Sunday, June 08, 2008

Buddhist monk disappears, secret party document unveils plans

Buddhist monk Thich Tri Khai was arrested and has now disappeared from his pagoda in Lam Dong province, reports the Paris-based International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB). Two other monks from the province have been subjected to harsh police interrogations for their support of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) -- Thich Tam Man, superior monk of Su Tu pagoda in Duc Trong district, and Thich Nhu Tan, president of the UBCV Lam Dong representative board. The IBIB is the overseas press office of the UBCV.

Ven. Khai, superior monk of Giac Hoi pagoda of Don Duong district, was arrested on April 29 when police broke the locks to his pagoda and seized the premises in order to use it for the state-sponsored Vietnam Buddhist Sangha's (VBS) Vesak celebration. He was locked in a room in the pagoda and then disappeared on May 7. Police say he was taken to Saigon for medical treatment, but he has not been heard from since, and efforts of his colleagues and relatives to contact him have failed. The Vesak celebrations, ironically, were an international event hosted by Vietnam and used by the government to proclaim its religious tolerance.

Ven. Khai was also the subject of a secret party document from Don Duong district of Lam Dong province which was obtained by the IBIB. The "Secret Plan", document No. 44-KH/BCD, was promulgated Sept. 13, 2007, signed by Ly Van Kiet, deputy head of the Steering Committee on Religious Affairs for the district, and Assistant Secretary General of the Don-Duong Vietnamese Communist Party. The document was aimed generally against the UBCV in the district, and particularly at Ven. Khai. It said that there were 21,000 Buddhists in the district and some 15 Buddhist pagodas, all of them established before 1975, and complained that a number of monks and nuns in the district did not cooperate with the state sponsored church created in 1981.

It noted that Thich Tri Khai had affiliated with the now banned UBCV and had failed to comply with the orders of the state-sponsored church. The document described the struggle against Thich Tri Khai as part of the larger struggle against the UBCV, and this in turn as part of the struggle against proponents of "peaceful evolution", i.e. nonviolent change toward a democratic society. The document set out measures to use against Khai, including urging citizens of his district to denounce him on moral grounds, but these efforts apparently failed. The IBIB notes that only 12 Buddhists signed a petition supporting his expulsion, whereas 239 signed a counter-petition protesting the government's treatment of him. The failure of the government to isolate him and mobilize opinion against him might explain his disappearance.

Source: Press releases of the International Buddhist Information Bureau, May 13, 28; party document discussed in April 18 press release; posted at the website of Que Me.


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