January 23, 2003
Detained Buddhist patriarch smuggles message from Vietnam
Hanoi (Deutsche Presse-Agentur) - The detained patriarch of a banned Buddhist
order in Vietnam has urged Buddhists to campaign for democracy, religious
freedom and human rights in the communist country.
In a letter smuggled out of Vietnam, the Venerable Thich Huyen Quang, 85, called
on Vietnamese Buddhists to campaign nonviolently for "ethical and social
equality," a press release by the Paris-based International Buddhist Information
Bureau said Thursday.
Quang, patriarch of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, said that
economic liberalisation in the past decade has only benefited a tiny minority
and not Vietnam's rural population, which makes up more than 70 per cent of the
population. "Our society is in crisis, spiritual values are in decline, social
problems are rife, society is polarized, cliques and gangs rule the roost with
total impunity," Quang said.
Only officially sanctioned religions are permitted in Vietnam. The Unified
Buddhist Church of Vietnam is banned and its top leaders imprisoned or detained.
"UBCV leaders are in prison or under house arrest, and are impeded from
accomplishing their mission," Quang wrote in his message. Quang called on
Vietnamese Buddhists worldwide to be the voice of repressed Buddhists in Vietnam
and campaign for democracy, human rights and religious freedom.
The message by Quang - who has been detained at his home without trial since
1982 - was timed to coincide with the Tet lunar new year, which begins on
The second-ranking UBCV monk in Vietnam, Thich Quang Do, usually sends a Tet
message also, but he has been under house arrest for the last two years.
Vietnam has rejected international criticism by human rights groups over its
religion policies, saying that only religions that break the law by engaging in
politics are targeted.
"Abuse of religion" is a crime punishable by up to three years in prison under