Phan Van Thu

Current Status: Sentenced

Photo of Phan Van Thu

Other Names: Phan Văn Thu, Trần Công

Date of Birth: June 25, 1948

Gender: M

Religion: Buddhist (An Đàn Đại Đạo)

Ethnicity: Kinh


Latest Prison: An Phuoc detention center, Binh Duong province

Areas of Activism:

  • Religious freedom

Known Affiliations:

Arrest History

February 5, 2012
January, 2013
life in prison
  • Art. 79


Phan Van Thu is the founder and leader of An Dan Dai Dao, a Buddhist sect founded in 1969 but outlawed after the Communist regime took over South Vietnam in April 1975.

Phan Van Thu founded An Dan Dai Dao, a Buddhist sect, in 1969 in South Vietnam which had 14 temples, hundreds of monks, and thousands of followers. After the fall of Saigon, the communist government outlawed the group, repressed their activities, and confiscated all the temples and teaching materials. Phan Van Thu and his disciples fled to the jungle, but he was arrested in August 1975 and held in solitary confinement for 5 years before being transferred to a prison in Phu Yen province. In 1983, he was released and sent to the economic zone Mai Lien, Phu Yen province, in probation. He escaped from the economic zone and fled to Dong Nai province with a few disciples to continue his religious practice. There he changed his name to Tran Cong. Still wanted by the government, he moved frequently to different regions, and finally settled in An Giang province, before returning to Phu Yen province in 1993. In 2003, he appointed a disciple to start an eco-tourist company at the Da Bia Tourist Resort in Phu Yen Province. They signed a contract with the local authorities to engage in protecting the forest and environment.

The group believed in the prophecies of Nguyen Binh Khiem, a 16th century oracle or Vietnamese equivalent of Nostradamus, and dreamed of building a new “Utopia” in which science, nature and humankind would be harmoniously balanced. They organized conferences and produced leaflets to disseminate their beliefs. According to reports in the state-run media, the group had several hundred members and sections in several central and southern provinces.

Phan Van Thu is one of 22 members of An Dan Dai Dao Buddhist sect arrested in February 2012 under Art. 258 and tried under Art. 79 of the 1999 Penal Code by Phú Yên People’s Court in January 2013, in what is called the "Council for the Laws and Public Affairs of Bia Son" affair. The group was charged with subversion and accused of writing documents critical of the government, setting up two companies and investing in an eco-tourism park as a cover for recruiting supporters. However, those affiliated with the group maintained that the activities of the group were purely religious and that the authorities interpreted their religious teaching in political terms. Human rights groups and supporters consider the arrests a repression by the State of the peaceful religious group.

Arrested on February 5, 2012, he was sentenced to life in prison under Art. 79. This is the heaviest sentence ever given under this article. He is currently held in An Phuoc Prison in Phu Giao District, Binh Duong Province, and suffers from poor health.

February 2013:

The Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and three UN Special Rapporteurs sent a letter to the Vietnamese government regarding the case of the 22 members of the Bia Son Council for Public Law and Affairs, expressing their concerns regarding the fairness of their trial and the motivations behind their arrests. They asked for further information about the case and how the arrests are compatible with international law. 

In 2014, Phan Van Thu's wife, Ms. Vo Thi Thanh Thuy, sent a letter to international human rights organization to tell the story of An Dan Dai Dao, the arrest and trial of 25 members of the group.

Profile last updated: 2018-05-15 22:45:11