Vietnam's communist authorities have launched

a renewed clamdown on religious dissidents


Prepared for Internet by Vietnamese Missionaries in Taiwan

HANOI, (AFP) June 3, 2001 -

Vietnam's communist authorities have launched a renewed clampdown on religious dissidents just as the US Congress prepares to consider ratification of a key trade agreement, exiled church leaders said Sunday June 3, 2001.

The clampdown targetted leaders of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), the church's Paris office in exile said in a statement.

Security police placed the church's number two, Thich Quang Do, under house arrest Friday June 1, 2001 after detaining three other monks the previous day, the statement said.

Monks loyal to the dissident church have been "threatened and harrassed" at pagodas across southern Vietnam over the past 10 days as police launched a wave of interrogations, it said.

They arrested the three monks in the commercial capital of Ho Chi Minh City Thursday after they repeatedly refused requests to come in for questioning.

Ten security police have been posted inside the city's Thanh Minh Zen monastery and another 100 outside to enforce the two-year "administrative surveillance" order against Do, the statement said.

Telephone lines to the monastery have also been cut and Do's mobile phone confiscated.

The UBCV number two, who is one of Vietnam's best-known dissidents, was nominated for last year's Nobel peace prize by 30 US Congressmen.

Freed in an amnesty in 1998, Do has spent more than 18 years in prison or under house arrest for his persistent criticism of Vietnam's human rights record.

He was ordered to appear before municipal authorities in Ho Chi Minh City just last month to explain a string of recent "erroneous actions."

Do appears to have provoked the wrath of the authorities with a well-publicised campaign to secure the release of the UBCV's ailing 83-year-old patriarch Thich Huyen Quang, who is being kept under house arrest at a remote pagoda in central Vietnam.

The UBCV number two announced he intended to lead a convoy of the church's supporters to Quang Ngai province on Thursday to bring Quang back to Ho Chi Minh City for medical treatment.

The renewed crackdown on the outlawed church came as the US Congress prepared to consider ratification of a trade agreement with Vietnam which would lift the punitive tarrifs currently levied on Vietnamese goods.

The administration was finally expected to submit the deal to Congress Monday, 11 months after it was originally signed.

UBCV leaders and other dissidents have repeatedly called on US lawmakers to delay the agreement's ratification pending improvements in Vietnam's record on religious freedoms.

In the past month Vietnam has jailed two members of the dissident leadership of the Hoa Hao sect and arrested a prominent Catholic priest.

Father Tadeus Nguyen Van Ly was detained for breaching a house arrest order imposed in March after he spoke out to a statutory US body about violations of religious freedoms here.

The UBCV's exiled spokesman Vo Van Ai said the continued crackdown on dissidents had dashed hopes of a more liberal line from Vietnam's new communist party chief Nong Duc Manh, who replaced ousted hardliner Le Kha Phieu in April 2001.

"Regrettably Vietnam's new leadership has missed a golden opportunity to show the intertnational communisty that it has improved its policies on religious freedom and human rights," Ai said.

Thich Quang Do's trip to save the 83-year-old patriarch from dying a slow death in internal exile is a peaceful and legitimate act.

"By arbitrarily detaining Thich Quang Do, the government is not only violating the fundamental rights of freedom of expression, religion and movement, but it is imprisoning religious freedom in Vietnam."


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