Friday, 18 December 2009

Vietnamese Buddhists seek asylum in France

Hundreds of Vietnamese followers of Thich Nhat Hanh have called on the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, to grant them temporary asylum, a week after they were attacked by vigilantes allegedly hired by the Vietnamese authorities.

Mob pressure last week forced the head of Phuoc Hue pagoda in central Vietnam to promise that devotees of the French-based Zen monk would leave by December 31, the abbot said.

About 380 young monks and nuns were forced to flee Bat Nha monastery in central Lam Dong province at the end of September after the authorities reacted angrily to a call by their exiled spiritual leader, Thich Nhat Hanh (who was nominated for the Noble Peace Prize by Martin Luther King), to end religious intolerance and disband the country's notorious A41 religious police.

Supporters say that several monks were beaten and four were sexually assaulted, while two others were held under house arrest without charge.

France "is following this matter with the greatest attention" in close liaison with European Union partners, French foreign affairs ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said on Thursday.

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