Though he is 80 years old, Buddhist Monk Thich Quang Do is still one of Vietnam's most prominent dissidents.

He is deputy leader of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and has spent more than 25 years in detention for advocating greater religious freedoms and rights.

In video tapes smuggled out of the country and obtained by Al Jazeera, Thich Quang Do reveals a life of political repression and misery not found in the glossy tourist brochures luring vistors to Vietnam.

In Vietnam today we are not free. We are prisoners in our own country ... Prisoners of a regime which decides who has the right to speak, and who must keep silent.

In video


Listen to Thich Quang Do

As I speak to you today, I am under house arrest at the Thanh Minh Zen monastery in Saigon. Secret police keep watch on me day and night, and I am forbidden to go out.

I have been continuously repressed right from 1975 by the communist regime. For me, I'm not afraid of anything, of anything, because I am struggling for the right cause. For the truth.

Today we have no opposition parties, no free press, no free trade unions, no civil society. All independent religions are banned.

All citizens who call for political reform, democracy or human rights risk immediate arrest. Only economically speaking [are things] any better. But politically speaking, nothing changes.

If you go to the country from here 20km from Saigon, you will see. People more or less as peasants [are] very, very miserable.

We must have pluralism, the right to hold free elections, and to choose our own political system.

To enjoy democratic freedoms. In brief, the right to shape our own future, to shape the destiny of our nation. For the last 32 years we always speak out to the outside world. And we hope like you ... that you foreigners listen to our cry.

Source: Al Jazeera