Vietnam’s barefoot monk Thich Minh Tue leaves parents’ home

Some of his followers have disappeared, according to social media videos.
By RFA Vietnamese
2024.06.14
Vietnam’s barefoot monk Thich Minh Tue leaves parents’ home Independent monk Thich Minh Tue seen in Vietnam's Ha Tinh province, May 17, 2024.
AFP

Independent Buddhist monk Thich Minh Tue has left a garden where he was staying near his family’s home in Vietnam’s Central Highlands for another location, said his brother in a video posted on social media on Thursday.

Thich Minh Tue, whose real name is Le Anh Tu, became an internet sensation in May when influencers documented his barefoot pilgrimage across Vietnam on TikTok and other social media platforms. Legions of supporters were drawn to his simple lifestyle and humble demeanor.

Tue, 43, looks and behaves like a monk, but is not recognized as one by the state-sanctioned Buddhist group. In fact, he has not claimed to be a monk, but rather an individual trying to follow Buddha’s teachings.

In early June, police detained Tue and several of his followers during a raid in a forest in Thua Thien Hue province in central Vietnam.

Independent monk Thich Minh Tue (center L) stands with local residents in Vietnam's Ha Tinh province, May 17, 2024. (AFP)
Independent monk Thich Minh Tue (center L) stands with local residents in Vietnam's Ha Tinh province, May 17, 2024. (AFP)

In the following days, he told Vietnamese broadcast media that he had retreated to a hermitage and was not sure when he would resume his pilgrimage.  

Police also issued a video of the monk getting a new national ID card and saying he stopped his pilgrimage because of safety concerns caused by crowds. 

This week, officers accompanied him as he begged for food near his parents’ home in Gia Lai province’s Ia Grai district.

But Tue secretly left the premises on Thursday night for another location, his younger brother said in the video that Radio Free Asia could not independently verify. 

An official at the Ia Grai district police refused to answer RFA’s questions about the monk.

Mysterious disappearance

Other monks who previously accompanied Tue during his pilgrimage have gone missing, according to videos posted to YouTube.

Five mendicant monks, who were among a larger group of Tue’s followers disbanded earlier by authorities, were traveling on foot to Gia Lia province to catch up with Tue and continue their southward pilgrimage, according to a video posted Thursday on a YouTube channel called “Rhythm of Life News.” 

Some people traveling in a car with a license plate registered to Kom Tum provincial authorities offered to transport the monks, and they have not been seen since then, according to the YouTube channel.


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Another group of seven monks also went missing after spending a night on vacant land in a district of Kon Tum province.

The owners of “Rhythm of Life News” and another YouTube channel called “Hai Dang Vlog” visited their campsite on Thursday to speak with the monks. But when they returned the following day, the monks were gone, and residents said they had been taken away in two large vehicles.

The YouTubers were alarmed because they found some of the monks’ clothing, water bottles and a device to help them listen to scriptures left behind.

RFA called the YouTuber who recorded the video for further information, but he declined to answer questions.

Fines

Meanwhile, authorities have fined a woman from Quang Tri province 5 million dong, or US$200, for posting and sharing stories on social media that they said contained false information about Tue as he traveled through the area during his pilgrimage, state media reported.

The cybersecurity and high-tech crimes prevention division of the Quang Tri provincial police said many residents posted and shared false and fabricated comments and information about local officials Tue met along the way, Thanh Nien newspaper reported on Thursday.

The report said the agency was investigating 16 other cases of similar violations.

On June 3, Thua Thien Hue province officials fined a YouTuber 7.5 million dong, or US$300, for posting videos about Tue’s travels. Authorities said the videos affected the province’s security and order and caused confusion among the public.

Translated by Anna Vu for RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.

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