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Cablegate: Correspondence From Gvn's Commission On Religious

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 002742

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL KIRF VM RELFREE HUMANR
SUBJECT: CORRESPONDENCE FROM GVN'S COMMISSION ON RELIGIOUS
AFFAIRS

1. Embassy received October 4 identical letters from the
Government of Vietnam's Commission on Religious Affairs
addressed to the "Department of State," DRL/IRF Ambassador
Hanford and the U.S. Commission on International Religious
Freedom. Embassy pouched the letters to EAP/BCLTV,
Registration #4047329. Text of letter follows below:

2. Begin text of letter:

To:
U.S. Department of State
2201 C. Street N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20520

We have learnt that in the annual report on international
religious freedom released on September 15th 2004, the U.S.
Department of State designated Vietnam as a Country of
Particular Concern. The Government Commission on Religious
Affairs, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, strongly protests
against the aforesaid wrongful decision. This decision does
not help the cooperative relations between Vietnam and the
United States, particularly at a time when the bilateral
relations are considered promising and our two countries are
preparing for the tenth Anniversary of the establishment of
diplomatic relations.

The annual report of the Department of State is not
objective and seeks to impose its view on Vietnam. It
intentionally ignores Vietnam's policy and law which
guarantees the peoples' right to freedom of belief and
religion in the renovation process. In addition, it fails
to update intense religious activities of millions of
believers and thousands of clergymen and religious
dignitaries in Vietnam. The report, prepared on the basis
of one-sided and anti-Vietnam information provided by
extremist elements who abuse religious freedom for political
purposes, outrageously distorts the religious policies and
practices in Vietnam.

The imposition of view, in the name of religious freedom, of
one country on another is unacceptable.

The State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam consistently
pursues the policy of respecting its citizens' right to
freedom of belief and religion, to follow or not to follow
any religion. All religions are equal before the law; no
discrimination by reasons of belief or religion, no
infringement upon the right to freedom of belief and
religion of citizens are permitted. At the same time, it is
not allowed to abuse the freedom of belief and religion in
violation of the law. In Vietnam, there is no arrest for
"religious reason"; neither does there exist any State
document that favors "forced renunciation of faith" as
mentioned in the report.

In certain localities, for reasons of social security and
territorial integrity, the government had to handle some
cases of law violations by several extremists. However,
this is not the issue of religion but the political and
security concern that any country must deal with in the same
way.

A number of U.S. Senators, Congressmen, international
delegations, diplomatic missions, representatives of
European Union, United Nations and Vietnam-based
international press, who have visited the Central Highlands
and met with local authorities, religious representatives
and local people, could have found no evidence to prove that
the Vietnamese Government represses Protestant believers.

The consistent policy of the State of Vietnam is to
consolidate the national unity, to improve material and
spiritual life of its citizens, including religious
believers. This policy is widely recognized by the
international community.

In the process of international integration, Vietnam is
improving its legislation in conformity with international
law in every aspect, including faith and religion. With the
aim of furthering the right to freedom of belief and
religion, the Viet Nam Standing Committee of the National
Assembly approved on June 18, 2004 the Ordinance on Belief
and Religion. The Ordinance institutionalizes the
guidelines and policies of the State of Vietnam on faith and
religion, thus creating a legal basis to guarantee the
religious freedom in practice and improving the
effectiveness of the Government's management in this area.
This is a strong evidence to prove that the State of Vietnam
attaches great importance to religious freedom and always
respects this right in practice, the fact that has been
reconfirmed by Vietnam's adherence to the International
Convention on Civil and Political Rights since 1982.

We are convinced that the U.S. Department of State is aware
of the importance of building a stable and long-term Vietnam-
U.S. relationship in the interests of the two countries and
the region. Any obstacle to this positive trend is
unacceptable.
On the other hand, we would like to reaffirm that we are
eager to promote dialogues between religious organizations
of Vietnam and the United States for our better mutual
understanding.

In the spirit, we would like to urge the U.S. Department of
State to reconsider the wrongful decision to designate
Vietnam as a Country of Particular Concern, in the long-term
interest of our two peoples and for the sake of peace,
cooperation and development in the world as a whole.

Best regards,

NGO YEN THI
Chairman of the Government Commission on Religious Affairs
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

End text of letter.

#Marine

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