Monks Driven from Monastery

Followers of a Zen monk and peace activist are driven from a monastery in Vietnam following a standoff.

Thich-Nhat-Hanh-305.jpg Thich Nhat Hanh (R) at a pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City, March 16, 2007.

BANGKOK—A mob directed by police and local officials has chased 150 monks from a monastery in Vietnam's Central Highlands after a lengthy standoff, witnesses said.

More than 200 nuns left Bat Nha monastery Sept. 27 for a pagoda in Lam Dong province where about 100 monks were staying after leaving Bat Nha earlier in the day, Nguyen Phuoc Loc, who is assisting the evacuees, told Agence France-Presse.

All are devotees of Thich Nhat Hanh, a France-based Zen monk, peace activist, and confidant of slain U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

Problems for Hanh's followers at Bat Nha began about a year ago when the abbot there, Thich Duc Nghi, who is linked to the official Vietnam Buddhist Church, told them they were no longer welcome there.

The standoff came to a head over the weekend when more than 30 of the monks were driven away in a convoy of waiting vehicles, witnesses said, as nuns were beaten by people described as underworld thugs with ties to local and regional authorities.

'Dragged like animals'

“Senior monks were dragged like animals out of their rooms, then left sitting in the rain until police dragged them to the taxis where ‘black society’ bad guys pushed them into cars,” Hanh, a Buddhist follower living near the monastery, said in a telephone interview.

“They beat them if the monks resisted being taken away,” he said. “It happened around 9:40 a.m. on Sunday.”

At one gate, according to another witness, nuns were beaten by people wearing civilian clothing.

“Nobody from outside dared to help them. I saw some villagers coming in and helping the bad guys beating the monks and dragging them away,” the witness said.

“The vehicles stopped, and then the monks got out to try and stop the convoy. The buses running ahead stopped.  The monks got out trying to stop the convoy—then the bad guys and police ran up and continued beating them. No one knows where they are now.”

Reverend Thich Thanh Tan, a high ranking Buddhist leader from the official Vietnam Buddhist Church in Lam Dong said the monks had only been praying at the monastery and had done nothing wrong.

“They didn't violate the law and caused no damage to the Church or to the state. Nothing like that. I expected that the government was helping [the monks] to peacefully practice their beliefs,” Tan said.

Official reactions

The chief of police at Dam Ry commune, identified by his surname, Thuat, said he couldn’t hear a reporter’s question over the phone, said he was busy, and then hung up.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, who was visiting Vietnam on Sunday, said during a press briefing that he had been informed about the conflict and "expressed our concern" to Vietnamese authorities.

"We look forward to getting more information from them about the situation," Steinberg said.

Hai said about 50 of the monks had returned to the gates of Bat Nha on Sunday evening, hoping to get back inside. Another 30 were inside the monastery gate, surrounded by police, he said.

Vietnam's communist government, which closely monitors religious affairs, had been trying to remove the monks from Bat Nha for several months.

Authorities say the Buddhists had ignored requests to leave from the monk's abbot, Duc Nghi, a member of the official Buddhist Church of Vietnam who invited Nhat Hanh's followers to settle at the pagoda in 2005 but changed his mind last year.

The authorities described the standoff as a conflict between two Buddhist factions.

But Nhat Hanh's followers believe the government is cracking down on them because their teacher has called on the communist government to end its control of religion and disband its religious police.

Original reporting by Thanh Truc and Do Hieu for RFA's Vietnamese service. Vietnamese service director: Diem Ngyuen. Translated by Viet Long and Khiem Le. Written for the Web in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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Oct 08, 2009 02:19 AM

The former S. Vietnam President, Nguyen Van Thieu, said it well "Do not believe in what the communist is telling you, look deeply into what the communist is actually doing". For those that had lived under the communist tyran regime, communist only believes in Marxism; there is NO GOD, NO BUDDHA, NO SUPREME BEING, NO MORAL ETHICS, only Marxism.

Oct 01, 2009 05:53 AM

Reverend Thich Nhat Hanh was naive in his dealings with the communist regime in Vietnam. They were simply using him to get what they needed. But in the end, it is simply a repressive regime like any others around the world.

Oct 01, 2009 01:28 PM

It is very disappointed with the communist's cruelty. A convention can not be difficult to be arranged in this case but the communist are trying to do what they deliberately want to.

I do request the communist to respect the human right.

Oct 08, 2009 01:30 AM

I used to live and to work with Communists, so I know what they are and how they think. They are basically crazy with money and positions. They can do everything to have those. Regarding Bac Nha's problem, I am sure what is happening is the purpose of the so-called "Central Communists". Without the request of the central group, Manh, Triet, Dung, Trong, Thich Duc Nghi, and the Lam Dong police could not do that.

In Vietnam, people are basically living and working under the lead of the cruel communists of Vietnam.

I really regret for the Vietnam, since they do not know how they are and who is their enemy!