DISSIDENT MONKS IN VIETNAM FACE HOUSE ARREST


2003-10-10
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Hanoi says two banned Buddhist sect followers carried state secrets

Two senior members of a banned Vietnamese Buddhist organization�including a Nobel Peace Prize nominee�could face house arrest following claims by the authorities that they were carrying state secrets, RFA reports.

Thich Huyen Quang, patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), together with his deputy Thich Quang Do, were detained by a police highway patrol Thursday on their way to Ho Chi Minh City, a foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement.

"While checking transport on national highway A1, local patrol forces discovered Mr. Quang Do and Mr. Huyen Quang carrying much evidence of wrongdoings, even some documents containing state secrets," spokesman Le Dung said.

The 76-year-old Do, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, was sent to his monastery in Ho Chi Minh City, while Quang, 86, returned to Binh Dinh province, 650 kms (400 miles) north of Ho Chi Minh City, the statement said.

Dung said no charges had yet been filed. "How the incident will be handled depends on the result of the investigation and the attitudes of the two," he added.

The Paris-based International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB) said police held the two for four hours before releasing them. The bureau on Wednesday alleged security police surrounded a minivan the two were riding in just after leaving Quang's monastery. They were allowed to pass hours later after a crowd of local Buddhists protested, the group said.

Six other monks and three lay-followers were involved in the 10-hour stand-off. Their vehicle was allowed to proceed after around 200 monks from the monastery and about 1,000 locals had formed a protective human wall around the vehicle, witnesses told IBIB.

Dung gave no details of where their vehicle was apprehended. "At present, the relevant authorities are continuing their investigation into the case. There has not yet been any decision about putting these people under house arrest," he added, dismissing the IBIB report as "ill-willed, sheer fabrication."

The IBIB is the overseas information arm of the UBCV, which was outlawed by the communist regime in 1981 because it refused to become part of the state-sanctioned Buddhist church.

The organization also said Wednesday that undercover security police were preventing monks and nuns from leaving 20 pagodas in the central city of Hue, a former hotbed of Buddhist dissent.

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