Source: San Diego Union-Tribune
Wire Service: AP
Followers of a famous Buddhist teacher plan to seek temporary asylum in France after months of pressure from Vietnam's communist authorities to leave pagodas in the country's south.
Some 400 disciples of Thich Nhat Hanh, who has popularized Buddhism in the West and sold millions of books worldwide, were forcibly evicted from the Bat Nha monastery in Lam Dong province in late September. Since then, nearly 200 have taken refuge at the nearby Phuoc Hue pagoda, but they have been ordered to leave by Dec. 31.
The standoff came to a head last week when a crowd of about 100 people, including undercover police, invaded Phuoc Hue and demanded that the abbot kick the disciples out.
"We can no longer withstand the government's intense pressure to disperse," senior monk Thich Trung Hai wrote in a letter to French President Nicolas Sarkozy posted on a Web site operated by followers of Thich Nhat Hanh on Thursday. "We must turn to you to ask for temporary asylum in France so that we can remain together."