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Thich Minh Tue, Buddhist Ascetic in Vietnam, Ends Travels after Follower’s Death

From vietnamnet.vn

California lawmaker Ta Duc Tri has urged the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to advocate for Vietnamese man Le Anh Tu, also known as Thich Minh Tue, who has recently end his Buddhist pilgrimage. For nearly a month, Tue’s journey was celebrated by locals along his path, reported by news agencies around the world, and live-streamed by social media influencers, making him a potent symbol of religion in Vietnam.

Tue garnered considerable public attention, drawing large crowds and causing traffic disruptions and safety concerns. On 3 June, the Government Committee for Religious Affairs announced that Tue had voluntarily ceased his alms rounds following incidents of heat stroke, exhaustion, and fatalities among his followers.

After a week-long retreat, Tue appeared on VTV1’s primetime news on 8 June, expressing his well-being and commitment to Buddhist teachings. Due to concerns over traffic disruptions, he announced his decision to halt his activities. This development led to a surge in viewership and online discussions, with “VTV1 Thich Minh Tue” trending on Google Vietnam for two consecutive days.

On 9 June, VTV1 continued its coverage with another interview featuring Tue in a serene setting, discussing his future. The interviews sparked debates on social media, with some praising VTV for its insights and others questioning the authenticity of the coverage. VTV reporter Lien Lien clarified the authenticity of the interviews, urging for evidence to support claims of misinformation.

While debates continued, social media platforms circulated a video of Tue receiving his Citizen Identification Card on 8 June. Earlier, Tue, the mendicant figure at the center of the “begging monk” social media craze, voluntarily stopped his latest walk following public and traffic disturbances caused by his followers.

From 2017 to 2023, Tue practiced Buddhism by walking and begging for alms across Vietnam without issue. In 2024, he started his fourth walk from Khanh Hoa Province to the northern border, but this time large crowds, including social media followers live-streaming his journey, caused periods of disorder and traffic disturbances.

On 30 May, a follower named Luong Thanh Son died from heatstroke, multi-organ failure, and gastrointestinal bleeding. On 2 June, two women following Tue also suffered from heatstroke and exhaustion but were hospitalized in time for treatment.

From rfa.org

Authorities emphasized the government’s policy of respecting freedom of belief and religion within the context of public safety and social stability. The Vietnam Buddhist Sangha confirmed that Tue is not a registered monk, and Tue himself stated he is a layperson following Buddha’s teachings.

The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), thanked Tue for, “bringing a breath of fresh air into a Vietnamese society that has deteriorated in morality and lost faith in Buddhism.” They urged the Vietnamese government to respect his, “choice of self-cultivation without interference” by allowing him to resume his pilgrimage. (Radio Free Asia)

Tue has expressed his wish to resume his travels when he would draw fewer crowds. At present, his case has drawn the attention of numerous human rights groups and advocates for freedom of religion. Phil Robertson, former deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) and current leader of Asia Human Rights and Labor, suggested that Tue didn’t voluntarily halt his pilgrimage and that his case, “reveals the inherent lack of trust of the Vietnamese Communist Party and the government in the Vietnamese people.” (Asia News)

* Thich Minh Tue, Wandering Buddhist Ascetic in Vietnam, Gains a Following (BDG)

See more

California lawmaker calls for pressure on Vietnam over detention of unofficial monk (Radio Free Asia)
VTV’s coverage of Thich Minh Tue raises public interest and controversy (Vietnamnet Global)
Fate of ‘wandering monk’ Thich Minh Tue unknown after Hanoi intervention (PIME Asia News)

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