02/17/2006, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Police arrest important dissident monk

Thich Quang Do and another monk are taken away. No one knows why or their whereabouts. Religious activities have come under increasing repression in recent months.

Hanoi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Thich Quang Do, second highest ranking leader in the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, was arrested yesterday. Police in Ho Chi Minh City picked up the monk last night and whisked him away in a car, an eyewitness said. He was preparing to lead a group of monks on a visit to the church's leader, the 'Most Venerable' Thich Huyen Quang, who is under house arrest in Binh Dinh province.

Dozens of monks then staged a silent protest outside the train station, vowing to remain there until Thich Quang Do's release. Police eventually summoned another monk, Thich Khong Tanh, to follow them to the police station with medications for Thich Quang Do. The whereabouts of both monks are unknown.

In recent months, the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam has complained of increasing persecution at the hands of the government. Until 1975 it was the main Buddhist organisation in southern and central Vietnam. With the Communist takeover all its properties and institutions came under direct government administration.

In 1981 the Buddhist Church was dissolved for refusing to bow to government's demands and was replaced by the state-sponsored Vietnam Buddhist Church. The now outlawed Church never recognised the new Buddhist organisation and has never ceased its activities.

In the nineties, many monks were arrested and the Church's 'Supreme Patriarch', 86-year-old Thich Huyen Quang, has frequently faced official harassment for his opposition to the government. For quite some time he has been under house arrest in a pagoda. Do has also been frequently arrested.

Last October, Do said that freedom in Vietnam is "like a cake. It looks delicious but is inedible."

For the United States, religious freedom in Vietnam is in a very worrying situation." (PB)

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