Profile

Le Tung Van

Current Status: Sentenced to prison

Photo of Le Tung Van

Other Names: Lê Tùng Vân

Date of Birth: 1932

Gender: M

Religion: Buddhist

Ethnicity: Kinh

Occupation: Religious leader

Areas of Activism:

  • Religious freedom

Communities At Risk:

August 2022:

Le Tung Van, the 90-year-old head monk at Bong Lai Temple, filed an appeal against his five year sentence for “abuse of democratic freedoms.” 

July 2022:

On July 21, Le Tung Van was sentenced to five years in prison by a court in Duc Hoa District, Long An Province.

Six Bong Lai Temple members – allegedly forced to confess under coercion – were sentenced to a total of more than  23 years in prison for “abuse of democratic freedom." After the trial, another temple member was charged. Le Thu Van, 67, is going through her last-stage cancer treatment and is not expected to survive. Nonetheless, a warrant was issued for her arrest. The group’s lawyers helped bring the severely ill Thu Van to court and got permission to bring her back to the hospital.

The lawyers also were able to post bail for head monk, Le Tung Van, something never seen before with political prisoners. Le Tung Van was sued by the monk Thich Nhat Tu from the state-controlled Buddhist Church of Vietnam for “defamation” and “sacrilege.” Nhat Tu did not show up at the trial. Le Tung Van testified that he never belonged to the Buddhist Church of Vietnam and thus argued that its rules do not apply to his temple. Le Tung Van said further that his freedom of faith and religion were being violated. The monk’s lawyers announced that their client has appealed the verdict and will countersue.

Details - Background, History of Activism.

Le Tung Van is the headmaster of the Tinh That Bong Lai Buddhist monastery, also called Thien Am Ben Bo Vu Tru. He used to be the director of the Thanh Duc orphanage and nursing home, which was dissolved in 2007.

Profile photo source: Radio Free Asia

Le Tung Van is not politically active. However, his unorthodox approach to practicing Zen Buddhism and his take on freedom of religion have generated hatred and disapproval from the authorities.

Arrested January 4, 2022. Sentenced to 5 years in prison under Art. 331 (2015 Code). Expected Release is January 4, 2027.

January 4, 2022
  • Art. 331 (2015 Code)
Long An province public security, Long An province
Lap Thanh town, Hoa Khanh Tay ward, Duc Hoa district (map)
July 21, 2022
The People’s Court of Duc Hoa district, Long An province
  • Trinh Vinh Phuc
  • Dao Kim Lan
  • Ngo Thi Hoang Anh
  • Dang Dinh Manh
  • Nguyen Van Mieng
5 years in prison
January 4, 2027
  • freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention
  • liberty and security of the person
  • fair trial
  • freedom of belief and religion

On November 5, 2021, Nguyen Tien Trong, the Deputy Head of the Vietnam Government Committee for Religious Affairs (GCRA), in a regular conference press of the Internal Affairs, said there were signs that people at the Tinh That Bong Lai took advantage of religion to further their own interests. 

On January 4, 2022, Tinh That Bong Lai was searched, and 14 people of the monastery were summoned for further investigation, among them Le Tung Van and his three disciples Le Thanh Hoan Nguyen (D.O.B 1990,) Le Thanh Nhat Nguyen (D.O.B 1991,) and Le Thanh Trung Duong (D.O.B 1995). The other people were released after the investigation, while Van is in pre-trial detention at home and banned from leaving the residential place, and the three disciples have been arrested. According to State media, at the time the search took place, there were eight “orphans" living at the monastery, six of whom were with their mothers.

On January 7, 2022, State media officially announced that Le Tung Van and his three disciples were charged under Article 331 of the 2015 Criminal Code for “abusing democratic freedoms.” To be more specific, the case was brought to light after the government received numerous citizen complaints saying the headmaster(s) of the Tinh That Bong Lai took advantage of religions and charitable activities for their own benefits. 

The four men were initially charged with “incest,” “fraud,” and “abusing religious freedom.” However, the first two charges were dropped after a public uproar over suspicions that this was a government land grab in disguise. 

On January 10, 2022, one of the lawyers for Le Tung Van reported that he tried three times to meet his client at the temple but was denied each time by public security police from Long An province. Although Van has been released to home detention, he has not been allowed to see his lawyers.

On January 14, 2022, Colonel Van Cong Minh stated that the police were “still working with the Procuracy and the People’s Court” to finalize the case against Van.

On January 21, 2022, the lawyers confirmed that they finally met with Le Tung Van at the monastery. One of the lawyers, Dang Dinh Manh, said that the internet connection of the Tinh That Bong Lai was cut during and after the search of Tinh That Bong Lai on January 4, which was completely unlawful. Van and people living there reported that the arrests bewildered them. 

On March 07, Tinh That Bong Lai was searched once again in order to “clarify other charges committed by associated people living at the monastery.” 

A week later, the public security announced an extension of the pre-trial detention time of Le Thanh Hoan Nguyen, Le Thanh Nhat Nguyen, and Le Thanh Trung Duong to April 04, 2022. 

On April 26, 2022,  the Long An province public security once more extended the pre-trial detention of the defendants to June 3, 2022. Shortly after that, two other members of the Tinh That Bong Lai were arrested. 

On May 12, 2022, the public security arrested Cao Thi Cuc (D.O.B 1960), the landlord of Tinh That Bong Lai. She was also charged under Article 331 of the 2015 Criminal Code for “abusing democratic freedoms”. On May 15, the public security of Long An publicly accused Cao Thi Cuc of being  “the ringleader of the Tinh That Bong Lai group, along with Le Tung Van,” according to State media. 

On May 27, 2022, the authorities arrested the sixth member of the monastery, Le Thanh Nhi Nguyen (D.O.B 1998), a monk, under the same Article 331 of “abusing democratic freedoms.”

Tịnh Thất Bồng Lai có dấu hiệu 'lợi dụng tôn giáo' để trục lợi, VNExpress, November 5, 2021

Khởi tố vụ án liên quan đến 'Tịnh Thất Bồng Lai' ở Long An, Phap Luat Ho Chi Minh City, January 4, 2022

Điều tra sai phạm tại tịnh thất Bồng Lai, VNExpress, January 4, 2022

3 người tại tịnh thất Bồng Lai bị bắt, VNExpress, January 7, 2022

Long An: four men prosecuted for abusing rights to freedom and democracy, Vietnam Plus, January 7, 2022

Vụ Tịnh Thất Bồng Lai: Công an ngăn cản đăng ký thủ tục luật sư và tiếp cận thân chủ, Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, January 10, 2022

Công an: Tịnh Thất Bồng Lai bị điều tra vì có nhiều đơn tố giác của dân, Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, January 14, 2022

Công an Long An nói về việc điều tra vụ án ở Tịnh thất Bồng Lai, Zing News, January 14, 2022

Vụ Tịnh thất Bồng Lai: Năm luật sư bào chữa tiếp cận được ông Lê Tùng Vân, Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, January 21, 2022

The Case Of Tinh That Bong Lai Temple: What You Need To Know, Jason Nguyen, The Vietnamese, July 15, 2022

Tinh That Bong Lai Practitioners Sentenced To Combined More Than 23 Years In Prison, Jason Nguyen, The Vietnamese, July 23, 2022

Coercion claims as Vietnam jails 6 in crackdown on religious group, Radio Free Asia, July 22, 2022

Announcement of his appeal on his lawyer's Facebook

Vietnamese religious leader appeals five-year sentence, Radio Free Asia, August 1, 2022

Profile last updated: 2022-08-08 19:35:21

Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter