Cablegate: Gvn Explains New Religion Decree

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

150822Z Mar 05


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NSCE-00 OIC-00 PA-00 PRS-00 P-00 SP-00 STR-00
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------------------CABD9D 150829Z /38





E.O. 12958: N/A

Reftels: A) Hanoi 580, B) 04 Hanoi 2009

1. (U) Nguyen Khac Huy, Acting Director of the Legal Office
of the Committee for Religious Affairs (CRA), met with
Poloff and Political Assistant on March 14 to give an
official view of the Implementing Decree for the Ordinance
on Religion (Reftels). The Decree is aimed at devolving
decision making to local authorities and lower levels of the
central government as well as making decisions more
transparent. Under the Decree, "no response" from
authorities to a religious group's registration request will
be treated as an affirmative response, Huy indicated. End

2. (U) CRA Acting Legal Office Director Huy told us March 14
that the Decree is part of a broad trend in Vietnam to
devolve authority to local authorities and lower levels of
the central government. The CRA plans to hold a conference
before the end of March for provincial level authorities and
members of other ministries to disseminate information about
the new Decree. At the conference, the CRA will provide
"formats" for the paperwork required to register religious
denominations, congregations and functions, although
creation of the actual forms will be left to lower level
authorities. The CRA intends for this conference to be
replicated at the provincial level to pass information about
the Decree to districts and communes nationwide. Asked if
there were any concerns about the capacity of some local
officials to understand and implement the Decree, Huy
responded only that the CRA makes resources available for
them to find out about the law. The Decree does not provide
for the appeal of decisions made by local officials. Such
appeals could be made through the court system, Huy

3. (U) The Decree makes no fundamental changes in the
situation for religious believers in Vietnam as "freedom of
religion already exists here," Huy asserted. Procedurally,
however, it will make the process of registering and seeking
approval for actions by practitioners more transparent. If
authorities fail to respond to an application by
practitioners, it will be assumed that the application is
accepted. (Note: Our reading of the Decree is that this is
true for many types of applications, including registering a
congregation, bestowing religious titles and holding
religious conferences, but not all. Notable exceptions
include recognizing a new organization and establishing a
religious school. End note.)

4. (U) Describing the process of drafting the Decree, Huy
simply stated that the CRA drafted it in consultation with
other sections of the Government and religious leaders, as
required by law. (Note: Huy is reportedly the actual
drafter of the Decree. End note.) The CRA held three
sessions with religious leaders to discuss a first draft of
the Decree and also read the comments of Catholic
theologians in a Church publication. Huy did not respond
when asked if any ideas proposed by religious leaders had
been incorporated in the final document. There were no
disputes in the drafting of the Decree, and the late release
of the document was simply a result of the the drafters'
desire to make sure that the Decree does not "run counter to
the spirit of the Ordinance of Religion," Huy claimed

5. (SBU) Comment: Though the authoritative source on the
new Decree, Huy was at times less forthcoming with us than
other Embassy contacts at the CRA. Practitioners, on the
other hand, have been vocal in their views, reported septel.
We will seek further readout from the CRA as plans for
disseminating information on the Decree and putting it into
action are carried out. End Comment.


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