Vietnam Contradicts Itself On Religious Freedom

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In a flagrant attempt to ridicule its own laws, local government in Danang city honored and then rejected religious freedom.

In a letter sent to the Abbott of Giac Minh Temple on May 14, 2011 which was published by the International Buddhist Information Bureau, Do Dinh Phuc, Vice Chairman of the People’s Committee of Binh Hien ward, Danang city, cited a law on Religious and Belief Freedom that guarantees the rights to religion and belief (Article 1) and bans discrimination against religious freedom (Article 8). Contradictorily, in the same letter, Mr. Do Dinh Phuc issued an ultimatum to the temple, which he called “worship office”, to obey the government’s order or risk rough treatment during Vesak 2011 celebration.

Specifically, the letter ordered Giac Minh temple not to display or announce anything related to the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), an independent Buddhist organization under the leadership of the Most Senior Venerable Thich Quang Do.

The following is an extract from the letter (translated into English). The original letter, written in Vietnamese is displayed at the bottom of this article.

Based on the Law on Religions and Belief of June 18, 2004

Based on Decree number 22/2005/ND-CP on March 1st, 2005 by the Government Guidance to apply the Law on Religion and Belief.

  1. Vesak celebration – Buddhist Calendar 2555 at the worship office Giac Minh conforms to the spirit of purely religion, obeying all requirements of the law. The celebration must comply to political security – order and safety of society.
  2. Banners and symbols carrying the message of The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam are banned. The celebration is forbidden from reading announcements and messages from Thich Quang Do and other documents different from Vietnam’s law.

In order to guarantee the celebration of Vesak to proceed smoothly, it is suggested Mr. Phai and followers at the worship office Giac Minh to completely carry out above requirements.

“Mr. Phai” is the secular name of Giac Minh Temple’s Abbott, The Most Senior Venerable Thich Thanh Quang, who is a UBCV representative in the Quang Nam – Danang area. The Venerable Thich Thanh Quang is also Chief of the UBCV Youth Council.

Though the language in the letter, it can be understood that if the temple does not bow to the government’s demands during Vesak 2011, it will not have a smooth celebration. In other words, the temple will receive rough treatment from Public Security forces and paid gangsters, as the temple has reported happening more than often in the past.