Y Dan paid homage to his Patriach Thich Quang Do in June/2016
at Thanh Minh Monastery where he has been permanently detained
Most Venerable Thich Quang Do, The Fifth Patriarch of The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam has been detained in Thanh Minh Monastery with permanent control and surveillance of the secret services since his release in 1998 after he had spent eight years in prison for activities calling for religious freedom and then continuing his activities to restore the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV). UBCV is a branch of Buddhist Church formed in 1963 but banned for its refusal to the union with The Buddhist Church of Vietnam installed by the government of Vietnam in 1981.
Very admiring his courage and leadership, just one day prior to my flight back to Canada on a 11 day trip back to Vietnam in June 2016, I decided to pay a visit to Thanh Minh Monastery at 90 Tran Huy Lieu street, Saigon, to visit his Patriarch. The purpose of my visit was to find how his health and living condition was during his detainment.
I arrived there by a taxi cab around noon time in an extreme hot and humid day but the ironed gate was locked. The guards in uniform told me to come back after 2PM when the Monastery was open again. I came across the street to a restaurant nearby for lunch and waited there until the time to come. As I came back, there were several guys, some dressed in civilian clothes, some in uniform, and one in dark brown monk robe introduced himself as disciple of his Patriarch, all sitting inside the checkpoint hut. I knew they were all government secret agents including his disciple, guarding there 24/7 to monitor visitors and control closely his Patriarch’s daily activities. One of them after finished making a phone call on his cell asked me to wait near another solid ironed gate inside. I noticed it was locked with a very heavy and bulky one in the front of the staircase leading to the second floor where his Patriarch ‘s living quarter is.
Locked ironed gate in front of staircase leading to second floor where his Patriarch ‘s living quarter is
Closed fenced room with a chair for his Patriarch to sit mediation
His living area is closed fenced with no emergency exit or fire escape
In an approximation of 15-20 minutes, an old lady in late of sixty years old, slowly came down to the gate with a long heavy chain with many keys. It took her at least several minutes to find a right key for the lock. She was unlocking the gate in a very cautious gesture. As we approached to the second floor, she asked me to wait in a small room with couple wooden chairs and benches then dashed away.
Appeared at the door then saluted to me in a very humble and polite manner was his Patriarch, the person I ever dreamed to have an opportunity to see in person, a very well known symbol among our Vietnamese Buddhist community as a pine root standing still and upright against fierce wind . He used to look very healthy, active, alert person before his imprisonment. But over only few years enduring hash condition and poor treatment in prisons, his health obviously became deteriorated very quickly. At the age of 87 years old then, he looked very skinny, frail in a monk robe made with mosquito net like cheap cloth.
Answering to my first question about his being, he said that he was not allowed to preach Dharma or conduct ceremonies in big traditional Buddhist events. He was not allowed to step outside of Thanh Minh Monastery unless he had to go to the doctor office when he was always accompanied by secret agents on government vehicles. He had no phone, no internet, no newspapers/magazines, no radio and no television. His diabetes was very severe and received no or very limited help from other Buddhist followers. His living space on the second floor was isolated from the outside world with barbed wires, ironed fences, ironed gates, secured locks and heavy security forces. There were no safety means such as emergency escape to protect his life in the event of a hazardous fire or accident. He added he could only still survive until now simply thanks to the Buddha’s blessing, nothing else. I asked if any government of other countries or The United Nations intervened to help him, he simply smiled sarcastically: “They all were aware of us having no freedom of religion in Vietnam and myself being detained permanently. Some of them came to visit us here sometimes but have not done enough to put pressure upon this government to force them to improve it or abide by the laws in human rights which they signed with the United Nations and other international organizations. Recently, it was even getting worse. Perhaps they did not comprehend how cunning and trickery this government was. Other countries and The United Nations were very easily deceived upon the false reports from Vietnam”.
I shed tears in my eyes learning his condition was even much worse than I could have imagined. I left Thanh Minh Monastery in a deeply sinking heart and promised myself to share this story to the world. Hopefully, The United Nations and government of foreign countries would pay more attention to his lengthy detainment and demand his immediate unconditional release soon to his freedom from Vietnamese communist regime.