Vietnam police detain six from heretical sect

HANOI, July 10 (Reuters) - Vietnamese police have detained six followers of an allegedly heretical sect that advocates total poverty and the burning all possessions including animals, official media reported on Tuesday.

Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspaper said the six had been detained in the city of Vinh while buying animals to burn with other possessions.

The paper did not say when the detentions happened, but said the sect, founded by Luu Van Ty, had recently made a "secret return" to the region.

An official media report in 1999 referred to the group as the "barefoot" sect and said it was founded by Ly in 1992 in Nghe An province, of which Vinh is the capital.

Tien Phong said most followers were poorly educated people, whose ages ranged from 19 and 70. It said one had died from rheumatism and malnutrition after sleeping on the ground.

Pham Dinh Suu, head of Vinh's Security Police, was quoted as saying that 36 sect followers had been discovered.

"The threat that this heresy is returning still exists," he said, adding the cult was spreading in the city.

The paper said membership of the sect had been widespread in neighbouring Ha Tinh province in the past.

Ty, who has been described in the past as a former tractor driver, was reported detained in 1998. The government spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment about his current whereabouts.

Vietnam insists it respects freedom of worship but permits worship by only six authorised religious groups.

02:28 07-10-01

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