The men and women religious are followers of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk who fled Vietnam 40 years ago but who was allowed back in 2005. At the time, the government was prepared to be open in terms of religious freedom in order to gain membership in the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
“They beat us brutally, yelling at us curse words. They torn up our clothes in order to humiliate us, smashing everything within their reach,” said Buddhist monk Thich Phap Tu in an interview with Radio Free Asia (RFA).
Initially the monks tried to ignore what was happening by praying. “But they [police] kicked and dragged each of us out to the courtyard, and forced us to stay there braving heavy cold rain,” the monk added.
In the end police seized Bat Nha monastery and warned anyone who might think of re-entering the place of worship that they would be treated harshly. What is more, religious police in Lam Dong are still hunting for Thich Nhat Hanh’s followers who might be still wandering around the site.
For experts, a desire to seize the land explains the change in government policy. For several months, government officials had tried to get the monks and nuns to leave the pagoda, but met stiff resistance. The first attack took place three months ago; this was followed on 2 September by the cutting of power and water supplies.