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Cablegate: Religious Regulation Structure in Vietnam

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

151042Z May 02

2002HANOI01222 - UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED PTQ8326

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KIRF PGOV PHUM SOCI VM HUMANR RELFREE
SUBJECT: RELIGIOUS REGULATION STRUCTURE IN VIETNAM


1. (U) SUMMARY: RELIGIOUS REGULATION IN VIETNAM IS
CHARACTERIZED BY AN EVOLVING BUREAUCRATIC AND LEGALISTIC
APPROACH. WHILE THE SRV CONSTITUTION PROTECTS RELIGIOUS
BELIEF (AND NON-BELIEF), THE GVN THOROUGHLY REGULATES
RELIGIOUS GROUPS AND RELIGIOUS PRACTICE UNDER THE PREMISE OF
MAINTAINING THE LEADING ROLE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF
VIETNAM (CPV). THE CPV SETS GENERAL POLICY TOWARDS
RELIGION, WHILE A SUB-CABINET LEVEL GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE ON
RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS (CRA) IS RESPONSIBLE FOR IMPLEMENTING
NATIONAL POLICY. LOCAL GOVERNMENTS HAVE A PROMINENT AND
SOMETIMES INVASIVE ROLE IN MANAGING RELIGIOUS GROUPS AND
ACTIVITIES WITHIN THEIR BORDERS. END SUMMARY.

REIGNING ON HIGH: THE COMMUNIST PARTY
--------------------------------------

2. (SBU) THE MOST RECENTLY PUBLICIZED CPV CENTRAL
COMMITTEE DOCUMENT ON RELIGION -- DIRECTIVE 37/CT/TW OF JULY
2, 1998 -- ASSERTS THAT RELIGIOUS FOLLOWERS AND
ORGANIZATIONS ARE GENERALLY REQUIRED TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE
"GREAT NATIONAL UNITY" OR THE "GREAT UNIFIED PEOPLES BLOC."
ACCORDING TO A COMMENTARY ABOUT DIRECTIVE 37 ON THE CPV'S
WEB SITE, THIS CAN BE "REASONABLY" VIEWED AS THE
"NATIONALIZATION" OF RELIGIONS. THE CPV'S CENTRAL COMMITTEE
POLITICAL REPORT TO THE NINTH PARTY CONGRESS IN APRIL 2001
DESCRIBED FAITHS AND RELIGIONS AS "THE SPIRITUAL NEED OF A
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SEGMENT OF THE POPULATION." IT ALSO NOTED THAT RELIGIOUS
FOLLOWERS ARE "OBLIGED TO FULFILL THEIR DUTIES AS CITIZENS
TOWARD THE HOMELAND . . . " THE POLITICAL REPORT DID NOT
REPRESENT ANY CHANGE OF POLICY FROM DIRECTIVE 37; BOTH
CALL FOR MORE COMPLETE LEGISLATION ON FAITHS AND RELIGIONS.
WHEN ASKED ABOUT REPORTS THAT THE CPV IS UPDATING ITS
RELIGION POLICY, CPV AND GVN OFFICIALS HAVE BEEN UNWILLING
TO COMMENT, WHILE NOT DENYING THAT A NEW POLICY MAY BE IN
THE WORKS.

3. (U) THE CENTER FOR RELIGIOUS STUDIES OF
THE HO CHI MINH NATIONAL POLITICAL ACADEMY -- THE MAIN PARTY
SCHOOL -- OFFERS TRAINING TO MID- AND SENIOR-LEVEL CPV
MEMBERS, INCLUDING GVN OFFICIALS. (ITS OFFICIALS HAVE,
HOWEVER, BEEN UNABLE TO MEET WITH EMBOFFS IN RECENT MONTHS,
CLAIMING BUSY TRAVEL SCHEDULES AND OTHER OBLIGATIONS.) THE
CENTER ALSO UNDERTAKES RESEARCH AND "THEORETICAL WORK" ON
RELIGION. ACCORDING TO LUU DAT TUYET OF THE ACADEMY'S
INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT, THE CENTER "CARRIES ON A
DIALOGUE" WITH THE GVN'S CRA. THE CENTER WAS ONLY
ESTABLISHED IN THE LATE 1990'S AND APPARENTLY HAS NOT YET
TRAINED A LARGE NUMBER OF OFFICIALS, ESPECIALLY BELOW THE
NATIONAL LEVEL.

4. (U) CPV OFFICIALS CLAIM THAT THERE IS NO EXPLICIT BAN
ON RELIGIOUS BELIEF AMONG CPV MEMBERS, AND OFFER ANECDOTAL
ACCOUNTS OF EVEN SENIOR CPV OFFICIALS VISITING TEMPLES AND
CHURCHES (ALTHOUGH NOT CLEARLY FOR RELIGIOUS VERSUS TOURIST
ACTIVITIES). FEW, HOWEVER, SEEM TO PARTICIPATE OPENLY IN
RELIGIOUS LIFE OR ADMIT SUCH BELIEFS. HOWEVER, SIX OF THE
26 NATIONAL ASSEMBLY (NA) CANDIDATES IN THIS YEAR'S ELECTION
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WHO DECLARED RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION ARE CPV MEMBERS (1
CATHOLIC, 3 BUDDHISTS, AND 2 KHMER "BA NI"). SENIOR MONK
THICH THANH TU, ALSO VICE-CHAIRMAN OF THE CENTRAL BUDDHIST
SANGHA AND HIMSELF A NON-CPV NA CANDIDATE, CLAIMED TO POLOFF
THAT "NO" BUDDHIST MONKS WERE PARTY MEMBERS BECAUSE
"MATERIAL CONCERNS" ARE INCOMPATIBLE WITH BEING A MONK.
(NOTE: NONETHELESS, VIETNAMESE BUDDHIST MONKS HAVE A LONG
HISTORY OF INVOLVEMENT IN POLITICAL AFFAIRS. END NOTE.)
THERE ARE UNVERIFIED REPORTS THAT SOME MEMBERS OF THE
OFFICIAL CAO DAI AND HOA HAO LEADERSHIP ARE ALSO CPV
MEMBERS. THE CPV, THROUGH THE VIETNAM FATHERLAND FRONT
(VFF), ENSURES THAT A BROAD CROSS-SECTION OF SOCIETY,
INCLUDING RELIGIOUS BELIEVERS, IS REPRESENTED IN THE
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, AND THIS YEAR'S CANDIDATES INCLUDE
BUDDHIST MONKS, CATHOLIC PRIESTS, AND PROTESTANT MINISTERS.

MAKING RULES: THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
------------------------------------

5. (SBU) ARTICLE 84, SECTION 5, OF THE REVISED 1992
CONSTITUTION GIVES THE NA THE AUTHORITY TO DECIDE STATE
POLICIES ON ETHNIC COMMUNITIES AND RELIGIONS. SINCE
RELIGION IS CONSIDERED A "SOCIAL PHENOMENON," SUCH
LEGISLATION FALLS UNDER THE NA COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL AFFAIRS,

UNCLASSIFIED

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------------------AEB82E 151047Z /38
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TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6461
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WHICH IS CURRENTLY WORKING WITH THE CRA TO DRAFT A NEW LAW
TO REPLACE GVN DECREE 26 OF AUGUST 19, 1999, PRESENTLY THE
PRIMARY LEGAL DOCUMENT ON RELIGION. ACCORDING TO NGUYEN VAN
NGOC, CRA VICE CHAIRMAN, THE PRIME MINISTER APPROVED A DRAFT
OF THE LAW IN JULY 2001 AND SENT IT TO THE NA STANDING
COMMITTEE. THE NA WAS EXPECTED TO HAVE ENACTED THE LAW
DURING ITS TENTH SESSION, BUT APPARENTLY RAN OUT OF TIME
GIVEN THE DEBATE ON CONSTITUTIONAL REVISIONS, RATIFICATION
OF THE BILATERAL TRADE AGREEMENT, AND OTHER MORE PRESSING
ISSUES.

6. (SBU) THE NEW MEASURE MIGHT MORE EASILY BE ENACTED BY
THE NA STANDING COMMITTEE AS AN "ORDINANCE" IF IT APPEARS
UNLIKELY THAT THE NEW FULL NA (TO BE ELECTED MAY 19) WILL BE
ABLE TO PASS A MORE AUTHORITATIVE "STATE LAW" IN THE NEAR
FUTURE. RELIGIOUS FIGURES, INCLUDING THICH THANH TU AND
PAUL JOSEPH CARDINAL PHAM DINH TUNG (ALSO ARCHBISHOP OF
HANOI), SEPARATELY HAVE ADMITTED TO POLOFFS THAT THEY WERE
GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT ON A DRAFT OF THE LAW IN
THE AUTUMN OF 2001. NEITHER, HOWEVER, COULD PREDICT ITS
OUTCOME, OFFERED DETAILS ABOUT THEIR VIEWS, OR WERE WILLING
TO ASSESS WHAT, IF ANY IMPACT THEIR COMMENTS WOULD HAVE.

7. (SBU) ACCORDING TO THE CRA'S NGOC, THE LEGISLATION WILL
CORRECT SOME OF THE RECOGNIZED PROBLEMS WITH DECREE 26,
WHICH EVEN HE AND OTHERS DESCRIBED AS "INCOMPLETE." THE
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LEGISLATION WILL ALSO CLEARLY CONFIRM THE NA'S OWN
CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY OVER RELIGIOUS POLICY, ACCORDING TO
COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL AFFAIRS VICE CHAIRMAN LE QUOC THANH.
THANH SAID THAT ONE OF THE PROBLEMS WITH WHICH THE COMMITTEE
HAS BEEN WRESTLING IS HOW TO DEFINE "SUPERSTITION." DECREE
26 OUTLAWS SUPERSTITIOUS PRACTICES WITHOUT PROVIDING
EXAMPLES. (NOTE: UNDER CPV DIRECTIVE 37, SUPERSTITION IS
TO BE "CRITICIZED AND ELIMINATED." END NOTE) NGOC INCLUDED
LACK OF DEFINITIONS AMONG DECREE 26'S SHORTCOMINGS AND ALSO
LAMENTED THAT THE DECREE DID NOT ALLOW THE GVN TO INSPECT
THE FINANCES OF RELIGIOUS GROUPS IN ENOUGH DETAIL. HE NOTED
THAT, IN DRAFTING THE NEW LAW FOR SUBMISSION TO THE NA, THE
CRA HAD STUDIED THE LAWS ON RELIGION OF OVER 35 COUNTRIES.

FINAL SAY: THE PRIME MINISTER
------------------------------

8. (U) THE PRIME MINISTER HAS ULTIMATE AUTHORITY OVER MANY
DECISIONS DEALING WITH RELIGION, ACCORDING TO VARIOUS
SOURCES. ONLY THE PRIME MINISTER MAY DECIDE WHETHER TO
AUTHORIZE A RELIGIOUS GROUP, SUCH AS IN THE 2001 FORMAL
RECOGNITION OF THE SOUTHERN EVANGELICAL CHURCH OF VIETNAM
(SECV). COMPLAINTS ABOUT VIOLATIONS OF THE CONSTITUTIONALLY
PROTECTED FREEDOM "TO BELIEVE OR NOT TO BELIEVE" IN A
RELIGION MAY BE INVESTIGATED BY THE CRA AT THE PRIME
MINISTER'S DIRECTION, BUT ONLY THE PRIME MINISTER MAY TAKE
ACTION BASED ON THE FINDINGS OF SUCH AN INVESTIGATION,
ACCORDING TO CRA CHAIRMAN LE QUANG VINH. DECREE 26 ALSO
RESERVES A NUMBER OF OTHER POWERS FOR THE PM, INCLUDING:
-- APPROVAL OF APPOINTMENTS TO THE OFFICES OF MOST VENERABLE
(FOR BUDDHIST LEADERS), CARDINAL, BISHOP, AND CURATE AND
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EQUIVALENTS;
-- APPROVAL OF RELIGIOUS CONFERENCES AND CONVENTIONS
INVOLVING MORE THAN ONE PROVINCE;
-- APPROVAL OF THE ESTABLISHMENT OF CLERGY TRAINING
INSTITUTIONS; AND,
-- WHETHER TO ALLOW RELIGIOUS GROUPS TO RECEIVE "PURELY
RELIGIOUS AID" FROM OVERSEAS.

OVERSIGHT: THE COMMITTEE ON RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS
---------------------------------------------

9. (U) WITH A REORGANIZATION OF RELIGIOUS OVERSIGHT BY THE
GVN AND VFF IN THE EARLY 1990'S, THE GOVERNMENT CRA WAS SET
UP IN 1993 AND REPORTS DIRECTLY TO THE PRIME MINISTER. IT
HAS SUB-CABINET-LEVEL RANK AND IS THE LINE AGENCY
RESPONSIBLE FOR IMPLEMENTING RELIGIOUS POLICY. IT ALSO
ADVISES THE GVN ON RELIGIOUS POLICY. ACCORDING TO NGUYEN
THE DOANH, DIRECTOR OF THE CRA INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
DEPARTMENT, THE CRA HAS BETWEEN 120 AND 150 EMPLOYEES IN
HANOI. (THERE ARE CRA-EQUIVALENTS ALSO ON THE PROVINCIAL
AND DISTRICT LEVELS WORKING ON THE STAFFS OF THOSE LOCAL
GOVERNMENTS, NOT DIRECTLY FOR THE CRA. SEE PARAS 14-15)
THERE ARE SEVERAL ADMINISTRATIVE UNITS, INCLUDING AN
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS DIVISION RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL CONTACT

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WITH FOREIGNERS.

10. (SBU) FIVE DIVISIONS SPECIALIZE IN THE MAJOR
RECOGNIZED RELIGIONS -- BUDDHIST, CATHOLIC, PROTESTANT, CAO
DAI, AND HOA HAO (THE LATTER APPARENTLY ALSO COVERS SMALLER
GROUPS SUCH AS ISLAM, POSSIBLY THE BAHA'I, AND POTENTIALLY
ANY OTHER FAITHS WITH FEW FOLLOWERS IN VIETNAM). NOT ONLY
DO THESE FIVE DIVISIONS ADMINISTER LAWS ON RELIGION, THEY
ARE ALSO RESPONSIBLE FOR UNDERTAKING NEGOTIATIONS WITH STILL
UNOFFICIALLY RECOGNIZED RELIGIOUS GROUPS. MOST NOTABLY,
NEGOTIATIONS ARE UNDERWAY FOR RECOGNITION OF SOME
"UNDERGROUND" PROTESTANT GROUPS, SUCH AS THE BAPTISTS.
THERE IS NO KNOWN DIALOGUE, HOWEVER, WITH THE UNITED
BUDDHIST CHURCH OF VIETNAM, OR WITH CAO DAI OR HOA HAO
GROUPS AND INDIVIDUALS WHO HAVE REJECTED PARTICIPATION IN
THEIR RELIGIONS' RESPECTIVE OFFICIAL BODIES. THE CRA ALSO
MUST ENSURE THAT ANY RELIGIOUS GROUPS APPLYING FOR
RECOGNITION COMPLY WITH ALL OF THE REQUIREMENTS OF DECREE
26. ONCE THE CRA IS SATISFIED (AS WAS THE CASE IN 2001 WITH
THE SECV), IT RECOMMENDS A FORMAL DECISION IN FAVOR BY THE
PRIME MINISTER.

11. (U) IN APRIL 1999, THE CRA SET UP A PUBLISHING HOUSE
UNDER ITS AEGIS TO CENTRALIZE ALL RELIGIOUS PUBLISHING IN
VIETNAM. BEFORE THAT DATE, IT WAS POSSIBLE TO PUBLISH
RELIGIOUS MATERIALS AT OTHER LEGAL PUBLISHING HOUSES, WHICH
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ARE NOW FORMALLY BANNED FROM SUCH RELIGIOUS PUBLISHING. THE
CRA'S NGOC SAID THAT THE CRA'S PUBLISHING HOUSE BENEFITS
RELIGIOUS GROUPS BECAUSE IT HAD PREVIOUSLY BEEN DIFFICULT TO
GET "PROFIT-ORIENTED" PUBLISHERS TO PRINT RELIGIOUS
DOCUMENTS. SOME RELIGIOUS FIGURES HAVE NOTED THAT IT IS NOT
NOW PARTICULARLY DIFFICULT TO OBTAIN BASIC RELIGIOUS TEXTS
SUCH AT THE BIBLE OR THE KORAN THROUGH THE RELIGIOUS
PUBLISHING HOUSE, ALTHOUGH SOME PROTESTANTS IN HANOI
COMPLAINED PRIVATELY IN 2001 ABOUT ONGOING SHORTAGES OF BOTH
BIBLES AND HYMNALS. THERE ARE REPORTS ABOUT A PRINTING OF
NEW TESTAMENTS, APPARENTLY AIMED PRIMARILY AT THE RECENTLY
RECOGNIZED SECV CHURCHES. MOSQUE OFFICIALS IN HANOI NOTED
THAT THE PUBLISHING HOUSE HAD ESSENTIALLY PRINTED A KORAN
FOR EACH KNOWN MUSLIM IN THE COUNTRY IN 2000 AND HAD NO
ONGOING PUBLISHING OF MUSLIM MATERIALS. (NOTE: IT IS
ILLEGAL TO BRING IN "REACTIONARY" MATERIALS -- SOMETIMES
DEFINED BY CUSTOMS OFFICIALS TO INCLUDE BIBLES AND OTHER
RELIGIOUS MATERIALS -- INTO THE COUNTRY FROM OVERSEAS. END
NOTE)

12. (U) VICE CHAIRMAN NGOC ADDED THAT THE CRA MEDIATES
SPECIAL PROBLEMS FACED BY RELIGIOUS GROUPS. NGOC CLAIMED
THAT THE CRA HAD ARRANGED A MUTUALLY SATISFACTORY SETTLEMENT
BETWEEN A CARMELITE MONASTERY AND A COMPANY SEEKING TO BUILD
A WATER PARK ON LAND WHERE THE MONASTERY HAD CULTIVATED
ORCHARDS FOR MANY YEARS. HE CLAIMED THAT THE CRA ALSO
ASSISTED RELIGIOUS GROUPS IN THEIR BUREAUCRATIC DEALINGS
WITH OTHER GOVERNMENT AGENCIES, FOR INSTANCE OVER BUILDING
PERMITS. NGOC AND OTHER OFFICIALS HAVE SAID THAT LOCAL GVN
OFFICIALS, ESPECIALLY IN REMOTE PROVINCES, ARE SOMETIMES NOT
FAMILIAR WITH LAWS ON RELIGION AND "MAKE MISTAKES"; THE CRA
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HELPS THEM TO UNDERSTAND THE PROVISIONS OF DECREE 26, HE
NOTED.

13. (SBU) THE CRA ALSO SUPERVISES CLERGY TRAINING
INSTITUTIONS (SEPTEL) IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE MINISTRY OF
EDUCATION AND TRAINING AS WELL AS PROVINCIAL AUTHORITIES.
RELIGIOUS FIGURES HAVE STATED TO EMBOFFS THAT AT LEAST THE
THREE MAIN BUDDHIST ACADEMIES AND SIX CATHOLIC SEMINARIES DO
CONTROL THEIR OWN BUDGETS AND THAT FUNDING TO CARRY OUT
TRAINING ACTIVITIES COMES FROM THE RELIGIOUS GROUPS
THEMSELVES. THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING NEITHER
SUPPORTS CLERGY TRAINING INSTITUTIONS FINANCIALLY, NOR SEEKS
TO CONTROL THEIR BUDGETS, ACCORDING TO THESE SOURCES.

DAY-TO-DAY REGULATION: LOCAL GOVERNMENT
---------------------------------------

14. (U) UNDER DECREE 26, THE CRA IS RESPONSIBLE FOR
REGULATING ANY RELIGIOUS ACTIVITIES THAT CROSS PROVINCIAL
BOUNDARIES, BUT CHAIRMEN OF PROVINCIAL AND DISTRICT PEOPLE'S
COMMITTEES HAVE AUTHORITY OVER LOCAL ACTIVITIES. SINCE MOST
RELIGIOUS ACTIVITIES ARE LOCAL, THIS MEANS LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
CARRY OUT THE BULK OF RELIGIOUS REGULATION. DECREE 26
SPELLS OUT MANY OF THE REGULATED ACTIVITIES, BUT DOES NOT

UNCLASSIFIED

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SP-00 SSO-00 STR-00 TEST-00 TRSE-00 USIE-00 PMB-00
DSCC-00 PRM-00 DRL-02 G-00 NFAT-00 SAS-00 /017W
------------------AEB83A 151048Z /38
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TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6463
INFO AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
SECDEF WASHDC
AMEMBASSY BEIJING
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ALWAYS SPECIFY THE RELEVANT AUTHORITIES. FOR INSTANCE, "THE
COMPETENT STATE AGENCY" MUST AUTHORIZE ANY RELIGIOUS
ACTIVITIES OUTSIDE RECOGNIZED PLACES OF WORSHIP OR THE
ANNUALLY REGISTERED PROGRAM, BUT WHICH SPECIFIC AGENCY HAS
THAT ROLE IS NOT CLEAR. AMONG THE OTHER MATTERS CONTROLLED
BY LOCAL AUTHORITIES ARE:
-- PERMISSION TO ENTER A RELIGIOUS LIFE AFTER BACKGROUND
INVESTIGATION (PROVINCE LEVEL);
-- REGISTRATION OF A RELIGIOUS GROUP'S ANNUAL ACTIVITIES
(E.G. THE ANNUAL CYCLE OF EVENTS AT A PAGODA OR CHURCH)
(DISTRICT OR PROVINCE LEVEL);
-- TRANSFER OF CLERGY WITHIN A PROVINCE (PROVINCE LEVEL);
-- APPROVAL OF ORDINATION OR INVESTITURE OF TITLES OF ANY
LEADER NOT REQUIRING PRIME MINISTERIAL APPROVAL (PROVINCE
LEVEL);
-- APPROVAL OF CONFERENCES OR CONVENTIONS WITHIN A PROVINCE
(PROVINCE LEVEL);
-- PERMISSION TO RAISE FUNDS (PROVINCE LEVEL); AND,
-- APPROVAL OF BUILDING CONSTRUCTION, REPAIR, AND RENOVATION
(LEVEL DEPENDS ON SCALE OF ACTIVITY).

15. (U) MOST, BUT NOT ALL, PROVINCES AND DIRECT-RULE
CITIES HAVE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICES DEDICATED TO RELIGIOUS
AFFAIRS THAT REPORT TO THE CHAIRMEN OF THE PROVINCIAL
PEOPLE'S COMMITTEES. THESE OFFICES ARE OFTEN COMBINED WITH
ETHNIC MINORITY AFFAIRS OFFICES. THE PROVINCIAL PEOPLE'S
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COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN USUALLY HOLDS GREATEST LOCAL DECISION-
MAKING POWER. WHILE CRA CHAIRMAN VINH CONFIRMED THAT
RELIGIOUS POLICY IS SUPPOSED TO BE CONSISTENT AND UNIVERSAL
THROUGHOUT VIETNAM, HE ADMITTED THAT IN PRACTICE TREATMENT
OF RELIGIOUS GROUPS MIGHT VARY CONSIDERABLY FROM PROVINCE TO
PROVINCE, DEPENDING ON THE ATTITUDE (OR DEGREE OF KNOWLEDGE)
OF LOCAL AUTHORITIES. FOR INSTANCE, UNDER ARTICLE 7 OF
DECREE 26, THE CRA'S NGOC NOTED, ONE IS PERMITTED TO PRAY
AND CARRY OUT RITES WITHIN THE FAMILY. IN SOME PLACES, NGOC
AND OTHERS SAID, LOCAL AUTHORITIES HAVE ALLOWED "HOUSE
CHURCHES" TO MEET UNDER THIS RUBRIC, WHILE OTHERS HAVE NOT.

ENFORCEMENT: MINISTRY OF PUBLIC SECURITY
-----------------------------------------

16. (U) THE MINISTRY OF PUBLIC SECURITY (MPS) IS NOT
DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS, BUT IT PROVIDES
THE MECHANISM TO ENFORCE MUCH GVN POLICY ON RELIGION.
ACTING UNDER INSTRUCTIONS FROM LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND THE
SUPREME PEOPLE'S PROCURACY, MPS HAS THE POWER TO DETAIN
INDIVIDUALS SUSPECTED OF VIOLATING LAWS, INCLUDING THOSE ON
RELIGION, OR MORE NEBULOUS REGULATIONS ABOUT HARMING
NATIONAL SOLIDARITY. MPS ACTS TO "ENSURE THE SAFETY AND
ORDERLINESS" OF RELIGIOUS GATHERINGS, ACCORDING TO MPS VICE
MINISTER NGUYEN VAN HUONG, BUT HE STRESSED THAT MPS HAD NO
INDEPENDENT ROLE WHERE RELIGION IS CONCERNED. MPS PERSONNEL
ARE WIDELY BELIEED TO MONITOR RELIGIOUS GROUPS, SOMETHING
HUONG CKNOWLEDGED AS PART OF THE MINISTRY'S "NORMAL"
FUNCTION.

RALLY THE RELIGIOUS TROOPS: VFF
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-------------------------------

17. (U) ACCORDING O BUDDHIST LEADER (CONCURRENTLY VICE
CHAIRMAN OFTHE VFF'S RELIGIOUS COUNCIL) THICH THANH TU, THE
VFF HAD THE PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY FOR OVERSIGHT OF AND
LIAISON WITH RELIGIOUS GROUPS BEFORE THE ESTBLISHMENT OF
THE CRA. RELIGIOUS GROUPS WERE WELOME TO JOIN THE VFF,
NOTED VFF GENERAL SECRETARYTRAN VAN DANG. (NOTE: IT IS
UNCLEAR IF THE OFFIIAL CAO DAI MANAGEMENT COUNCIL OR THE
HOA HAO REPRESENTATIVE COMMITTEE ARE AFFILIATED WITH THE
VFF BUT MUCH EVIDENCE POINTS TO THEIR WORKING IN CLOS
COORDINATION WITH, IF NOT UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF, THE
PROVINCIAL VFF IN TAY NINH AND AN GIANG PROVINCES,
RESPECTIVELY. END NOTE) AN AUGUST 1999 VIETNAM NEWS
ARTICLE LISTED THE EVANGELICAL CHURCH OF VIETNAM (NORTHERN),
THE VIETNAM BUDDHIST SANGHA, AND THE COMMITTEE FOR
SOLIDARITY AMONG VIETNAMESE CATHOLICS AS MEMBER VFF
ORGANIZATIONS. RELIGIOUS LEADERS AND RELIGIOUS BELIEVERS
ALSO HOLD VFF OFFICES AT VARIOUS LEVELS.

COMMENT
-------

18. (SBU) GVN REGULATION OF RELIGION IS EVOLVING AND EVEN

UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED PTQ8332

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HHS-01 H-01 TEDE-00 INR-00 IO-00 LAB-01 L-00
VCE-00 MOFM-05 MOF-01 AC-01 NSAE-00 NSCE-00 OIC-02
OMB-01 OPIC-01 PA-00 PM-00 PRS-00 ACE-00 P-00
SP-00 SSO-00 STR-00 TEST-00 TRSE-00 USIE-00 PMB-00
DSCC-00 PRM-00 DRL-02 G-00 NFAT-00 SAS-00 /017W
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O 151042Z MAY 02
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6464
INFO AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
SECDEF WASHDC
AMEMBASSY BEIJING
AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
AMEMBASSY VIENTIANE
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI

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STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV AND DRL/RF

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SECDEF FOR ABLAGG
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 02 HANOI 01222 05 OF 05 151048Z

INCREASING IN SOPHISTICATION, WITH NOTABLY MORE FLEXIBILITY
THAN A DECADE OR TWO AGO. THE GVN IS GOING TO GREAT LENGTHS
TO DRAFT A COMPREHENSIVE LAW ON RELIGION, PERHAPS PARTIALLY
IN RESPONSE TO US AND OTHER CRITICISMS REGARDING RELIGIOUS
FREEDOM IN VIETNAM (ALTHOUGH IT IS IMPOSSIBLE WITHOUT
REVIEWING THE DRAFT LEGISLATION TO ASSESS WHETHER SUCH
GREATER COMPREHENSIVENESS IS ACTUALLY FAVORABLE TO A MORE
FREE RELIGIOUS LIFE). A COMPREHENSIVE LAW WITH SPECIFIC
REGULATIONS MIGHT HELP MAKE SUPERVISION OF RELIGIOUS GROUPS
AND ACTIVITIES MORE TRANSPARENT AND LESS SUBJECT TO LOCAL
INTERPRETATION. THE BOTTOM LINE ON RELIGIOUS GROUPS -- AS
WELL AS ON OTHER SOCIAL ORGANIZATIONS AND MOVEMENTS --
REMAINS, HOWEVER, THAT IN THE EYES OF THE CPV AND GVN, THE
PRESERVATION OF SOCIAL UNITY AND NATIONAL SOLIDARITY, AND OF
THE OVERALL AUTHORITY OF THE CPV, SUPERSEDES PERSONAL
FREEDOMS WHENEVER THERE ARE CONFLICTS.
BURGHARDT

UNCLASSIFIED

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