Page last updated at 06:48 GMT, Friday, 11 July 2008 07:48 UK

Vietnamese dissident laid to rest

Thich Huyen Quang
Thich Huyen Quang spent many years under house arrest

The funeral of leading Vietnamese Buddhist dissident Thich Huyen Quang has gone ahead under tight security.

Hundreds of monks and believers had gathered outside a pagoda at the Nguyen Thieu monastery in central Vietnam for the ceremony.

Thich Huyen Quang, who was 87, had spent most of the last three decades in prison or under house arrest.

He led the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, which refused to submit to communist government control.

The BBC's Nga Pham, in Bangkok, says that his death raises questions about who will take over as head of the Vietnamese dissident Buddhist movement.

Crowds of supporters had gathered early outside the Nguyen Thieu monastery to bid farewell to their spiritual leader, who died last week after a long illness.

Tight security

Tensions were high around the pagoda where the funeral was to be held, with plainclothes police monitoring UBCV monks, Paris-based supporters told the Associated Press news agency.

Thich Huyen Quang was first arrested in 1977 after he publicly criticised the communist regime for suppressing religious freedom.

He spent most of the next 30 years under house arrest, but continued to call for human rights and political reforms in Vietnam.

Nobel laureates including the Dalai Lama appealed for his release.

Thich Huyen Quang's Unified Buddhist Church was banned in 1981 after refusing to join the religious movement sanctioned by Vietnam's Communist Party leaders.

He leaves a large gap for the church to fill, our correspondent says.

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