Currently, Vietnamese Buddhism remains in a 2-entity situation. On the surface is the Vietnamese Buddhist Association which was created by the Communist Party and the Government of Vietnam in 1981 to unite all organizations that had supported the revolution during war times. This Church is allowed to publicly function.
The second entity comprises of majority of Monks, Nuns, and lay Buddhists who quietly reject politicizing of Buddhism, lays under the name the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV). Even though there is no official document to disband the UBCV, nor has there been any declaration that this Church is illegal, in reality, this Church has been forbidden from all religious activities as well as from such areas as culture, education, and charity.
According to documents released by the UBCV, the UBCV has been continuously oppressed, arrested, threatened, and murdered in the last 36 years. However, the UBCV continues to exist in reality through the leadership of the three Supreme Patriarchs: The late Third Supreme Patriarch Thich Don Hau, the late Fourth Supreme Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang, and presently the Fifth Supreme Patriarch Thich Quang Do.
Eighteen UBCV Boards of Representatives in Central and Southern provinces have always been being harassed and prohibited from organizing annual celebrations such as Lunar New Year, Vesak, and Ullambana. Three years ago, for the first time in the northern city of Hai Phong, there was a Board of Representatives who wished to join the UBCV. Immediately, the Chief Representative was suppressed and terrorized, leading to the paralysis of the Board of Representatives.
Five to seven years ago, tense situations lead to clashes and arrests at UBCV temples, especially in the Central area. However, in 2011, the situations calmed down a bit. When asked about the reasons, the Most Venerable Thich Thien Hanh, Chief Representative of the UBCV Board of Representatives in Thua thien – Hue, said that this was due to active protesting spirits from Buddhists in Hue, the multitude of temples belonging to the UBCV, and especially due to international pressure on religious and Buddhist issues that made the government’s oppression not as blatant as it was in the past. The Board of Representatives in Thua Thien – Hue sad that this was attributed to active protesting spirits from Buddhists in Hue, the multitude of temples that belong to the UBCV, add especially to international pressure on religious and Buddhist issues that made the government’s oppression not as egergrious as it was in the past. The Most Venerable also said that during the Arab Spring revolution period, there was an increased number of police stationing in front of the main gates of temples that belong to the UBCV.
The Board of Representatives in Thua Thien – Hue was the the only place in the last 3 years that was allowed to organize Vesak and train 58 monks at 3 levels: Primary, Intermediate, and Advanced Buddhist education. The following is the Most Venerable Thich Thien Hanh’s comment:
“Even though there was an subsidence and less blatancy in the methods of oppression, its results have not led to freedom of religious activities for the UBCV. In some occasions where the UBCV organized aid trips to the people in the Highland, the government did not interfere with the UBCV’s activities during the day. At night, however, the police went to every house and confiscated the money and gift packages that people had received during the day.”
According to a general report by the Most Venerable Thich Vien Dinh, the new President of The Institute for the Dissemination of Dharma, read during the Ninth UBCV Conference in November of last year, the situation of the UBCV can be summarized as follows:
Most members of local Board of Representatives and Abbott’s of temples belong to the UBCV have been oppressed, threatened, isolated, harassed by many ways such as being regularly summoned to “working sessions”, investigation, integoration, forced to report even trivial details in order to create obstacles, especially the days before Buddhist celebrations and Patriarchs’ post-totem anniversaries. Buddhists who come to temples everyday for sutra chanting are also being followed, harassed, threatened with employment blacklist or strangling of independent businesses. Families of Senior brothers from Youth Buddhist Families’ Management Board have been the ones who have suffered the most threats and harassment that have caused many extremely agonizing situations.
In Hue, the government sent their own people to manage Mai Vinh congregation and seize the temple’s land. Kim Quang temple, led by the Most Venerable Thich Thien Hanh remained blocked from building Monk’s hall.
In Quang Nam – Danang, the Board of Representatives have been severely oppressed. Giac Minh and An Cu Temples are cut off from the world.
The Venerable Thich Vien Duc, Abbot of Buu Duc Praying Hall in Dong Nai province has been frequently harassed and summoned to “working sessions”.
The Board of Representatives in Quang Tri provinces, whose Chief Representative is The Venerable Thich Tu Giao, has also been oppressed, harassed, and faced with numerous difficulties. Even during the summer monastic retreats, police busted in to the temple to cause havoc, beating the mother of the Venerable Thich Tu Giao until she collapsed on the temple ground.