01/09/2014, 00.00
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Vietnamese police block Buddhist Memorial Day celebrations

More than a hundred agents are "intercepting, harassing and intimidating" monks, nuns and ordinary members of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, denying access to the Long Quang Pagoda in Hue. Those who are arrested have come from various parts of the country to join the celebration.

Paris (AsiaNews) - Vietnamese police are "intercepting, harassing and intimidating" monks, nuns and ordinary members of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) at the Quang Long Pagoda (pictured) in Hue, central Vietnam, to prevent the celebration of Buddhist Memorial Day tomorrow.

In a statement, the International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB) has complained about the situation, saying that as 6 am yesterday morning, over a hundred agents have surrounded the pagoda and blocked people from going in or out of the site. In the afternoon, the pagoda also lost access to the Internet.

Memorial Day is one of the main dates on the Vietnamese Buddhist calendar. It is dedicated to the founding master of Vietnamese Buddhism and all those who in 2,000 years have contributed to its development.

A day earlier, on Tuesday, police had summoned the Venerable Thich Quang Thanh, deputy head of the Executive Institute Viện Hóa Đạo. After questioning him, they told him he could not take part in the commemorations in Hue.

When he protested, police tightened controls around his Giac Minh Pagoda in Danang. The site is also the headquarters of the Buddhist Youth Movement and has been under close police surveillance for the past three years.

On the same day, the police took into custody the Venerable Thich Chon Tam, secretary-general of the UBVC Executive Institute, for a "working session" (i.e. interrogation). He had planned to join Memorial Day celebrations, but was forced to go back after receiving threats.

The same fate befell the Venerable Thich Nguyen Ly, who came from the Tu Hieu Meditation Centre along with a delegation of UBCV monks and faithful. The Centre is now surrounded by police.

Monks and nuns from 18 UBCV Provincial Committees who wanted to attend the event were also stopped and placed under surveillance.

The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) was the main Buddhist organisation in South Vietnam until 1975, when the government took over the direct administration of all its property and bodies.

In 1981, although not formally banned, following the UBCV's refusal to submit to the Communist Party, the government tried to replace it with the Vietnamese Buddhist Church, which is effectively controlled by the state.

Despite everything, the UBCV has not stopped its religious activity, but beginning in the 1990s, many monks were arrested.

Supreme Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang, who died in July 2008, also received threats for his opposition to the government and spent long periods under house arrest at his pagoda.

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