Banned Vietnamese monk's funeral held without incident

Hanoi - The funeral of a banned monk in Vietnam was held without any government interferences on Friday, according to a spokesman for the church.

"The fact that Vietnam did not interfere in the funeral is a victory for the international human rights community," said Vo Van Ai, a spokesman for the United Buddhist Church of Vietnam.

The UBCV is not recognised by the Vietnamese government for refusing to accept government control over its affairs.

Thich Huyen Quang, the leader of the banned UBCV until his death last weekend, had spent much of his life in exile and under house arrest. He was last arrested in 2003 after he and his deputy Thich Quang Do attempted to hold a nationwide congress of the sect's monks.

The funeral ceremony on Friday was led by Do, his likely successor, after an alert was issued by Human Rights Watch on Wednesday to allow the UBCV to lead the funeral without interference.

"You sacrificed your own freedom in order to save our people and our faith," said Do at the funeral, according to the church's spokesman. "In return, you reaped nothing but hardships, humiliation and detention."

Leading up to Quang's death, the state-run news agency had reported that, "a number of extremists are said to be devising a plot to use the failing health of a senior Buddhist monk to popularise their illegal organisation."

At a press conference a day before the funeral, government spokesman Le Dung insisted that there was no such church as the UBCV in Vietnam, but said that Quang's friends and family, as well as the founders of the Nguyen Thieu Monastery where the funeral was held, would be organising the funeral.

When asked whether the government would allow Do to attend, Dung said that as a Vietnamese citizen he was entitled.

"I must oppose the accusations of the Human Rights Watch," said Dung on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "The interference of the Vietnamese government into the funeral of Thich Huyen Quang is a total fabrication."

Quang died at the Nguyen Thieu Monastery on July 5. He was 87. (dpa)

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