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Vietnamese Human Rights Defender Breaks Out of House Arrest to Address Protesting Farmers & Peasants

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Thich Quang Do, Deputy Leader of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), broke out of house arrest and addressed farmers and peasants protesting in front of the National Assembly office in Ho Chi Minh City.
The Deputy Leader of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), Mr. Thich Quang Do, broke from house arrest on 18 July 2007 and visited peasants and farmers who were gathered in front of the National Assembly Office in Ho Chi Minh City. The peasants and farmers were protesting corruption within the government of Vietnam, appropriation of land by the state and inadequate compensation.

On 18 July 2007, during the protest of farmers and peasants, Mr. Thich Quang Do spoke publicly for the first time after more than two decades of imprisonment and house arrest. During the protest, Mr. Thich Quang Do expressed his solidarity with the protesters. He urged them to continue their legitimate protests, but said that their grievances could not be settled under the one-party Communist rule. Mr. Thich Quang Do told the crowd, “One single party cannot possibly represent more than 80 million Vietnamese people. We must have a multi-party system that gives the people wide representation. To solve all these problems and injustices, we must work together for pluralism, democracy, and human rights. Freedom of expression is especially important, for without this freedom, how can the people express their grievances and express their opinions to their rulers?”

The next day, on 19 June 2007, the Vietnamese authorities, fearing the fact that the crowd was getting bigger, decided to disperse the demonstrators by putting the peasants and farmers into buses and sending them back to their provinces. There are allegations of a violent dispersal by the police, but these have yet to be confirmed. Meanwhile, Mr. Thich Quang Do has been sent back to serve his house arrest term under strict security.

Mr. Thich Quang Do is viewed to be an intellectual leader and a defender of human rights in Vietnam. Through the years, he has continuously challenged Vietnamese authorities to engage in dialogue on democratic reforms, pluralism, freedom of religion, human rights, and national reconciliation. He is considered to be a strong force in the movement for democracy in the country. He was initially arrested on 25 February 1982, after the Vietnamese government created its own Buddhist Church of Vietnam and attempted to incorporate the UBCV into its structure. This attempt, however, was fiercely opposed by Mr. Thich Quang Do and the other leaders of the UBCV.  The government thereafter banned the UBCV and arrested Mr. Thich Quang Do and another UBCV leader, Mr. Thich Huyen Quang.  Years later, on 15 August 1995, Mr. Thich Quang Do and five other monks and laity were tried by the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City and convicted of “sabotaging government policies and damaging the interests of the state.” The evidence used by prosecutors against Mr. Thich Quang Do and his fellow defendants was their attempt to bring food to flood victims and letters written by Mr. Thich Huyen Quang, patriarch of the UBCV, who was under house arrest at that time. Mr. Thich Quang Do was sentenced to five years imprisonment and another five years’ of house arrest. On 28 August 1998, Mr. Thich Quang Do was granted amnesty by the government, but he was still obliged to serve his house arrest term.