Profile

Tran Ngoc Suong

Current Status: At risk

Photo of Tran Ngoc Suong

Other Names: Trần Ngọc Sương

Date of Birth: 1956

Gender: M

Religion: Cao Dai

Ethnicity: Kinh

Occupation: Religious leader

Areas of Activism:

  • Anti-corruption
  • Religious freedom

Communities At Risk:

  • Followers of Cao Dai 1926, Nhon Sanh sect and Brotherhood of Cao Dai Association (Hội Thánh Anh Em)

Details - Background, History of Activism.

Tran Ngoc Suong currently lives in Go Cong Town, Tien Giang Province. He joined the original Cao Dai religion in 1974.

Profile photo: Tran Ngoc Suong addressing the ASEAN Conference on Religious Freedom. Source

After the end of the Vietnam War and the Communist take-over in 1975, Suong established another sect of Cao Dai 1926 named Nhon Sanh in order to preserve the practices and traditions of the original Cao Dai religion, fearing the intervention and nationalization of religions by the new government. The followers of Cao Dai 1926 and Nhon Sanh in particular remained in several temples in southwest Vietnam, including Long An and Tien Giang Provinces. 

Suong specifically says that he wants to stay outside of the new political landscape in Vietnam and respect the recognized sect of Cao Dai (hereinafter called Cao Dai Tay Ninh), as long as his sect, and the original practices of Cao Dai 1926, can be protected, and his religious freedom is respected by the authorities.  

The problem, however, is that Cao Dai Tay Ninh claims the totality of representation of the Cao Dai religion in Vietnam. With the support of the national government and local public security, Cao Dai Tay Ninh has forcefully expelled followers of other temples or even evicted them from Cao Dai temples across the country. 

October 28, 2019: barred from going abroad to attend a religious conference

Travel restriction
October 28 - November 1, 2019
Public security
(map)

  • freedom of movement
  • freedom of belief and religion
UN Special Rapporteurs

From October 28, 2019 to November 1, 2019, Tran Ngoc Suong was barred from going to Bangkok to attend an annual conference on religious freedom held by Boat People SOS. He tried every means, either flying or going by land. However, the Ministry of Public Security had already nullified his passport. 

Protesting the treatment of the Vietnamese government against religious leaders and freedom of religion (Report of two UN Special Rapporteurs on Religious Freedom and Human Rights, April 30, 2020), among other things, the Rapporteurs highlighted Suong’ case as a example of violation of freedom of religion.

March 10, 2020: arbitrary expulsion as a lay religious leader

  • Intimidation
  • Denial of religious affiliation
March 10, 2020
State-sanctioned religious institution
Go Cong Town (map)

freedom of belief and religion

On March 10, 2020, the Administrative Council of Cao Dai Tay Ninh issued a religious order ordering the expulsion of Tran Ngoc Suong from the Cao Dai religion. However, Tran Ngoc Suong has never been a member of Cao Dao Tay Ninh, and the legitimacy of the identity inheritance from Cao Dai 1926 to Cao Dai Tay Ninh is still debated 

Cao Dai is a decentralised religion that had many sects and branches before 1975. However, after 1975, with the support of the Communist government, Cao Dao 1997, or Cao Dai Tay Ninh, composed of public officials and members of Vietnam Fatherland Front, was established. It claims the total representation for all Cao Dai sects in Vietnam and requires these original sects to hand over the temples or join them.

Suong has long advocated freedom of religion and the peaceful operation of his sect of the Cao Dai. This has made him a target of harassment for a long time.

Profile last updated: 2020-09-26 14:39:26

Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter