July 24, 2008

His Excellency Nguyên Minh Triêt
President, Socialist Republic of Vietnam
c/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to mourn the death of Venerable Thich Huyen Quang.

According to our information, Ven. Thich Huyen Quang, Buddhist leader, writer and dissident, died on July 5, 2008, at the age of 87 after a long illness. Thich Huyen Quang had spent most of the past 30 years in prison or under house arrest for his work in support of religious freedom, human rights, and political reform in Vietnam.

Ven. Thich Huyen Quang, leader of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) and author of books on Buddhism and Oriental philosophy, was also a respected religious scholar. In 1978, he was proposed by Nobel Peace laureates Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. Despite his detention under house arrest since 1982 for alleged “anti-government activities,” he continued his public appeals for religious freedom and freedom of speech. Beginning in 2003, Ven. Thich Huyen Quang was held incommunicado at Nguyen Thieu Monastery, Binh Dinh Province, where his funeral was held under tight security last week.

PEN American Center mourns the death of Venerable Thich Huyen Ouang during his house arrest and respectfully reminds authorities of their obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a signatory. We therefore call for the immediate and unconditional release of all writers currently detained in Vietnam.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Hannah Pakula              
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee   

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: His Excellency Nguyen Tam Chien
Ambassador of Vietnam to the United States
1233 20th Street NW, Suite 400
Washington, D.C. 20036
Fax: (202) 861-0917

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