Buddhist monks, attempting to meet, accuse Vietnam of harassment

Posted: Friday, September 26, 2003

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) The Vietnamese government has denied charges that police harassed and intimidated monks into foregoing a meeting called by leaders of a banned Buddhist group.

A Paris-based Buddhist support organization said Vietnamese police summoned dozens of monks from various cities this month, threatening them with reprisals if they attended a meeting called last week by the head of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam.

The Foreign Ministry called the charges ''fabricated information,'' and said ''we resolutely reject it.''

Vietnam outlawed the Unified Buddhist Church in 1981, when the communist government formed its own Buddhist organization. Authorities recognize only six religious groups and consider all others illegal.

Buddhist patriarch Thich Huyen Quang, 86, had called the three-day meeting in the coastal province of Binh Dinh to discuss reorganizing the church, said the Paris-based International Buddhist Information Bureau.

A handful of monks made their way to the meeting this week, but others were thwarted by police who surrounded the building, the bureau said.

International human rights groups have repeatedly accused Vietnam of harassing religious and political dissidents. The government insists that it only punishes lawbreakers.

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