HANOI (AFP) — A US-based human rights group Wednesday called on communist Vietnam not to interfere with the funeral of a leading Buddhist dissident monk who died last weekend after decades of internal exile.
Thich Huyen Quang, the patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), which has refused to come under communist state control and was outlawed in the early 1980s, died last Saturday aged 87.
“Members of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam should be allowed to organise and attend funeral services for their patriarch without government interference,” New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.
The government has announced that the state-sanctioned Buddhist church will organise the funeral, while also attacking other UBCV members as “extremist elements disguised as Buddhist monks” in the state media.
“The Vietnamese government is risking unnecessary confrontation with the patriarch’s followers by trying to control him in death as in life,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“Thich Huyen Quang gave up his liberty for 30 years in a quest for greater human rights and religious freedom in Vietnam,” he said.
“His followers should be allowed to pay their last respects without government interference, at a ceremony of their own choosing.”
UBCV followers have announced plans for a funeral on Friday at the Nguyen Thieu Monastery in central Binh Dinh province, with UBCV deputy Thich Quang Do, the likely successor, presiding over the ceremony.
“The government should let anyone who wants to attend Thich Huyen Quang’s funeral services to travel there freely,” Adams said. “Instead the government is trying to discourage Vietnamese from honouring Thich Huyen Quang’s life in local ceremonies.”