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dpa : Vietnam rejects claims that monk was prevented from travelling

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HANOI, February 18, 2005 (dpa) – Vietnam strongly denied Friday claims by a rights group that a dissident Buddhist monk has been prevented from travelling during recent new year celebrations.

The information arm of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam said Wednesday that monks and activists had been under increased surveillance, and had been threatened by security services.

Vietnam denied the charges made by the Paris-based International Buddhist Information Bureau.

“We completely reject the fabricated information from the so called International Buddhist Information Bureau,” Vietnam’s press spokesman said in a statement received Friday.

According to the IBIB and other human rights organizations, the two elderly leaders of the UBCV have spent much of the last 20 years under de facto house arrest or in prison.

Hanoi claims that the leader of the UBCV and his deputy are not facing any form of pressure from the state.

“Thich Huyen Quang and Thich Quang Do bare now living and practicing their religion normally,” Le Dung said.

The press spokesman said that the UBCV no longer existed in Vietnam.

“Vietnamese Buddhist organizations have been united since 1981 and the Vietnam Buddhist Church is the only organization of Vietnamese Buddhists. Buddhist clergymen, monks and nuns and places of the UBCV have joined the VBC,” Le Dung added.

Amnesty International consider the two elderly leaders to be prisoners of conscience and an annual U.S. report into religious freedom in Vietnam has highlighted the cases of the two men and the UBCV.

Next month, the U.S. will decide on sanctions to be taken against Vietnam after the communist country was added to a U.S. list of “countries of particular concern” due to their lack of religious freedom last year.

Earlier this month Vietnam released several high-profile dissidents early from lengthy prison sentences, including a member of the UBCV who had been imprisoned for the last 26 years. dpa sjt jh

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