PHAP BIEN TEMPLE, A HORRIFIC EXAMPLE OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN VIETNAM

Authors

Buddhists and members of Khanh Bien’s Youth Buddhist Movement celebrated Ullambana Buddhist Calendar 2555 (August 2011) right next to a gigantic pile of broken bricks and collapsed concrete columns of what used to be Phap Bien Temple. Amid the destruction, a Buddhist flag was flying high, and a make-shift altar was built for a traditional Great Filial Ullambana celebration that included a Rose attaching ceremony.
Phap Bien Temple’s destruction was not caused by storms or any form of natural disaster. Rather, the razing was caused by government agents and was carried out by bulldozers under police supervision to make sure of a job well done and that not even the temple’s concrete foundation remained.
Phap Bien Temple was built in 1999 by contributions from followers in Ho Tram village, Ba Ria province, Vung Tau City. The temple is not a member of the government’s controlled Vietnamese Buddhist Church (VBC), and members have learned more about Buddha’s Dharma from the teachings from visiting monks from the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam.
One day, a monk who called himself Thich Thien Thanh, whose identity remains unknown to-date, asked members of Phap Bien Temple to let him stay overnight, as he had been lost in the area. Phap Bien Temple’s members opened their hearts and welcomed the lost monk to their temple. A short time after that, the monk Thich Thien Thanh asked the temple’s Management Board to let him be the temple’s Abbott and join Phap Bien Temple to the Fatherland Front’s VBC. After Phap Bien Temple’s Management Board rejected Thich Thien Thanh’s untimely and unreasonable request, on Vesak Buddhist Calendar Year 2554 (Gregorian Calendar year 2010), Thich Thien Thanh brought gangsters to Phap Bien Temple and razed it into piles of broken bricks. According to a member of Phap Bien Temple’s Management board, the reason that the board rejected Thich Thien Thanh’s request was that ā€œWe are not sure whether he is a police agent. However, not only did he not practice the dharma, he also created opposing factions to cause division in the temple and worked with the government’s church. We did not think his actions conformed to the proper dharma, so we rejected his request. He shook hands with the government, and he wanted to take over the temple so he could hand it to the nationalized church.ā€
After the temple was first destroyed by gangsters, Phap Bien Temple’s management board tried in vain to ask the government to help the temple. Using the excuse that the temple’s destruction was a domestic issue, the government refused to find and prosecute the criminals. Realizing that it was impossible for them to receive any assistance from the government in dealing with the destruction, temple members, once again contributed to build a modest hall for the Youth Buddhist Movement. While the Youth Buddhist Movement’s hall was being built, police from the village and district, along with 150 thugs fully equipped with anti-riot gears, came to the temple and completely demolished what they called an illegal construction by the temple.
The communist government of Vietnam has always painted a rosy picture of its records on religious freedom. The destructions of Phap Bien Temple is an indisputable evidence of egregious lies that Hanoi has been giving to the public and international donors in order to receive billions of dollars in economic aids, of which a significant portion has used to suppress anyone who wishes to practice religions freely and without having to be a puppet of atheist communists.