HANOI (AFP) – Security forces have intimidated members of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) against attending an assembly overseen by the church’s highest leaders, the church said.
A UBCV member told AFP in a telephone interview Friday only ten monks were attending the meeting in Nguyen Thieu monastery in central Binh Dinh province, including UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang and his Deputy Thich Quang Do.
Police had thwarted more followers from attending by surrounding the building, the monk said.
“We are surrounded by police but they haven’t done anything yet,” the monk said. “Some people had difficulties to come. The meeting was supposed to end on Friday but it will be longer than scheduled.”
The church’s Paris-based International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB) said Friday security police in central provinces of Thua Thien-Hue and Quang Tri had harassed UBCV members planning to attend.
The IBIB said police “have been systematically interrogating and intimidating UBCV monks over the past ten days, since they heard that the UBCVs two outspoken leaders had called a meeting.”
Dozens of monks “have been summoned to ‘working sessions’ (interrogations) by security Police and threatened with reprisals if they attend the Assembly or accept any function within the UBCV,” it added.
The IBIB said the UBCV meeting was aimed at discussing the reorganization of the church and appointing a new list of monks to take up functions.
Wary of the UBCV’s popular support, Vietnam’s Communist Party banned it in 1981 and created the Vietnamese Buddhist Church in its place. Subsequently, Quang and Do were arrested in February 1982 and banished into internal exile.
Quang, now 86, has been kept under effective house arrest without charge or trial in the central province of Quang Ngai ever since.
Do, 75, was officially released on June 27 from house arrest two months earlier than scheduled, in an apparent bid to appease the communist regime’s human rights critics.