Friday, May 02, 2008

U.S. religious commission wants Vietnam blacklisted

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom issued a report today in which it urged the U.S. State Department to put Vietnam back on the list of countries that seriously violate religious freedom. A delegation of the commission had visited Vietnam in October 2007, but found progress toward religious freedom to be very uneven in the country.

"We continue to find that lifting the CPC [Country of Particular Concern] designation for Vietnam was premature," Commission member Leonard Leo told a news conference.

Ethnic minority Buddhists and Protestants in Vietnam "are often harassed, beaten, detained, arrested and discriminated against and they continue to face some efforts to coerce renunciation of faith," the commission's report said. "Arrests, detentions, discrimination, and other restrictions continue, perpetrated by recalcitrant provincial officials and abetted by the central government's suspicion of religious leaders believed to have political motives or the expansion of religious adherence in some ethnic minority areas. In addition, Vietnam has initiated a severe crackdown on human rights defenders and advocates for the freedoms of speech, association assembly, and religion, including many religious leaders."

U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey acknowledged that several issues of concern remain concerning Vietnam's religious policy, but said that the situation has improved since the country was removed from the CPC list in November 2006.

Sources: Agence France Presse, May 2; Reuters May 2; U.S. State Dept. daily briefing May 2; press release of the International Commission on Religious Freedom, May 2; for full text of report, click here.


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