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Police look into scam claims at pagoda

Update: July, 25/2014 - 09:39
Bo De Pagoda. — Photo fptshop.com.vn

HA NOI (VNS) — Police are investigating rumors that a pagoda in Long Bien District is selling children for adoption.

Do Huy Chien, deputy chairman of the Long Bien People's Committee, said the investigation was launched in response to some reports that Bo De Pagoda has become an "intermediate channel" for selling orphans to people who want to adopt.

"This is a complicated and sensitive case that needs to be clarified by a police investigation."

Bo De Pagoda, located at the foot of the Long Bien Bridge, is known as a place where orphans, abandoned children or homeless seniors can reside for free.

Currently, the pagoda is home to 112 orphans, abandoned and disabled children, 53 helpless old people and 48 other homeless women.

Thich Dam Lan, the pagoda's chief monk, meanwhile, rejected the allegation.

"There was just one time that I legally gave a child for adoption under the supervision and examination of the Long Bien District's People's Committee," he said.

Operating costs for the pagoda, she said, are met mainly with donations from benefactors and visitors.

While investigators look into the adoption sale allegations, visitors and volunteers coming to the pagoda raised concerns about living conditions for the children there.

Living conditions

Ha Noi's ancient Bo De Pagoda, which was built in the early 18th century and surrounded with green trees, has been well-maintained for years. But accommodations for their most needy residents are a different story, say visitors and volunteers.

"A ‘chaotic, busy, cluttered retreat' are the words that came to my mind when I went to Bo De Pagoda," said Mina Bhama, a visitor from England. Bhama admitted it was not easy to keep order in "such a place".

After seeing a child get beaten by one of the caregivers, a foreign volunteer who wanted to remain anonymous said she thought the children did not have proper living conditions in the pagoda.

Another volunteer said the pagoda had poor hygiene practices, adding that the problems there appeared to be caused by "neglect and poor organization".

Dang Van Bat, deputy director of the Ha Noi's Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs said the pagoda doesn't have a license to run such a center.

He said according to the law, when a centre has over 10 children, orphaned, abandoned or homeless, it must submit an application to establish a social protection center.

The Long Bien District's authority had sent staff to assist the pagoda with the application process, but it has not finished the paperwork.

The chief monk has admitted that the pagoda would not meet the criteria for establishing a social protection center. Nevertheless, the center was created "out of love for the children", she said.

Most Venerable Thich Tien Dat told Viet Nam News that Permanent Member of the Central Management Council of the Viet Nam Buddhist Sangha, said he had not heard of the issue.

But Dat said he has long known about the centre at Bo De Pagoda.

"I think Chief monk Thich Dam Lan is doing good deeds," he said. — VNS


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