01/15/2014, 00.00
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Saigon, plainclothes officers attack the leader of the Unified Buddhist Church

The attack took place in broad daylight on the streets of the city. The victim is monk Thich Chon Tam, who was under "constant police surveillance". In recent days, he was removed from Hue for trying to participate in the Memorial Day. UBCV movement target of lengthy persecution.

Ho Chi Minh City ( AsiaNews / Agencies) - Plainclothes security agents "intercepted and attacked" a leading monk of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam ( UBCV) , in the context of a campaign of repression being carried out against the religious organization . The persecution of the movement has intensified in recent days , following the announcement by UBCV leaders of wanting to proceed with the formation of a new executive committee. The authorities detained the monk Thich Chon Tam , recently appointed as secretary general of the UBCV Institute of Sangha , while he was aboard his motorcycle on a street in Ho Chi Minh City. The International Buddhist Information Bureau ( Ibib ) denounced the episode in a statement issued yesterday, describing how two cars stopped at an intersection and plainclothes agents "got out from the car and began to beat him".

Tam , who is also one of the closest collaborators of the UBCV leaders and prominent dissident Thich Quang Do (pictured) , asked for help from passers-by and in a few moments a small crowd formed to witness the scene . After a few minutes, the leader of the plainclothes agents said " enough for now " , leaving with his companions . Buddhist sources claim that "for several days," the monk was the subject of "close surveillance and repeated assaults ." On 8 January, the authorities of the north-central province of Thua Thien- Hue expelled him from the area and forced him to return to Saigon. The local administration kicked him out because he wanted to take part in the commemorations planned for Buddhist Memorial Day .

Since his arrival in Ho Chi Minh City, the authorities have stationed "continuous surveillance" at the Tu Hieu Pagoda, where Thich Chon Tam resides, "following him wherever he goes ." Commenting on the matter, he would have pointed out that Hanoi is only giving "lip service " to the Buddhist religion, with the commitment made when it hosted, the International Day of Vesak in May 2014, celebrating the birth of the Buddha. How is it possible for Vietnam to organize the event, asks the monk, if at the same time the police "beat and intimidate the Buddhist monks in broad daylight on the streets of Saigon? " .

The police raid against the monks are part of a "campaign of repression in progress for the new members of the Executive Committee of UBCV " which, like Tam , were chosen earlier this month by their historic leader Thich Quang Do. The Ibib reports that, since January 1st last, the day when the repression began, police in Hue arrested at least 23 members of the Buddhist Youth Movement (BYM) , the youth organization affiliated with UBCV . Among these there is also the newly appointed leader Le Cong Cau, under forced house arrest and unable to receive visitors.

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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