According to Paris-based International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB), a British Parliamentary Delegation was blocked from visiting the banned UBCV’s Thich Quang Do at Thanh Minh Zen Monastery.
To find out more, we interviewed British Conservative Party’s Graham Brady who was a member of the British Parliamentary Delegation.
Y Lan: Mr. Brady, you were one of the 5 members of the British Parliamentary Delegation who were visiting Vietnam last week. Could you please tell us the purpose of your visit?
Graham Brady: The Delegation consisted of a small number of MPs who are concerned about Vietnam. Vietnam is an exciting and developing country with rapid economic growth in recent years. The purpose of our visit was to learn more about Vietnam as well we to build a relationship with officials in the government and social figures in Vietnam.
Y Lan: We learned that the Delegation visited Hanoi, Danang, and Ho Chi Minh City. Is it true that the Delegation met the Government Committee for Religious Affairs in Hanoi? If yes, what issues did the Delegation discuss with them?
Graham Brady: It is true. The government committee for religious affairs and a number of government’s officials were very surprised because they showed significant difference between Vietnamese and British political cultures. It was clear that there were a number of issues that Vietnamese government officials were not too enthusiastic about discussing compared to some other matters. Of course we mentioned about issues related to religious freedom as well as political freedom, related to a number of currently imprisoned activists whom government officials called separatists.
Y Lan: The Delegation’s last stop was Ho Chi Minh city. Could you please tell us what happened in this city?
Graham Brady: Even though we wanted to maintain a good, constructive, and friendly relationship, we felt that it is important for us to strive for, was to push for a free society with an open political culture in Vietnam. We did not want to implement this with violent methods, or to cause nuisance to the people we met, and we tried to make this happen.
In Ho Chi Minh city, we were hoping to see a Buddhist monk who has been placed under a prolonged house arrest. However, they clearly told us that they would not welcome our visit.
We did not want to raise this issue in Ho Chi Minh City, but we definitely will tell Vietnam, once we return to the United Kingdom, that it was regreful that our Delegation could not complete our program, a program that will make our visit to Vietnam more beneficial and interesting.
Y Lan: Frankly speaking, the government of Vietnam barred the British Parliamentary Delegration from visiting the Patriarch of the BCV, the Most Senior Venerable Thich Quang Do. Is it true?
Graham Brady: Even though we were not welcomed, we still think that we could visit the Patriarch. However, this would create many problems and annoyances for the remaining of our plan. We did not want to publicly cause disturbances. But this is what we will strongly but politely raise with Vietnam.
Y Lan: How would the Delegation raise this issue with Vietnam?
Graham Brady: George Howarth, Chairman of British’s All Party Parliamentary Groups, definitely will have an official letter addressed to the Vietnamese Ambassador in London that highlights this problem.
Y Lan: Thank you very much, MP Graham Brady.