09/07/2017, 13.08
VIETNAM

Buddhist monk Thich Nhât Hanh,in exile since 1966, returns to Vietnam

He is the founder of the "Lang Mai" community, which was expelled in 2009 for criticizing Vietnamese politics. It is the third time the religious returns to the country. The official press report his return, but Buddhist leaders ignore the master's intentions.

Hanoi (AsiaNews / EdA) - The reasons behind Buddhist monk Thich Nhât Hanh’s return to Vietnam have not been made public.  What is known is that the monk, famous in Europe and the United States, in particular thanks to his conferences and religious center of the "Village of Plums" (Lang Mai), in the southwest France,  arrived in Danang on August 29, 2017. The community he founded was expelled from Vietnam in 2009 because of a conflictual relationship with local government.

Official media reported the arrival in detail. However, the official Buddhist leaders of the Danang Province have declared their total ignorance of the intentions of the venerable Thich Nhât Hanh. In 2014, the religious was hit by a serious illness. After his recovery last December, he went to stay at the Lang Mai Center in Thailand. The newspapers reported that on his arrival at Danang airport, the monk was transported in a wheelchair. The government-sponsored Buddhist newspaper Ciac Ngô said the religious should spend only a few days in Danang, his hometown, before heading to Hue.

The third trip to Vietnam after 39 years of exile

The current trip of the religious in Vietnam is his third since leaving his country for the West in 1966. He returned for the first time in 2005 after 39 years of exile. On that first visit he was welcomed by favorable comments from the official press, demonstrations and signs of openness from government leaders who had authorized him to create a religious center on the Lang Mai model. To this end, Buddhists in good relations with the state had made the Bat Nha monastery available to him located in the province of Lâm Dong.

During his second trip in 2007, the monk proposed to the then state leader Nguyên Minh Triêt to put an end to government control over religions, seen by authorities as a violation of the law. In fact, it provides that religious groups must register with the state before commencing any religious activity.

A religious community expelled for criticizing the religious policy of the Vietnamese government?

Shortly thereafter, in August 2008, the Public Security of the Province of Lâm Dong issued an expulsion decree for the 400 religious and novices of the group residing at Bat Nha.

 

Subsequently, between the middle and the end of 2009, Thich Nhât Hanh's group of disciples has been repeatedly attacked by unknown assailants, apparently sponsored by the police. The government later stated that it was an internal struggle within Buddhism. After a short stay at a pagoda in Huê, the 400 disciples of Thich Nhât Hanh received asylum in France thanks to a special intervention by President Sarkozy.

After the unfortunate outcome of the attempt to establish monasticism in Vietnam and the return of the community to France, the venerable Thich Nhât Hanh published a text in which he affirmed the right of his community to conduct its religious life in any part of Vietnam and deplored the serious violence suffered by his community in the country. Many observers have argued that the reversal of the state's attitude towards the Lang Mai Buddhist group was due to the public criticism of Vietnamese politics.

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