Buddhist Youth leader Le Cong Cau (l), Venerable Thich Thanh Quang and Nun Thich Nu Dong Tam stage a protest outside Giac Minh Pagoda gates on August 17th 2012. The new year started out poorly in Vietnam as security police arrested Vietnamese human rights defender and head of the Buddhist Youth Movement (BYM) Le Cong Cau on the morning of January 1st at Phu Bai Airport near Hue after he boarded a plane bound for Ho Chi Minh City. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organization the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) expressed on Thursday their serious concern over his arrest and detention. According to the International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB), witnesses observed Le Cong Cau’s arrest at 10:15 Vietnam time.
He has not been provided with any explanation for his arrest or informed of any charges against him and has been informed by police that he may not leave his house or meet anyone.
Security police stated in their interrogation report that Le Cong Cau was a member of the UBCV, which is not recognized by the Vietnamese government, and had therefore made “illegal use” of his laptops and flash drives.
In March 2013, Le Cong Cau was interrogated intensively for three days by security police in Hue because he posted articles on the Internet calling for the legalization of the UBCV.
BYM, which has about 500,000 members in Vietnam, is an educational organization affiliated to UBCV.

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Le Cong Cau was traveling to Ho Chi Minh City to visit Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) leader and prominent dissident Thich Quang Do who is under de facto house arrest at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery. Buddhists in Vietnam are extremely concerned about the health and situation of the leader, who has been held under conditions of extreme isolation at the Monastery since the beginning of December. Le Cong Cau had boarded a plane bound for Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) when Security Police took him off the plane and detained him for questioning. Police also seized his two laptop computers, two flash drives and two mobile phones as well as various documents concerning the UBCV. On the night of January 1st, police placed Le Cong Cau under house arrest at his home in Hue. Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Vietnam is a state party, prohibits arbitrary arrest or detention and states that “anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him.” In addition, Article 18 of the ICCPR, to which Vietnam is also a state party, recognizes the right to freedom of religion. Police said that by advocating for the UBCV rather than the State-sponsored Vietnam Buddhist Church (VBC), he was “sowing divisions between religious followers”, an offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison under Article 87 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code.

Although the UBCV is banned by the communist authorities, BYM has a semi-official status because of its widespread social, humanitarian, and educational activities. According to VHCR, after Le Cong Cau’s arrest, security police took him to Truong An district police station in Hue and interrogated him for 13 hours. Le Cong Cau is deprived of any means of communication, prohibited from receiving visits and must be ready to report to the police at any time. Police also threatened to sentence him with up to 20 years in prison for “anti-State propaganda” (Article 88 of the Criminal Code).

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