OSLO, 21 September 2006 (AFP) – Thich Quang Do, a Vietnamese monk currently under house arrest, has been awarded the annual Norwegian Rafto human rights prize for his work in promoting democracy and freedom of expression.
The 77-year-old monk, researcher and author had “devoted his life to the advancement of justice and the Buddhist tradition of non-violence, tolerance and compassion,” the Rafto Foundation said in a statement Thursday.
“He receives this prize for his personal courage and perseverance through three decades of peaceful opposition against the communist regime in Vietnam, and as a symbol for the growing democracy movement in the country,” the jury said.
Thich Quang Do is strongly supported by Vietnam’s Buddhists and other religious communities as well as communist party veterans, the jury added.
“With this award the Rafto Foundation wishes to express its support for all Vietnamese who are fighting for a peaceful transition to democracy,” they said.
Noting that “hundreds of political and religious dissidents remain in prison … and there is evidence of torture and mistreatment,” the jury called on Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to implement his promise to increase the pace of reform.
The award ceremony is to be held in Bergen on November 4.
Given it is “very likely Thich Quang Do will be unable to travel (to the ceremony), it (the prize) may be accepted by the president of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, Vo Van Ai,” Rafto Foundation president Arne Liljedahl Lynngaard told AFP.
The foundation, named after Norwegian professor Thorolf Rafto who spent most of his life fighting for human rights, created the prize in 1986.
The prize consists of a cheque for 50,000 kroner (7,700 dollars, 6,000 euros) and has often been awarded to little-known people in an attempt to encourage their continued work.
Four recipients of the Rafto, Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, Jose Ramos-Horta of East Timor, South Korea‘s Kim Dae-Jung and Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi, have gone on to win the Nobel Peace Prize.