PARIS, 19 March 2007 (IBIB) – As Vietnam pursues its crack-down on pro-democracy activists and human rights defenders, it is stepping up repression against the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV).
l UBCV leaders in Hue sent an urgent appeal today to the International Buddhist Information Bureau reporting that 30 Security Police have surrounded the home of prominent Buddhist youth leader, Le Cong Cau since 17 March 2007. For the past three days, he has been forbidden to leave the premises, even to buy food for his family. Security Police threaten to arrest Le Cong Cau unless he immediately renounces his position as Head of the UBCV Buddhist Youth Movement (Gia dinh Phat tu Viet Nam). Since Le Cong Cau was appointed head of this movement in late 2006 by UBCV Deputy leader Venerable Thich Quang Do, he has been subjected to continuous interrogations and harassments. The Buddhist Youth Movement is an educational movement founded over 60 years ago. It was banned in 1975 because of its links with the outlawed UBCV. In the mid-1990s, the authorities tried unsuccessfully to disband the movement and make it part of the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth League. The Buddhist Youth Movement refused, and continued their educational activities despite government pressure. Although it is not officially recognized by the communist authorities, the Buddhist Youth Movement has an active membership of 500,000 young Buddhists in Vietnam today.
Also in Hue, on 16 March, Security Police detained UBCV monk Thich Chi Thang for interrogation. They have ordered him to cease all activities connected to the UBCV Buddhist Youth Movement. Venerable Thich Chi Thang is in charge of youth and educatioinal activities for Buddhist youth in Hue, and was the organizer of Le Cong Cauâ€™s appointment ceremony at the Phuoc Thanh Pagoda in Hue on 25 January 2007.
l In the city of Bac Lieu, Southern Vietnam, UBVC monk Thich Thien Minh, Head of the UBCVâ€™s Youth Commission, faces imminent arrest. On 15 March 2007, 500 Security agents and local officials tore down a small pagoda he was having built in the garden of his brotherâ€™s home at 89/353 Cach Mang Street in Ward 1, Bac Lieu (see photos). Police accused him of intending to use this as an office for UBCV Youth activities and for an unofficial “Former Political and Religious Prisonersâ€™ Association” founded in 2006, of which Thich Thien Minh is Chairman. Released in 2005 after 26 years in reeducation camp, Thich Thien Minh was having this place built in order to continue his monastic life. As the Bac Lieu authorities refuse to return his former pagoda, he has been obliged to live with his brotherâ€™s family since his release. The next day, 16 March, Security Police raided Thich Thien Minhâ€™s home, cut off his telephone, confiscated his computer and many documents, then read out a Police Order accusing him of “activities opposing the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”. Last week, the official press in Bac Lieu published several articles vilifying Thich Thien Minh under his secular name Huynh Van Ba, and reported his imminent arrest.
On Monday 19 March, Thich Thien Minh was summoned for “working sessions” (interrogations) by the Bac Lieu Security Police and held from 7.00am until 4.30 pm. He must report for further working sessions on Tuesday. UBCV Buddhists in Bac Lieu report that Police interrogations concern documents seized at his home concerning the UBCV. Security Police have ordered Thich Thien Minh to renounce his position as UBCV Youth Commissioner, cease all contacts with the outlawed UBCV and disband the Former Political and religious Prisonersâ€™ Association which they consider an “illegal organization”.