Cao Thi Cuc

Current Status: Sentenced to prison

Photo of Cao Thi Cuc

Other Names: Cao Thị Cúc

Date of Birth: 1960

Gender: F

Religion: Buddhist

Ethnicity: Kinh

Occupation: Religious leader

Last Known Prison: Long An detention center, Long An province

Areas of Activism:

  • Religious freedom

Communities At Risk:

November 2022:

As expected, the appeal trial for six defendants from Bong Lai Temple resulted in no change to their prison sentences: five years for 90-year-old headmaster Le Tung Van; four years each for Le Thanh Hoan Nguyen,32, Le Thanh Nhat Nguyen 31, Le Thanh Trung Duong 27; three and a half years for Le Thanh Nhi Nguyen, 34; and three years for Cao Thi Cuc, the 62-year-old landlady who has stage-four cancer.  All were convicted of “abusing democratic freedoms.” Before the appeal trial took place, the prosecution announced that a new charge of “fraud and theft of property” would be added against the defendants.  According to a video recording from the two-day trial, defendants were repeatedly cut off by the judge during their closing statements.Last but not least, test results of DNA samples from members of Bong Lai Temple – illegally obtained,  according to their lawyers – were not introduced at the trial.

July 2022:

On July 21, Cao Thi Cuc was sentenced to three years in prison by a court in Duc Hoa District, Long An Province.

Six of the The 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.

Details - Background, History of Activism.

Cao Thi Cuc is the landlord of the Tinh That Bong Lai Buddhist monastery, also called Thien Am Ben Bo Vu Tru. She used to be the head household of the Thanh Duc orphanage and nursing home, which was dissolved in 2007.

Note: We've listed the religion in this profile as "Buddhist" due to the activist's self-identification, but we note that the Buddhism practiced in this case is Buu Son Ky Huong, a more informal, cultural interpretation of Buddhist belief.

Profile photo source

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

Arrested May 12, 2022. Sentenced to 3 years in prison under Art. 331 (2015 Code). Expected Release is May 12, 2025.

May 12, 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
  • Ngo Thi Hoang Anh
  • Dao Kim Lan
  • Trinh Vinh Phuc
  • Dang Dinh Manh
  • Nguyen Van Mieng
3 years in prison
May 12, 2025
  • 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 were held for two months of pre-trial detention. 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 had been released to home detention, he had 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 were reported that the arrests bewildered them. 

On March 07, the 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 to extend 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 one more time 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 the 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

Công an gia hạn tạm giam 3 bị can vụ 'Tịnh thất Bồng Lai', Phap Luat online, March 12, 2022

3 thành viên Tịnh Thất Bồng Lai bị tạm giam thêm 20 ngày, Bao Cali Today, March 14, 2022

Gia hạn tạm giam với thành viên Tịnh Thất Bồng Lai đến ngày 3 tháng 6, Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, April 26, 2022

Khởi tố, bắt tạm giam bà Cúc, chủ hộ 'tịnh thất Bồng Lai', Tuoi Tre online, May 12, 2022

Chủ khu đất Tịnh Thất Bồng Lai bị cáo buộc tội "Lợi dụng các quyền tự do dân chủ", Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, May 12, 2022

Vụ án 'Tịnh thất Bồng Lai': Bị can Cao Thị Cúc cùng giữ vai trò cầm đầu, Thanh Nien, May 16, 2022

Khởi tố, bắt tạm giam Lê Thanh Nhị Nguyên liên quan vụ 'tịnh thất Bồng Lai', Tuoi Tre online, May 27, 2022

Vụ Tịnh thất Bồng Lai: Người thứ sáu bị khởi tố với cáo buộc “lợi dụng quyền tự do dân chủ”, Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, May 27, 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

Bị cáo buộc ‘không oan,’ 6 người vụ Tịnh Thất Bồng Lai y án tù, Nguoi Viet, November 3, 2022

Appeal trial video clip from Facebook

Profile last updated: 2022-11-07 19:52:18

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