Public opinion on the “Thich Minh Tue” phenomenon


Recently, social networking sites like Tiktok, Youtube, Facebook, Instagram have been spreading many images of a person calling himself “Thich Minh Tue”. Dressed as a Buddhist monk, he has been walking from South to North and then from North to South, attracting significant public attention.

Mr. “Thich Minh Tue”, whose real name is Le Anh Tu, was born in 1981 in Ky Van commune, Ky Anh district, Ha Tinh province. According to Mr. Anh Tu, he has previously undertaken this journey three times as part of practicing the ascetic method known as “hanh dau da”, traveling from the South to the North and vice versa. However, his earlier journeys did not attract much public attention.

This fourth journey, however, has garnered considerable interest, with thousands of people at times following him, impacting public security, order, and traffic in various areas. Among the followers were Buddhists, curious onlookers, and groups of Tiktokers, Youtubers, Facebook users. Many people went as far as to cut their hair, shave their heads, wear patched clothes, and carry rice cooker pots, mimicking Mr. Anh Tu’s almsgiving style.

The daily procession following Mr. Anh Tu led to scenes of welcoming, pushing, jostling for position, and competing to film, take photos, record clips, and livestream content on social media. This flow of people indirectly affected security, order, and traffic safety in the localities Mr. Anh Tu passed through. Some news articles and posts contained inflammatory language that could provoke religious conflict and misunderstandings.

As with all social activities, religious activities in any country must comply with that country’s legal framework. In Vietnam, the State respects everyone's right to freedom of belief and religion. However, the law also clearly regulates the activities of religious organizations and individuals in areas of religious leadership, practice, and proselytizing. The Party and State of Vietnam ensure everyone’s right to freedom of belief and religion, meeting the legitimate religious needs of all.

In 2016, the National Assembly of Vietnam promulgated the Law on Belief, Religion, and the Government issued Decree 162/2017/ND-CP detailing some articles and measures for enforcement of the Law on Belief, Religion. This decree was later replaced by Decree No. 95/2023/ND-CP, providing an important legal foundation consistent with the practical requirements of religious activities, ensuring everyone’s right to freedom of belief and religion. Article 6 of the 2016 Law on Belief, Religion stipulates: “Everyone has the right to freedom of belief and religion, to follow or not to follow any religion; each person has the right to express their belief-related and religious faith, practice religious rituals, participate in festivals, and study and practice religious teachings and canons.” The law prohibits actions that: “Infringe on national defense, security, national sovereignty, social order and safety, and the environment; harm social morality; violate bodily integrity, health, life, and property; insult the honor and dignity of others; hinder the exercise of civic rights and obligations; divide ethnic groups; divide religions; disunite people who follow beliefs and religions from those who do not, or from those who follow different beliefs and religions; and exploit religious activities for personal gain”.

Article 24 of Vietnam’s 2013 Constitution states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of belief and religion, to follow or not to follow any religion. All religions are equal before the law. The State respects and protects the right to freedom of belief and religion. No one may infringe upon freedom of belief and religion or take advantage of belief and religion to violate the law.

While Vietnamese law protects everyone’s right to freedom of belief and religion, it also strictly addresses acts that misuse religion to incite national division, spread superstition, and undermine the solidarity of the entire nation.

Vũ Minh Trang