Police in Vietnam accompanied by armed mob attacked a Buddhist monastery in a province in Central Highlands of Vietnam, smashed the monastery and evicted about 400 monks and nuns out of their homes.

Thich Nhat Hanh on his return to Vietnam
At 9am Sunday Sept. 27, hundreds of police men and pro-government armed thugs attacked a Buddhist monastery in Lam Dong province. The attack lasted for the whole day. The angry mob smashed windows and knocked down doors to drag out monks and nuns who were trying to hide inside their dormitories in the Bat Nha monastery.

“They beat us brutally, yelling at us cursive words. They torn up our clothes in order to humiliate us, smashing everything within their reach,” said Buddhist Monk Thich Phap Tu in an interview with Radio Free Asia on Sept. 28. “Also, police poured water into our computers and other devices to damage them,” he added.

“We tried to sit down to pray together ignoring what were happening. But they kicked and dragged each of us out to the courtyard, and forced us to stay there braving heavy cold rain,” he continued noting that having waited for hours, 150 monks and 230 nuns were herded onto buses and were transported to a location far away from their monastery. They were then ordered to return to their place of origin.

Police have since seized the monastery threatening extreme actions against those who dare to return.

The Buddhist monks and nuns, who were assaulted on Sunday, were followers of Thich Nhat Hanh, an exiled Vietnam-born monk living in southern France. The attack against his followers on Sunday highlights the true color of religious freedom in Vietnam and its policy of using religions for diplomatic gains.

Vietnam began the WTO accession process in 1995. On entering the final stage of accession, many attempts were made to cover up its notorious human rights record. In 2005, Vietnam authorities invited Thich Nhat Hanh’s followers to settle at the pagoda, a move that surprised many Vietnamese Buddhists and believers of other faiths.

In 1981, the Unified Buddhist Church (UBCV) was outlawed and the “patriotic” Buddhist Church of Vietnam was established. Many leaders of the underground UBCV, which has claimed the support of 80 percents of Vietnamese Buddhists, were imprisoned for years. While the UBCV was still being outlawed, the permission for an exiled monk to open a monastery was seen by many as a significant move towards religious freedom in Vietnam. Also, the return of Thich Nhat Hanh to his native land after 39 years of exile made headline in most state-owned newspapers.

The WTO General Council approved Viet Nam's accession package on 7 November 2006. Viet Nam became the WTO's 150th member on 11 January 2007. Things have since changed, slipping quickly back into the pre-WTO era.

The Vietnam's atheist government, which closely monitors religious affairs, has been trying to evict the monks from Bat Nha for several months. Thich Duc Nghi, a member of the official Buddhist Church of Vietnam, who himself invited Thich Nhat Hanh’s followers to settle at his pagoda, announced last year that he had changed his mind and wanted to kick the monks out of his venue.

Three months ago, an angry mob assaulted the monastery demanding all Thich Nhat Hanh’s followers to leave. Religious authorities had given Hanh's followers until Sept. 2 to leave the monastery but they had refused to go. Since then, they have lived without electricity and running water.

As of Tuesday, Sept. 29, religious police in Lam Dong are still hunting for Thich Nhat Hanh’s followers who are still wandering around the site.