10/05/2005, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Western diplomats meet Buddhist dissident

The British ambassador and an EU representative have managed to meet  Thich Quang Do, the number two of Vietnam's Unified Buddhist Church.

Hanoi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Freedom in Vietnam "is like the picture of a sweet: it looks delicious on paper, but it cannot be eaten", said Thich Quang Do. Second in command of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, Thich Quang Do has been an outlaw since 1981. On Friday, he was allowed to receive a visit from two western diplomats, the English ambassador Robert Gordon and Dr David Milliot, political counselor of the European Union Delegation.

The meeting took place in Ho Chi Minh City, in the monastery which is home to 77-year-old Thich Quang Do. Since 1981, he has spent most of his time in prison or under house arrest, like the head of the Unified Buddhist Church, 86-year-old Thich Huyen Quang. In 1981, they refused to submit their religion to the control of the Communist Party. Do is considered to be a prisoner of conscience in a country often criticized for its repression of political dissidents and violations of freedom of worship, even if it seems to reached a modus vivendi with the Holy See.

The western diplomats have not released any details about their talk with the Buddhist monk as yet. Their meeting comes as the United States is set to decide whether or not to keep Vietnam on its list of countries "of particular concern" with regard to freedom of worship.

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