PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE CASE REPORT
Mr. Bui van Trung, Hoa Hao Buddhist
Four years prison sentence for exercising the Right to Freedom of Religion
Mr. Bùi VănTrung
Mr.Bùi VănTrung, , born in 1964, resided in Phuoc Binh hamlet, Phuoc Hung commune, An Phu district, An Giang province,Vietnam
Mr. Trung was arrested Oct. 30th, 2012 and on Jan.23th, 2013 was sentenced to four years of imprisonment for resisting persons in the performance of their official duties“ and “causing public disorder” according to Article 245 of the Criminal Code of Vietnam (VCC) by the court of first instance in An Phu district.
Mr. Trung is currently jailed in Xuan Loc prison, Dong Nai province.
Reason of arrest.
Mr. Bui van Trung is a teacher and a Hoa Hao buddhist, religiously active and very engaged in civic life, devoting his time for promoting social morality. Being the youngest son, he was in charge of the cult of the ancestors. On the occasions of the death anniversaries in his family, he used to hold lectures on Hoa Hao buddhist teachings for the guests. This habit led to the establishment of the Prayer Hall Ut Trung“ in 2005.
A prayer hall“ is a place where people sharing the same wish meet regularly to worship and study religious teachings, with or without the presence of a religious ordained person. It can be in monasteries, temples or simply in private homes.
After 1975, all the establishments for Hoa Hao religious activities such as pagodas, meeting halls and lecture halls were seized by the government to be assigned to the State-sponsored Hoa Hao Buddhist Church or to be torn down, or left vacant till they collapsed with time. The needs of the believers to practice the religion freely like in the ealiest times (1939) gave rise to some prayer halls in private homes of a layman or a religious ordained person.
In the case of Mr. Bui Van Trung, from the moment he objected to joining the state-sponsored Hoa Hao Buddhist Church, the religious activities of Prayer Hall Ut Trung began getting into troubles. The local government proceeded according to a three-staged planning to first create difficulties, than prevent activities and finally arrest Mr Trung.
Phase 1: Defamation, threats and destruction.
1, The police spread rumors about Mr Trung so called "fight" against the religious freedom regulations of the state and warned people from coming to his home to attend ceremonies and listen to religious teachings, to avoid being "arrested“ by mistake.
2, Criminal and traffic police forces were used to block people from attending prayer sessions and listening to religious teachings, for the reason Mr Trung was an evil person, fighting against the religious policy of the state and would be soon arrested. People who disobeyed would have their vehicles confiscated and be themselves arrested.
On Nov 19th, 2007, during a death anniversary celebration at Mr. BuiVan Trung´s home, the police force blocked and chased the visitors, while state-sponsored Hoa Hao Church personnel pointed loudspeakers from the street to impede the listening of the religious lectures.
In the evening of Aug.21th, 2011,on the occasion of another death anniversary celebration at Mr Trung’s home, two young men came and stopped their motobicycle at the gate, the one sitting behind quickly got off and hurled three bags of putrid fish wastes into the prayer hall where the worshipers were taking a rest.
Phase 2: Cutting power.
On Apr.12th, 2012 the police surrounded the Prayer Hall Ut Trung to disperse and deter those who attended the death anniversary celebration of Mr. Trung´s mother. Two Hoa Hao buddhist, Mr. Truong Kim Long and Mr. To Van Manh were beaten by the police and bled from head injuries. The Police together with a group of undefined persons threw rods, soil blocks and stones in the house where Mr. Bui Van Trung was reading religious texts, damaging the tole roof and breaking the frame of Master Huynh Phu So sacred picture. As the Hoa Hao buddhists were determined to keep the front door shut, the police ordered the power company to cut electricity in order to screw up the celebration. Mr Tham, son of Mr Trung, trying to prevent the power station employee to climb a ladder to disrupt the power was caught by the police and dragged away. Even with no electricity the Hoa Hao buddhists proceeded with the ceremony as planned.
Since that time, though facing a lot of difficulties due to the lack of electricity, Mr Trung did not give up the death anniversary celebrations or the religious activities of the Prayer Hall Ut Trung. Finally in order for the family to go on earning their living by fabricating aluminium cabinets and cultivating soya sprouts, Mr.Trung had to bear the costs of a private emergency generator.
At one time, when Mr. Bui Van Trung wanted to repair and extend the prayer hall, the police banned and prevented the boats from bringing the sand needed for the construction. Mr.Trung had to rely on the help of his neighbours to have the sand stocked in their court yards, waiting for Mr Trung and his children to come and pick up at night time.
The Phuoc Hung police also summoned Mr. Trung to dismantle the part of his house used as prayer hall but he did not agree to implement the unreasonable request. The authorities then stopped by themselves their demand, but revealed with the arrest of many persons their main purpose which was to prevent religious activities of the whole family.
Phase 3: Detention.
As the activities of the prayer hall continued, priester Bui Van Tham, son of Mr Trung, was arrested on July26, 2012 when all by himself and on his way to deliver sale goods. Only after half a month search could his family find out his detention place. (see the case report of the prisoner of conscience Bui Van Tham)
On Oct. 30, 2012, Mr. Trung himself was arrested when on his way to perform religious activities in the area of Cho Moi District, An Giang Province, six months after the crack down and power cuts at Prayer Hall Ut Trung, the incident An Giang province police used to prosecute him in court.
On Jan. 23, 2013, in spite of his objections to all the allegations , Mr. Trung was sentenced by the An Phu district Court of First Instance to 4 years in prison, for “resisting persons in performance of their official duties” and" causing public disorder" according to Article 245 of the Vietnamese Penal Code. Mr. Trung is currently serving his prison sentence in Xuan Loc prison, Dong Nai province.
At his entering Xuan Loc prison, the prison warden tried to force Mr.Trung into pleading guilty to his charge. The former only gave up as Mr.Trung started a hunger strike to protest.
Reviews and recommendations.
Religious activities are legal in a country having formal national laws protecting religious freedom. Commemorating death anniversaries means to follow customs and traditions of thousands years ago and reading religious teachings is making substantial contributions to the morality of the society. Government authorities preventing, sabotaging and forbidding religious lectures as well as persecuting, imprisoning the citizens, commit violation of the fundamental human rights.
Just because of their activities to promote religious freedom Mr. Bui Van Trung and two of his family members were imprisoned: his son Bui Van Tham and later, on Feb.11, 2014 his son in law Nguyen Van Minh.
By arresting and convicting Bui Van Trung, the Vietnamese authorities had violated the right to freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration, the right to personal security, to freedom from torture and degrading treatments, the right for a fair trial asstated in the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant in Civiland Political Rights, and in United NationsConvention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
On Oct. 30th, 2016 Mr. Nguyen Van Trung left from prison.