Vietnam: Vietnamese Buddhist dissident nominated for 2012 Nobel Peace Prize

world | Feb 09, 2012 | By Asia News

Ho Chi Minh City - The venerable Thich Quảng Độ, patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (Cubv), is among those nominated for the 2012Nobel Peace Prize, with cross-party support of U.S. and European parliamentarians. The Vietnam Committee for Human Rights confirmed the nomination, after February 1 last, the deadline for submission and the winner will be announced, as usual, in mid-October. Even today the 83 year-old monk and human rights activist is living under house arrest in the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Ho Chi Minh City. In recent months, during anti-Beijing riots over disputes in the South China Sea, he sent a letter to the Secretary General of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Nguyen Phu Trong, openly defying the regime. The only way to escape the clutches of China, he suggested in the letter, is "to begin a peaceful transition to democracy, so that our country can breathe through the nostrils of 90 million people that make up Vietnam."

Since the 1960s Thich Quảng Độ has been a board member of the Buddhist Church of Vietnam, for his opposition to the communist regime, he was imprisoned several times and even now is serving a sentence under house arrest for having launched, the famous "Appeal for Democracy in Vietnam” in 2001. Since the fall of Saigon and the takeover of North Vietnam, the monk has led protests and demonstrations in defense of human rights and religious freedom in the country. Branded as an "obstacle" to the work of the government, he was first arrested in 1977, subjected to torture in prison and put on trial on charges of "disturbing the peace" and "spreading false information".

Acquitted and released, he was again arrested in February 1982 because he belonged to a movement in the meantime declared "illegal" by the communist regime. After ten years of exile, in 1992 he returned to Ho Chi Minh City where, three years later, he was again arrested for the alleged persecution of the Buddhist Church and its faithful. In January 2008 the magazine A Different View included him the list of 15 "Champions of World Democracy", alongside personalities including Nelson Mandela level, Lech Walesa, Corazon Aquino and Aung San Suu Kyi.

Commenting on Thich Quảng Độ’s nominations for the Nobel Peace, U.S. Democratic lawmaker Loretta Sanchez recalled "the honor" of her "personal encounter" with the monk and his "dedication" to the cause of democracy in Vietnam. Former French Minister of Education Françoise Hostalier instead emphasized his award from the Norwegian Rafto foundation in 2006 - in a situation similar to that of Burmese Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, - he could not claim it because he was under house arrest and "not authorized" to travel by the authorities.

The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), not recognized by the government, was the main Buddhist organization in the southern and central Vietnam until 1975, when the government took over direct administration of all its property and institutions. In 1981, following its refusal to submit to the Communist Party, the government disbanded and replaced it with the Buddhist Church of Vietnam, which is effectively controlled by the state, but the UBCV has never recognized this authority and has not stopped its religious activity. Since the 1990s, many monks have been arrested, while the "Supreme Patriarch" Thich Huyen Quang - who died in July 2008 - was often threatened for his opposition to the government and spent long periods under house arrest at his pagoda.



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