Vietnam’s Covert War Against OverseasBuddhists2010-01-25 | Scott Johnson | The Epoch Times

In Vietnamhundreds of monks undergo re-education to infiltrate overseas temples with theaim to destroy the Unified Buddhist Churchof Vietnam
Vietnamhas waged a brutal overt and covert war against its Buddhist population fordecades.

In 1981, they officially outlawed their country’s oldest andoriginal Buddhist Church, the UnifiedBuddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV).

The communists attacked the 2000-year-old tradition and created analternative state-controlled Buddhist Church.

Those who refused to submit allegiance to this new order wereimprisoned, tortured, and even murdered.

The current spiritual leader of the UBCV, Nobel Prize nominee theVenerable Thich Quang Do, has spent the last 26 years under house arrest in Vietnam.

His struggle began years ago when as a young monk he witnessed theexecution of his Buddhist teacher by the communists.

PERSECUTED: A Buddhist monk holds a desecrated statute at his temple in Marangaroo, Western Australia, January, 2009. He believes Hanoi was behind the attack. (Scott Johnson)

PERSECUTED: A Buddhist monk holds a desecrated statuteat his temple in Marangaroo, Western Australia, January, 2009. He believes Hanoiwas behind the attack. (Scott Johnson)

Viewed as antagoniststo communist ideology, Do and his fellow Buddhists are a target of persecutioninside, and now outside, Vietnam.

Just days after monks at a Buddhist temple in Western Australia denounced Hanoi’s policies of religious repression, Buddhist statutes at the temple were beheaded.The incident occurred in October and November 2009.

The first desecration occurred after the temple’s head monk, whois the UBCV’s Australian representative, attended a Buddhist conferencein Los Angeles,where they announced their determination to oppose Hanoi’s plan to eliminate them.

The second desecration occurred after this same monk sponsored adelegation of UBCV exiles to meet with the Australian government in ParliamentHouse, Canberra.The meeting was organized to advise the government of Hanoi’s religious persecution inpreparation for the Australia-Vietnam human rights dialogue to be held inDecember.

Thus, the beheadings were clearly viewed as a warning to the AustralianBuddhists. For Hanoi, the ramifications of Buddhists speaking out on humanrights abuses is geopolitical, for their authoritarian regime has come undergrowing international pressure to cease religious persecution.

In the United States,it was in 2004 that the State Department first designated Vietnam as a“Country of Particular Concern” (CPC), the official watch list ofnations that commit egregious religious persecution. CPC designation involvespotential economic sanctions, hence Hanoi’sdetermination to silence any critics.

Hanoiand Washingtonhowever, reached an agreement for reform in 2006, with the understanding that Vietnam wouldbe dropped from CPC designation.

Vietnamwas indeed removed from the CPC designation and yet the promised reforms nevercame.

In fact, Vietnamincreased persecution, of which Human Rights Watch accused the country of“launching one of the worst crackdowns on peaceful dissidents in 20years.”

Ever since, calls for Vietnamto be re-designated as a CPC, such as the U.S. Commission on InternationalFreedom, have gone unheeded.

Today, Hanoihas merely morphed its security forces into adopting more covert mechanisms ofreligious persecution.

These covert mechanisms involve expanding so-called “legal”churches while persecuting “illegal” churches that refuse to submitto communist control. Religious groups across Vietnam—Buddhists,Montagnard and Hmong Christians, Catholics, Hoa Hao, and Cai Dai sects, andother dissidents like democracy advocates, journalists, and bloggers—allface the same repressive measures.

Hanoi’sintention is a ‘divide and conquer’ policy that includesinfiltration of overseas dissident groups.

Hanoi’sSecret Policy Directives

Incredibly, evidence of Hanoi’spolicy of persecution comes from their written policies. The Paris-basedInternational Buddhist Information Bureau has uncovered secret policydirectives outlining Hanoi’sintention to attack overseas dissidents.
The overseas spokesman for the UBCV, Vo Van Ai even testified beforethe U.S. Congress on this fact. Speaking before the House Committee onInternational Relations on June 20, 2005, he quoted Hanoi’sexplicit orders directing Vietnam’ssecurity forces to “wipe out the An Quang Buddhist Church once and forall.”

The “An Quang Buddhist Church” is Hanoi’s term forthe UBCV and the secret directives, authored by the Public Security ScienceInstitute in Hanoi are entitled “On Religions and the Struggle AgainstActivities Exploiting Religion—Internal Document for Study andCirculation in the People’s Security Services.”

STANDING STRONG: Penelope Faulkner, spokesperson for Paris-based International Buddhist Information Bureau, speaks out against Vietnam’s persecution against Buddhism, Vietnam’s majority religion during a speaking tour in Australia, June 2009

STANDING STRONG: Penelope Faulkner, spokesperson for Paris-based International Buddhist Information Bureau, speaks out against Vietnam’s persecution against Buddhism, Vietnam’s majority religion during a speaking tour in Australia, June 2009

Penelope Faulkner, a long time activist with the International BuddhistInformation Bureau, reports the secret directive instructs party cadres andsecurity agents at every level to “oppose, repress, isolate, anddivide” UBCV leaders. She states, “These directives order thetraining of special agents to infiltrate the UBCV, not only to gatherintelligence and report on UBCV activities, but to create schisms and dissentwithin their ranks, thus undermining the UBCV from within.”

According to Faulkner these “special agents” have extendedthese activities overseas with Australiaset to become the test case for their strategy.

Australia— Test Case

Faulkner states that Hanoihas set up government “fronts” to undermine overseas religiousgroups and democracy activists and have sent hundreds of“state-sponsored” monks to Australia and the United States.

The main one now attacking the UBCV was formed at a conference in Sydney, Australiaon Jan. 1, 2009.This “front” goes under the name “Trans-continental Unified Buddhist Churchof Vietnam.”

Faulkner said the ploy of these fronts “is not to overtly promotecommunism, but to tell Buddhists they should not get mixed up in politics, juststick to praying and sending money to Vietnam, and not get involved inthe movement for religious freedom and human rights.”

Faulkner has no doubt that Hanoi is involved in intimidating overseasBuddhists and she quotes from the secret directive which orders Vietnameseauthorities to “take pre-emptive action to prevent Western countries frommaking human rights investigations” in Vietnam.

The directive states, “We urge the Politburo to coordinateactivities between the Vietnamese Communist Party’s departments ofpropaganda and mobilization, interior affairs, foreign affairs, religiousaffairs, and overseas Vietnamese to work together on this policy.”

One member of this “Transcontinental UBCV,” a Vietnamesemonk based in Sydney,was seen Nov. 26, 2009,at the Parliament House in Canberratalking to about a dozen high ranking Vietnamese security officers. It was thesame day the UBCV overseas delegation met with the Australian government.

A few days later the UBCV temple in Western Australia was desecrated.

Faulkner was among the UBCV delegation, and while she admits these securityofficers were likely attending the Australian Parliament for some diplomaticmatter, she has no doubt they notified their bosses in Hanoi of seeing them atParliament House.

She is also sure the desecration of the temple in Western Australia was no coincidence.

In January 2010 this reporter traveled to the Buddhist Templein Perth, Western Australia, and spoke to the monk in charge, VenerableThich Phuoc Nhon. He carried the head of one of the two beheaded Buddhas in hisarms and said Hanoihad long been trying to eliminate their church.

Nhon also said he received an anonymous envelope of gold and silver“funeral paper” in the mail in 2009. The paper is an ancientfuneral tradition, and he said there was only one explanation for this letter:“a death threat.”

Members of his church in Sydney and Melbourne have also receivedthreats over the telephone, he said.

Nhon said the statute would be repaired.

Scott Johnson is a lawyer,writer and human rights activist who has focused on issues in South East Asia.


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