News From Vietnam

Police arrest UBCV monk Thich Vien Dinh in Binh Dinh and prevent UBCV leaders from attending Memorial Service of late Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang

PARIS, 23 July 2009 (IBIB) - This morning, Security Police arrested Venerable Thich Vien Dinh, Secretary General of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) in Binh Dinh Province, where he had come to attend a Memorial Service for the late UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang. According to the Lunar calendar followed by Vietnamese Buddhists, today marks the first anniversary of the Patriarch’s death. It is a most important ceremony for all UBCV followers.

Thich Vien Dinh, Superior monk at Giac Hoa Pagoda in Saigon where the UBCV holds its Secretariat, arrived in Binh Dinh yesterday morning (22.7.2009) from Saigon. Immediately after he arrived at the Thap Thap Monastery, where he is also Superior monk, he was handed a summons by the local Security Police. They ordered him to report for questioning at 8.00am the next day (23.7.2009) concerning “slanderous articles posted on the Internet against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”.

Thich Vien Dinh told Police he could not report for questioning because he had to attend the Memorial Service at the Nguyen Thieu Monastery. Later, the Head of the Binh Dinh Board of Religious Affairs arrived, and threatened to expel Thich Vien Dinh from Binh Dinh at 6.30am today (23.7.2009) if he refused to comply. Given the deep significance of this Memorial ceremony, Thich Vien Dinh decided to disregard Police orders and attend the service at the Nguyen Thieu Monastery. He was arrested this morning as he prepared to leave.

Security Police also surrounded many key UBCV Pagodas in the central and southern provinces, preventing UBCV leaders from attending the service. The current UBCV Patriarch Thich Quang Do, as well as the heads of 20 UBCV Provincial Committees were unable to travel to Binh Dinh.

The late UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang died under effective house arrest at the Nguyen Thieu Monastery on 5th July 2008, after spending almost 30 years under detention for his outspoken appeals for religious freedom, human rights and democratic reforms. Following Thich Huyen Quang’s death, the Government and the State-sponsored Vietnam Buddhist Church tried to impose a State funeral under Communist Party auspices in order to “prove” Vietnam’s respect of religious freedom. However, faced with the determined opposition of UBCV members, led by Venerable Thich Quang Do, and widespread protests from the international community, the government was forced to step down. Ten thousand UBCV monks, nuns and followers braved Police harassments and threats to attend the funeral in Binh Dinh.

Mr. Vo Van Ai, UBCV International Spokesman and Director of the Paris-based International Buddhist Information Bureau said: “Vietnam denied freedom to Thich Huyen Quang during his lifetime, and they continue to deny his followers the right to commemorate his death. The authorities should immediately release Thich Vien Dinh and uphold its commitments to respect religious freedom in Vietnam.” --

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