11/22/2004, 00.00
VIETNAM
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50 Buddhist monks on a sit-in

Hanoi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – About 50 monks belonging to the unofficial and banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam organised today a sit-in against the police which had prevented a Church delegation from visiting its sick leader in hospital. According to the International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB), the demonstration took place in Ho Chi Min City after police stopped a van carrying ten monks on their way to Ouy Nhon Hospital, north of the city, where Thich Huyen Quang, the 87-year-old Church leader is recovering. Thich Quang Do, 76, the Church's number two was among those stopped. In its statement IBIB said that 50 monks came to their colleagues' rescue but were dispersed by the police.

The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam was banned in 1981 for refusing to come under the control of the Vietnamese Communist Party. For the past year, the government has increased its repressive measures against the Church and its two top leaders are under virtual house arrest charged with possession of state secrets.

Before the latest incident, things seemed to be improving. Last Sunday, US diplomats were allowed to visit Thich Huyen Quang, among them Elizabeth Dugan, US Deputy Assistant Secretary in the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor and Michael Marine, US Ambassador to Vietnam.

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