A Vietnamese family belonging to a Buddhist sect operating outside of government control was harassed this week by state-linked toughs in the run-up to the anniversary of the sect’s founding in 1939, the father of the family said on Wednesday.
Vo Van Buu, who follows an unsanctioned branch of the Hoa Hao Buddhist Church, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that local authorities have blocked approaches to his family’s home in southwestern Vietnam's An Giang province, also sending men on motorbikes to intimidate and attack his wife and daughter.
“Since June 20, the government has deployed from 40 to 50 people to block both ways to my home,” Buu said. “They even put up a hammock in which to lie in front of the house.”
On Wednesday, as many as 70 men riding motorbikes also forced Buu’s wife, Mai Thi Dung, and daughter, Mai Thi Thuyet Linh, back to their home from a market about 10 kilometers away, Buu said.
The move was an apparent attempt to prevent them from going to take part in services observing the anniversary of the sect’s founding, he said.
“She told them that this was Hoa Hao’s anniversary day, and asked why she couldn’t be allowed to participate in observances, but they didn’t answer,” Buu said.
“Instead, they beat her, using helmets to hit her from behind and leaving her with swollen lips,” he said.
Contacted by RFA, an official of the local township People’s Committee declined to comment, saying he knew nothing about the incident.
Vietnam’s government officially recognizes the Hoa Hao religion, which has some 2 million followers across the country, but imposes harsh controls on dissenting Hoa Hao groups that do not follow the state-sanctioned branch.
Rights groups say that authorities in An Giang routinely harass followers of the unapproved groups, prohibiting public readings of the Hoa Hao founder’s writings and discouraging worshipers from visiting Hoa Hao pagodas in An Giang and other provinces.
Reported by Gia Minh. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Richard Finney.