Cablegate: New Frictions Between Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam And
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 001220
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KIRF SOCI VM HUMANR RELFREE
SUBJECT: NEW FRICTIONS BETWEEN UNIFIED BUDDHIST CHURCH OF VIETNAM AND
1. (U) On November 20, the Paris-based International Buddhist
Information Bureau, the de facto overseas voice of the outlawed
Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), issued a press
release reporting that the police "physically assaulted" UBCV
General Secretary Thich Quang Do and "tore his robes to pieces"
in a "clash" on November 19. The police reportedly sought to
prevent Do from presiding over a memorial ceremony for a Zen
Buddhist master in an UBCV pagoda in HCMC. According the IBIB,
during the clash, a crowd of bystanders gathered and protested
police harassment of the UBCV monks and Vietnam's suppression of
2. (SBU) On November 21, we spoke by phone with a subordinate of
Thich Quang Do about the incident. The contact confirmed that
police attempted to block Do from traveling across town to the
Giac Hoa pagoda with six UBCV acolytes. A shoving match between
the six acolytes and plainclothes police ensued, in which Do's
robes were slightly torn (it is unclear by whom). The contact
said that a crowd of onlookers assembled during the 30-minute
incident, slowing traffic and adding to the confusion. Police
eventually allowed a taxi to take the group to the Gia Hoa
pagoda, where Thich Quang Do presided over a four-hour ceremony.
The UBCV monk said that police warned UBCV monks from across
southern Central Vietnam not to travel to HCMC for the ceremony.
Nonetheless, some 15 senior monks and nuns were among the
nearly 100 religious figures from UBCV strongholds in southern
Vietnam who attended, including Thich Thien Minh -- amnestied in
February 2005. The contact reported heavy police surveillance
outside and inside the Gia Hoa pagoda.
3. (SBU) Separately, political activist and Catholic Priest
Father Nguyen Van Ly visited the UBCV's senior-most
representative in Hue, Thich Thien Hanh on November 18.
According to a message that Ly posted on a dissident website, Ly
had no problems entering the pagoda and meeting with Hanh.
However, when the UBCV monk escorted Ly to the exit, 10 police
approached Hanh and order him not to leave. Following the
visit, police orally informed Ly that they had increased
administrative detention measures against him. Ly reportedly
now must seek police permission before traveling anywhere beyond
the neighborhood in which he lives. (Following his release from
prison in February 2005, Ly has been living at the residence of
the Hue Archbishop.) A UBCV contact told us that Thich Thien
Hanh has been under "informal" pagoda arrest for the past two
weeks following Hanh's "unauthorized" visit to HCMC in early
November to meet with Thich Quang Do and Hanh's creation of a
UBCV representative board for Thua Thien Hue province.
4. (SBU) As of COB November 21 in HCMC, there have been no
reports of arrests of UBCV members. Landline and cell phone
lines to UBCV pagodas and monks in HCMC were cut on Saturday,
but restored on Monday.
5. (SBU) Comment: The confrontation between Thich Quang Do and
police, although seemingly not as dramatic as the IBIB portrayed
in its press release, is the latest in a series of recent
incidents involving the UBCV and the government. The UBCV has
stepped up its efforts to organize at the provincial level,
creating "representative boards" in a number of provinces
throughout southern and central Vietnam. And the UBCV and the
irrepressible Thich Quang Do continue to call for the end to
one-Party rule in Vietnam. For their part, senior monks of the
GVN-recognized Vietnam Buddhist Sangha have attacked the UBCV
for "undermining national unity," and police reportedly have
stepped up their harassment of the UBCV's newly designated