On April 6, 2011, the Most Senior Venerable Thich Quang Do of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) released an Open letter protesting the unjust and unlawful trial against human rights attorney Cu Huy Ha Vu in Hanoi (1). In his letter, the supreme leader of the outlawed UBCV called on the communist government of Vietnam to unconditionally release Dr. Cu Huy Ha Vu and to adopt a genuine democracy in which all elements of society are entitled to fundamental human rights.
The following is the interview (translated from Vietnamese) that the Most Senior gave to reporter of Radio Free Asia (RFA) Vietnamese program on April 8, 2011.
RFA: Hello the Most Senior Venerable Thich Quang Do. Would you please tell us the reason you voiced your opinions about the trial against attorney Cu Huy Ha Vu in Hanoi on April 4?
Thich Quang Do: Dear Mrs. Y Lan and listeners of RFA, it has been said that people who suffer the same ailment are compassionate towards one another. In other words, people in the same plight are sympathetic to one another. I am very compassionate towards Mr. Cu Huy Ha Vu as I myself have had the honor to stand trial twice. The first time was in 1978, and the second time was in 1994. Once imprisoned, a person loses all values of a human being as well as all freedom. Thus, I have suffered and seen the sufferings. Every time I heard the sound of the jail open, close, and locked, I had so much sympathy … another bird confined in a cage. And I only hoped for them to one day enjoy the freedom outside of the prison.
Of course the freedom outside of prison only differs little from the one in prison. Speaking outright and logically, Vietnam is a big prison, because we are being watched everywhere we go; we have to be on a look out before we want to say anything. That’s why when I heard that Mr. Cu Huy Ha Vu, and in general everyone such as Dr. Pham Hong Son, attorney Nguyen Van Dai, and Mr. Nguyen Bac Truyen, Mr. Le Nguyen Khang …etc, was sent to prison, I felt very anguished and sympathetic towards him. This is because we all have the same ideal and are traveling the same path with the ones struggling for democracy. The country has been suffering so much already; people have been suffering so much already. Having lived under a totalitarian regime for sixty years, fellow prisoners are very sympathetic towards one another.
RFA: Would you please explain the reason that, in the UBCV’s Open letter, you declared Mr. Cu Huy Ha Vu innocent?
Thich Quang Do: This is so evident. Mr. Cu Huy Ha Vu is an attorney, therefore he only says or has any action if it is lawful, not like those who verbalize recklessly. He applied the laws designed by the government – not by himself, to demand fairness for victims of injustice. He only acted within the government’s regulations, and if the government was wrong then he simply said that the government was wrong and that it was the government that violated its own laws.
Mr. Cu Huy Ha Vu is a person who loves his country and people; he is a person with a family tradition and not like any ordinary person. His father was Mr. Cu Huy Can, a great pre-war poet as well as a country founding lieutenant for the current Communist regime who traveled to Hue on August 25, 1945 to receive the sword and seal from the dethroned Bao Dai when the latter gave the power to the Viet Minh government under the leadership of Mr. Ho Chi Minh. Thus it is not appropriate to label Mr. Cu Huy Ha Vu a reactionary whereas he is a person with revolutionary family tradition. That’s why I said he was innocent. Additionally, not only did he defend victims of injustice, he also cautioned about the state of the country. He cautioned that allowing the Chinese to mine bauxite in Central Highland was a danger of losing our country. Not only will Vietnam be lost but ethnic minority inhabitants’ ecosystem and traditional ancient culture also be destroyed.
Everybody bears responsibilities, and not just Mr. Cu Huy Ha Vu who is a law practitioner. Every sensible person must think about his or her country, its future, and about the existence of the country and its people. A patriot is never a guilty one. Only traitors accuse the patriots. That was why I said Mr. Cu Huy Ha Vu was innocent; he must be released immediately or have his sentence on April 4 voided for a retrial. This is because even the attorneys were excluded from the trial. Mr. Cu Huy Ha Vu’s attorneys were evicted from the trial. They had wanted to examine the Court’s accusation document but were denied. The judge conducted the accusation, the trial, and the sentencing himself. That trial was illegal, therefore Mr. Cu Huy Ha Vu is innocent and must be released right away.
RFA: Why did you link Mr. Cu Huy Ha Vu’s trial to the country’s democratization?
Thich Quang Do: This is because the Communist Party is a totalitarian party. Congress is also a communist congress. Ninety nine percent of Congress are communist party members; it’s not a people’s Congress. Communist party members who are members of congress thus have to defend communism and the communist party. Therefore, this trial is the same as hundreds or thousands of other trials. At the end, whoever calls for democracy and freedom will be sent to prison. So many people were sent to prison in the past, and yesterday I learned that Mr. Le Quoc Quan and Pham Hong Son were arrested. Whoever mentions democracy is immediately arrested because the government is afraid; they are afraid of ongoing movements in the Middle East and North Africa such as Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and then Bahrain, and so on. People in those countries learned from one another. They encourage each other and emulated one another to stand up demanding for democracy.
One day it will be Vietnam’s turn. The people have suffered, but they can only suffer to a certain level. They can not suffer forever. There comes the day when people can not suffer any longer, they will venture to stand up. That day will come. Therefore I hope that the Communist party can see and not let what has happened in North Africa or Middle east take place in Vietnam. If it happens here, there will be unavoidable bloodshed.
Therefore there’s a solution such as the one the UBCV has long suggested: gather everybody and practice pluralism and a multi-party system. There can be a maximum of 3 parties. Too many parties will be like, as I have said before and as it is often said “Having too many monks only causes the corpse to rot. Having too many father makes it difficult to find a husband.” If there are 10, 15, or 20 parties in Vietnam, things will be messy. There can be 3 parties: the leftists, the rightists, and the independents. I think the rules on a soccer field is very fair. If you like the capitalists, go with the rightists. If you like communism, go with the leftists. If you don’t like neither the rightists nor the leftists, go with the independents; you are called the mediators or the referees.
Presently, the Communists are worried about losing the Party; losing authority makes them afraid of losing the Party. But that is too greedy. This is not a business of a group, a Party, or a village; it is a business of the whole country of 80 millions people. Just form the 3 parties like that and then organize a democratic election monitored by the United Nations. If that can be done, happiness and peace will be brought to the whole 80 millions Vietnamese and not just the 3 million members of the Communist Party.
RFA: Thank you the Most Senior Venerable Thich Quang Do.
1. Buddhist leader Thich Quang Do calls for the immediate release of human rights advocate Cu Huy Ha Vu – http://www.queme.net/eng/news_detail.php?numb=1600