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Cablegate: Gvn Updates On Religious Freedom

VZCZCXRO1856
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHHI #0664 1570934
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 050934Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7950
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 4810
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN 0056
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS HANOI 000664

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS AND DRL/IRF

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KIRF PHUM PGOV PREL VM

SUBJECT: GVN Updates on Religious Freedom

REFS: A. HANOI 0411; B. HANOI 0657

1. (SBU) Summary: On May 30, Poloff and visiting DRF/IRF officer
met with Mr. Dang Tai Tinh, Director of the International
Cooperation Department of the Government Committee on Religious
Affairs (CRA), to discuss the 2008 Human Rights Dialogue and
implementation of the legal framework on religion, including
registrations and training issues. Mr. Tinh also noted that the GVN
will host a delegation from the Vatican, June 9-15, 2008, to conduct
regular bilateral meetings. End summary.

2. (SBU) Poloffs provided a summary of the 2008 Human Rights
Dialogue, held May 29, highlighting that the U.S. side was
particularly pleased with Vietnam's progress on religious freedom in
recent years. Areas for continued improvement include increasing
the pace of registrations, continuing training for local officials
to reduce incidents of abuse, and holding local officials
accountable for abuses that occur.

3. (SBU) Mr. Tinh pointed out that GVN has a consistent policy to
protect religious freedom; however, the GVN also has legitimate
concerns about religious groups undermining social order. The GVN
is very concerned about the appearance of cults with "strange and
dangerous" practices that might influence and convert rural people
who may lack education or understanding. Mr. Tinh raised the recent
case of the breakaway Mormon polygamist group in Texas, stating that
the GVN found such groups "very troubling".

4. (SBU) While the registration of congregations in the Central
Highlands has progressed well, Mr. Tinh acknowledged that
difficulties remain in the Northwest. He pointed out that in that
region traditional beliefs are deeply rooted and the presence of new
religions may cause conflicts in families when one member joins a
new religion and other members retain traditional beliefs. Mr. Tinh
emphasized that the GVN attaches importance to social stability and
order and family conflict was a very real concern.

5. (SBU) Agreeing that the local officials' awareness of the legal
framework on religion is very low, Mr. Tinh stated that CRA knows
that religious groups are demanding better from local officials and
is trying to respond. CRA has conducted many training classes and
will do more, but he cautioned that "change won't happen overnight."
When asked about the review to assess the implementation of the
legal framework, Mr. Tinh was unaware of the review, but promised to
provide more information after looking into it.

6. (SBU) Turning to outstanding land claims by religious
organizations, Mr. Tinh noted that land issues are complicated by
Vietnam's colonial and wartime history, resulting in competing
claims. He asserted that all claims would be dealt with according
to Vietnamese law and in cooperation with local authorities.

7. (SBU) In closing, Mr. Tinh confirmed the dates June 9-15 for the
visit of a Vatican delegation to Hanoi to conduct the next in an
ongoing series of regular bilateral consultations with the Holy See.


MICHALAK

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