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Cablegate: Cra Chairman Comments On Catholic Land Issues And

VZCZCXRO4784
RR RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #1122 2740941
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 300941Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8551
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 5172

UNCLAS HANOI 001122

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, DRL/IRF

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KIRF PREL PHUM PGOV VM
SUBJECT: CRA CHAIRMAN COMMENTS ON CATHOLIC LAND ISSUES AND
REGISTRATION OF PROTESTANT GROUPS

1. (SBU) Summary: During the DCM's September 29 introductory call on
Committee for Religious Affairs (CRA) Chairman Nguyen The Doanh, he
asserted that the Hanoi People's Committee is taking the lead in
responding to the Catholic land disputes, but warned that the
Catholics should not stir up "social disorder." Doanh highlighted
efforts to register Protestant congregations in northern Vietnam and
to provide training on regulations governing registration to local
officials; however, he conceded that Protestant registrations in the
Northwest have been slower than in other areas. He affirmed the
CRA's support for printing a Hmong Bible, describing current
obstacles as a technical matter of recognizing a "new" Hmong script.
End Summary.

2. (SBU) Meeting with the DCM September 29, Committee for Religious
Affairs (CRA) Chairman Nguyen The Doanh asserted that recent
tensions between the government of Hanoi and the Catholic Church
were property and not religious issues. Doanh insisted that land
issues in general are "long and complicated" in Vietnam. He warned
that the Catholics should not create "social disorder" over the Thai
Ha and Nha Chung land disputes. The DCM responded that Catholic
leaders say they have been going to the Hanoi City Government for a
long time -- in some cases, as long as eight years -- to try to
resolve land issues, but have received no response. Harsh language
in the state-controlled press, particularly personal attacks on
Archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet, has served to undermine efforts to
resolve the disputes, the DCM emphasized.

3. (SBU) Doanh said the CRA is conducting training courses on
religious regulations in Cao Bang, Dien Bien, Lao Cai and Tuyen
Quang Provinces to improve local officials' understanding of
religious regulations as well as religious leaders' knowledge of
what the registration process entails. Doanh conceded that
Protestant registration in the Northwest has been slower than in the
Central Highlands because the "topography makes it more difficult"
to reach certain areas. So far, CRA has registered about 110
congregations in the Northwest and, by the end of 2008, aims to have
registered a total of 200 congregations, Doanh said. He agreed that
local authorities in some areas are not implementing regulations as
well as others and pointed out that CRA continually has to remind
local leaders of proper procedures.

4. (SBU) The DCM pressed Doanh to speed up registration and to
ensure that local authorities did not refuse to accept applications
from all congregations seeking registration. She noted the case of
Baptist Minister Nguyen Chi Huong, accused by authorities in Danang
of being a "lawbreaker," but whose only crime was preaching without
proper registration. The DCM noted that Vietnam's 2005 Law on
Religious Freedom provided a reasonably transparent process for
registration. Once they have applied, authorities must either
register the church or provide specific legal reasons why it cannot
be registered. According to the law, a church that has applied for
formal recognition but is awaiting a final answer is allowed to
operate essentially as if it were fully registered. A number of
provinces subvert the intent of the law, the DCM noted, by simply
refusing to accept registration applications from churches that do
not enjoy local political favor. Doanh acknowledged uneven
application of the law and promised to look into the matter.

5. (SBU) The CRA supports printing the Bible in the Hmong language,
Doanh stressed, explaining that the issue is largely a technical one
because the GVN has not yet recognized the "new" written Hmong
language. The CRA does not have the authority to recognize new
languages, he explained, so the issue must be taken up with the
Ministry of Education and Culture and the Ministry of Information.
The DCM said the Ambassador would raise the issue with the Minister
of Education and Training, but urged the CRA to push the process
along.

MICHALAK

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