Vietnam tomorrow will be made president of the UN Security Council.

On Monday, more than 300 Buddhist monks and nuns were forcibly evicted from Prajna Monastery in Bat Nha, six hours drive from Ho Chi Minh City. The monastery has been destroyed while uniformed police blocked all exits and it is known that plain clothes police were part of the mob that destroyed the temple.

Prajna Monastery followed Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings, the exiled Vietnamese Zen Master based in Plum Village in France. Thich Nhat Hanh was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King in the ’60s when he was in the US asking for the end of the war. Thich Nhat Hanh was invited back to Vietnam twice by the Vietnamese government, the last time in 2007 when he did a tour of Vietnam for Great Ceremonies of Mourning commemorating all that had suffered during the American/Vietnam War. His teachings say that fear and anger are the enemy, not mankind. In 2007, it seemed that Vietnamese government was opening up and encouraging Buddhism, the predominant religion in Vietnam.

Now in 2009 this action by the Vietnamese government destroys the optimism of removing Vietnam from the list of repressive regimes by the US just before APEC was held in Hanoi in 2006. Coincidentally, APEC occurred just before Thich Nhat Hanh’s last visit to Vietnam. The government that maintains his exile has withdrawn its opportunistic welcome of him once more. Yesterday, the Prajna monks and nuns, having fled to Bao Loc’s temple, have been placed under siege this time by uniformed police. Under the threat of violence, the abbot has been forced to surrender 30 of the youngest nuns and monks who have been arrested and taken to Ho Chi Minh City.

If the world does not condemn these actions in Vietnam, Thich Nhat Hanh will become like the Dalai Lama and Vietnam like Tibet. I call upon Australia and the UN to condemn Vietnam for its oppression and violations of the UN Human Rights Declaration.

These events were reported in the Associated Press and Le Monde.

Peter Fray

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