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Many times, you have been concerned about religious freedom in Vietnam in general, and about the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) specifically. We would like to express our gratitude towards the concerns from the American Embassy in Hanoi and the American Consulate in Saigon. However, through your concerns, we have found that Vietnam has not shown the necessary sincerity and magnitude in earnestly implementing religious freedom in Vietnam.

Communist Vietnamese have never been honest with the people of Vietnam, much less with you and the American government. They only frivolously appease and promise whenever they have to face you, and then things return to the old ways. They only talk, but they never act. Therefore there is an adage in Vietnam that “Do not believe what the communists say, do watch what the communists do.” The Most Venerable Thich Quang Do, the President of the Institute for the Dissemination of Dharma, has also said “The Communists talk so well that even snakes have to crawl out of their caves!” Reality has shown that the deception has taken place for ages in order to defraud the entire world; every Vietnamese can see this deception. Therefore, religions have been oppressed, democracy abused, and freedom of speech silenced.

Religious leaders; activists peacefully campaigning for freedom of religions, democracy, and human rights in Vietnam; writers and journalists fighting against corruption, and so on, continue to be arrested, imprisoned, tried, and sentenced unreasonably and arbitrarily. These are daily occurrences despite criticism; the government of Vietnam only conspires so that it receives as much economic aids as possible.

Current tactics that the communist government of Vietnam has been applying to oppress and eliminate religions include:

  • To Monks and Nuns who participate in UBCV’s activities: Police summon these monastics to police stations and entice them to abandon the UBCV in exchange for police’s promise to help their temples. For anyone who doesn’t agree to betray the UBCV, police will guard their temples. Temple visitors will have their belongings searched and license plate numbers taken. Police go to these visitors’ homes and threaten them against going to the temples or risk being manhandled. Additionally, police will create all kinds of harassment against the temples through all kinds of administrative documents or residence registration. Monastic apprentices have to constantly submit permits for temporary residence or leave of absence, and so on.
  • To Buddhist followers: Police summon followers to stations, or police come to their homes to threaten, terrorize and forbid followers from going to temples. Police also threaten followers’ livelihood and their children’s education and future.
  • To the Buddhist Youth Family organization: Having failed in terrorizing all levels of Buddhist Youth Family’s Senior Brothers, currently, the police are waging the campaign “for Fatherland’s security” to ban members from joining UBCV’s activities. Those who don’t obey the orders will be handled by police.
  • Vietnam’s laws have been arbitrarily created to coerce and repress the public. Implementation of the laws varies from central to local government .
  • During natural disasters, the UBCV organized humanitarian aid trips but the police harassed and created hurdles to block the UBCV’s relief efforts. The police also prevented the UBCV from reaching the victims, and instead, the police forced the UBCV to give aids to the Fatherland Front.
  • The UBCV has been robbed of all properties; UBCV leaders have been imprisoned or placed under administrative house arrest. The government dispossesses all legal activities and religious independence of a nation with a history of more than 2000 years of Buddhist inheritance.
  • Communist Vietnam has brought all religions into the control of the Communist Party and the Fatherland Front of Vietnam. Restrictions against Buddhism are even more severe than Decree Number 10 under feudal colonialism.
  • Communist Vietnamese are the nation’s traitors for letting China occupy Paracel Island and Spratly Islands.

From these pressing events, we beg to convey the following 9 points to the American Embassy Delegation:

  1. We do not want to rebel against anyone, or try to compete for privileges against anyone. We are struggling peacefully and would like the communist government of Vietnam to return to us our properties, normal legal rights to activities, and most importantly our rights to religious independence.
  2. In Vietnam, to this date December 10, 2008, we can confirm that under the communist rules in Vietnam, people have never had genuine religious freedom, and human rights have never been improved. All claims made by communist Vietnamese on religious freedom have been treacherous propaganda aimed at deceiving the international public.
  3. We, the UBCV, and other religious such as Hoa Hao Buddhist Church, Cao Daism, Vietnamese Christianity, The Mennonite Church, and so on, have been victims of the Communist Party of Vietnam. The Communist Party has oppressed, terrorized, harassed practicing Buddhist followers, smeared and tarnish the reputation of religious leaders on all means of public communications and during neighborhood meetings. The government doesn’t spare any of the dirtiest and most awful maneuver!
  4. We are determined to campaign peacefully for religious freedom, democracy and human rights in Vietnam. We will not rest until we have achieve our intended results, even if we have to sacrifice our own lives.
  5. We would like to suggest that you have to apply sanction measures if Vietnam fails to honor international agreements on religions, human rights, and trades that Vietnam had agreed to upon joining.
  6. We ask that the U.S puts Vietnam back to the list of Country of Particular Concerns for violations of religious freedom. In addition, Vietnam has to be forced to quickly, specifically, and realistically implement changes in religious and democratic fields before signing collaboration agreements.
  7. Release all imprisoned religious leaders and peaceful activists who are advocating for freedom of religions, democracy, and human rights in Vietnam. Additionally, give a fair trial to the 8 faithfuls from Thai Ha Parish in Hanoi who protested the government’s expropriation of land belonging to their parish.
  8. Compel Vietnam to have detailed documentations that inform all religious groups in Vietnam of their freedom to function without any restriction, control, or prohibition.
  9. In the case of the UBCV, we would like to convey to you the following 4-point stance that UBCV Institute for the Dissemination of Dharma initiated and has been pursuing for the last almost 30 years so you can care to help:

    First: The government of Socialist Republic of Vietnam has to restore the UBCV’s legal rights to function.

    Second: Return to the UBCV all properties; monastic, cultural, educational, charitable, and college offices … and so on that the government of Socialist Republic of Vietnam appropriated from the UBCV after 1975. The first step includes returning the two offices: Vietnam’s National Temple and Quang Duc Cultural Center in Saigon.

    Third: Separate “Vietnam Buddhist Association”, installed by the Communist Party of Vietnam and the government of Socialist Republic of Vietnam in 1981, from the Fatherland Front of Vietnam, a peripheral organization of the Communist Party of Vietnam.

    Four: Probe the death of the Most Venerable Thich Thien Minh, The Institute for the Dissemination of Dharma’s Managerial Advisor, at Ham Tan prison, Binh Thuan city in 1978.


The Most Venerable Thich Thien Hanh

October 12, 2008

From “The 9-Point Petition To the US Deputy Ambassador to Vietnam”