buddhists in Vietnam are deeply shocked by this unwarranted Police action. The young Buddhists were traveling to India to make a pilgrimage to Buddhist holy sites and attend a Festival of the “World Movement of Vietnamese Buddhist Youth” to be held at Bodhgaya (Bihar) from 8-9 November 2004.

“The ban is a flagrant violation of the right to freedom of movement enshrined in the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a State party”, said IBIB Director Vo Van Ai. “Vietnam must uphold its international obligations and respect its citizens’ fundamental freedoms and rights”.

The Buddhist Youth Movement, founded over 60 years ago, is an educational organization based on the “Scouts” movement, which has a current membership of 300,000 young Buddhists (from 6-18 years) in Vietnam and 20,000 members in the Vietnamese diaspora in the USA, Canada, Europe and Australia. An affiliate of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), the Buddhist Youth Movement was outlawed in 1975 by the Communist government as part of its campaign to suppress all independent religious movements. Despite this, it covertly continued its social, educational and humanitarian activities and its membership increased steadily nationwide.

On 19 February 1995, Buddhist Youth leaders held a Congress in Dalat in an attempt to legitimize the movement. The authorities reacted by issuing a “Directive” ordering its immediate disbandment, and directing the movement to become part of the State-sponsored Vietnam Buddhist Church. At the same time, the Communist Party instructed its members to infiltrate the Buddhist Youth Movement and transform it into a section of the “Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Movement”. The authorities were forced to abandon this plan after young Buddhists protested massively, with 200 youth leaders pledging to self-immolate if the movement was made a tool of the Communist Party. Since then, the Buddhist Youth Movement has effectively pursued its social and educational activities independently of State control.

The Buddhist Youth Festival in Bodhgaya would have been the first opportunity for young members of the Buddhist movement in Vietnam to meet their counterparts from the Vietnamese Buddhist diaspora.

The 21 Buddhists include leaders of the Buddhist Youth Movement (BYM) Central Committee and representatives from Thua Thien-Hue, Quang Nam-Danang, Nhatrang, Dalat, Saigon, i.e. : Nguyen Chau, President, BYM Central Committee, Le Van San, Secretary General, BYM Central Committee, Phan Dinh Thang, Internal Affairs Officer, BYM Central Committee, Nguyen Duc Thuong, Education Officer, BYM Central Committee, Do Thi An, Nguyen Dinh Khoi, Le Mai, Le Van Loi, Nguyen Thi Nguyet, Ton Nu Ngoc Lan, Nguyen De, Nguyen Thi My Khanh, Nguyen Hoang Phung, Duong Thi Mai, La Thanh Ty, Nguyen Thi Huong, Huynh Kim Xao, Buu An, Nguyen Van Coi, Nguyen Thi Phuc and Le Thien Man.

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