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Vietnam: Update to VNM36745.E of 23 May 2001 and VNM37830.E of 28 September 2001 on the treatment of Hoa Hao members, particularly that of rank-and-file members (2002 to August 2004)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 23 August 2004
Citation / Document Symbol VNM42853.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Vietnam: Update to VNM36745.E of 23 May 2001 and VNM37830.E of 28 September 2001 on the treatment of Hoa Hao members, particularly that of rank-and-file members (2002 to August 2004), 23 August 2004, VNM42853.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/42df61c92.html [accessed 21 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Several sources reported that the Hoa Hao sect continues to encounter difficulties with the authorities, including detention of some of its members (AI 2003; Country Reports 2003 25 Feb. 2004, Sect. 2c; HWR 2003; USCIRF May 2004). Although the government officially recognized the Hoa Hao, there are leaders and followers from Hoa Hao sects formed prior to 1975 that reject the official organization (International Religious Freedom Report 2003 18 Dec. 2003). The government outlaws members of unregistered Hoa Hao churches and "they sometimes experience harassment as a result" (ibid.).

Treatment of rank-and-file Hoa Hao members

In January 2002, Bui Van Hue, a Hoa Hao member, was sentenced to three years in jail by a provincial court in An Giang for allegedly violating his detention order and for leaving the country without authorization (HRW 2003). On 28 March 2002, two other members, Truong Van Thuc and Nguyen Chau Lang, were among a total of eight supporters who were detained for organizing a commemorative event for a Hoa Hao leader; while the six others were released after the arrest, Thuc and Lang were sentenced to three years in jail (International Religious Freedom Report 2003 18 Dec. 2003). Thuc was released in September 2002, but Lang was still imprisoned as of the end of the report period for the International Religious Freedom Report 2003 (ibid.). In April 2002, Le Minh Triet, a Hoa Hao monk, was handed down an additional two-year administrative detention order after serving eight years in jail (HRW 2003). In November 2002, Hoa Hao followers were allegedly "beaten and briefly detained" after police ordered them to remove a gate from one of their temples (ibid.).

In January 2003, a Vietnamese Hoa Hao monk, Nui Ta-Len, established a religious practice in Kampot province, Cambodia, after he and other believers "escaped the crackdown by the Vietnamese authorities in An Giang (Moat Chruk) province last year...which led some monks to burn themselves" (Phnom Penh Samleng Yuveakchon Khmer 25 Jan. 2003). The incident resulted in the arrest of sect leader, Nguyen Van Liem, and in the fleeing of other sect followers to Cambodia (ibid.). The International Religious Freedom Report 2003 states that, as of June 2003, many Hoa Hao "lay persons" were detained, including Bui Van Hue, Nguyen Chau Lang, Ha Hai, Ho Van Trong, and Truong Van Duc (18 Dec. 2003). On 1 July 2003, Nguyen Van Lia was sentenced to three-years imprisonment for organizing a ceremony commemorating Huynh Phu So, a Hao Hoa prophet (USCIRF 1 Oct. 2003).

In its May 2004 annual report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) reported that roughly 18 members of the Hoa Hao sect were subjected to some form of detention in Vietnam.

Treatment of Hoa Hao leadership

Several 2003 sources reported the detention of Hoa Hao leader, Le Quang Liem, (AFP 19 Aug. 2002; HRW 2003; International Religious Freedom Report 2003 18 Dec. 2003), as well as Nguyen Van Dien, another leader of the sect (ibid.; Phnom Penh Samleg Yuveakchon Khmer 25 Jan. 2003). According to the Vietnamese government, Le Quang Liem was detained, not for his religious activities, but for his "criminal offences" (BBC 8 Nov. 2002). Based on a Radio Free Asia report, AFP stated on 19 March 2003 that Liem was ordered by the authorities to serve an additional two-year period under house arrest.

Government policy on religion

AP reported on 13 July 2004 that the Vietnamese government re-articulated its stance on illegal religious activity in a national decree. The decree states that:

Citizens are banned from using religious freedom to undermine national independence and unification, incite violence or cause division among people. It also says religious activities that threaten national security, social order or unity will be prohibited (AP 13 July 2004).

The decree was signed into law by the Vietnamese National Assembly on 18 June 2004 and will become effective on 15 November 2004 (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Agence France Presse (AFP). 19 March 2003. "Vietnam Arrests Dissident Rights Advocate: Radio Free Asia." (Dialog)

Amnesty International (AI). 2003. Annual Report 2003. [Accessed 19 Aug. 2004]
_____. 19 Aug. 2002. "Vietnam Denies Knowledge of Petition from Dissident." (Dialog)

Associated Press (AP). 13 July 2004. "Vietnam Adopts National Decree to Govern Religious Activities. [Accessed 18 Aug. 2004]

BBC. 8 November 2002. "Vietnamese Official Denounces US Report on Religious Freedom in Vietnam. (Dialog)

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2003. 25 February 2004. United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 18 Aug. 2004]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 2003. Human Rights Watch World Report 2003. [Accessed 18 Aug. 2004]

International Religious Freedom Report 2003. 18 December 2003. "Vietnam." United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 18 Aug. 2004]

Phnom Penh Samleng Yuveakchon Khmer [in Cambodian]. 25 January 2003. "'Outlawed' Vietnamese Hoa Hao Sect Said Setting Up Practice in Cambodia's Kampot." (FBIS-EAS-2003-0210 12 Feb. 2003)

United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). May 2004. Annual Report. [Accessed 19 Aug. 2004]
_____. 1 October 2003. Nina Shea. "Testimony before the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam A People Silenced: The Vietnamese Government's Assault on the Media and Access to Information." [Accessed 19 Aug. 2004]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Forum 18, Freedom House, Hoa Hao Buddhism, Institute on Religion and Democracy, International Coalition for Religious Freedom, Overseas Hoa Hao Buddhist Association, Vietnam Human Rights Network.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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