Vietnam local govt bans Buddhist pagoda repair

Officials are blocking the plan because the religious group is not state authorized, the abbot says.
By RFA Vietnamese
2024.03.20
Vietnam local govt bans Buddhist pagoda repair Thich Vinh Phuoc and the minutes of Phuoc Thuan Commune
Thich Vinh Phuoc

The government in Vietnam’s Ba Ria-Vung Tau province is blocking the repair of a 35 year-old Buddhist pagoda because the religious group that owns it is not state-sanctioned.

On Monday, Thich Vinnh Phuoc, the abbot of Phuoc Buu pagoda, said local officials told workers to stop filling cracks and replacing tiles and  “wait for advice from superiors.”

The seven-person delegation was led by Phuoc Thuan Commune People’s Committee Vice Chairman Dinh Van Tam, the deputy head of the commune police Pham Van Dung and a representative of the commune military command.

“They said according to the law on religion you must ask permission and the religious leader must make a report,” the abbot told Radio Free Asia on Tuesday.

“What did we do wrong? If the house leaks it is painted so what should I report?”

According to the 2016 Law on Religion and 2020 amendments to the law, religious establishments only have to apply for a construction permit in the case of new religious works.

As for renovations, construction permits are only needed if the renovations change the useability, affect the surrounding environment or impact construction safety.

Abbot Thich Vinh Phuoc said his order is often harassed by local authorities.

Last year, they were ordered to request permission to build a firewood store.

“They do not implement the religious law. They always ignore it and pay very strict attention to the work at Phuoc Buu Pagoda, ” said the abbot.

In 2019, the local government installed a camera at the entrance gate to monitor the temple, with a high-powered floodlight pointed at the temple yard.

The abbot said the reason for the monitoring and harassment was that his group belongs to the largest independent Buddhist group in Vietnam and often speaks out for democracy and religious freedom.

The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam is a religious organization that was established in 1964, independent of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha established by the government in 1981.

RFA called the people’s committee of Phuoc Thuan Commune to ask about the abbot’s allegations but no one answered the phone.

Translated by RFA Vietnamese  Edited by Mike Firn and Taejun Kang.

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