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Bat Nha: Facts over speculations

by Visakha Kawasaki, Kandy, Sri Lanka, The Buddhist Channel, Oct 16, 2009

Nobody wants to be thought naive. I certainly do prefer facts to speculation, expecially those that tend to blame the victims.

According to background information provided by the BBC, Vietnamese service, (“Religious tension mounts in Vietnam” by Nguyen Giang, Sept 30, 2009) the Vietnamese government responded to pressure from the US and EU to grant people greater religious freedom.

One proof of that was their allowing Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh to return after almost 40 years in exile. Once Vietnam joined the WTO in 2007 and was taken off the US State Department religion blacklist, however, there was no longer any good reason to continue the diplomatic charm offensive, especially since both Buddhists and Catholics are making their voices heard for greater tolerance and human rights and their calls might seem to threaten the Communist party’s monopoly on power.

Independent religious leaders can be troublesome! Eighty-year-old Thich Quang Do, the dissident monk who leads the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), is urging a Vietnamese boycott of Chinese goods, from the monastery in Ho Chi Minh City, where he has been under intermittent house arrest for over two decades. Do is calling for protests against the environmental dangers posed by Chinese-run bauxite mines in Vietnam's central highlands and the general health risks posed by cheap, low-quality goods being imported from China.

Again, according to the BBC Vietnamese service, some observers argue that Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh’s followers felt the government’s displeasure after he urged authorities to relinquish their tight control of religion and called for the disbanding of the government’s “religious police.”

The same article also cites Vietnamese Catholics’ problems, saying that they have been embroiled in a two-year dispute with the government, holding mass demonstrations to demand that the authorities return land they say belongs to the Church.
There have been confrontations between demonstrators and security forces and some Catholic activists have been jailed, but, as in the case of the followers of Thich Nhat Hanh, the government media have downplayed growing tensions, which have been actively covered by the International Catholic media.

The BBC report ends by nothing that the next Communist Party Congress is scheduled just over a year from now, and that might well be “why the old ideological instinct to exercise control might have resurfaced.”

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