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dpa : U.S. designates Vietnam country of concern for religious freedom

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Deutsch Presse-Agentur - http://www.dpa.de


HANOI, Sept 16, 2004 (dpa) – The United States Thursday released a critical report on religious freedom in Vietnam and announced that it has designated the one-party state a country of particular concern.

It is the first time that Vietnam has been added to the U.S. list of countries of particular concern, a move welcomed by religious rights groups.

“The designation of Vietnam as a country of particular concern is an important step forward for religious freedom in Vietnam, and it is good news for all the victims of persecution,” said Vo Van Ai, Director of the International Buddhist Information Bureau. The bureau is the information arm of the United Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), a group banned in Vietnam.

At least 45 people are currently detained or in prison for religious reasons and 11 more are held under de facto house arrest, according to the U.S. International Freedom Report.

Vietnam recognizes and supervises a number of religious groups including Buddhists, Catholics, some Protestants, Moslems, and the Cao Dai and Hoa Hoa Buddhist sects.

However, members of unrecognized groups continued to face difficulties, the report said.

The government continued to restrict significantly the organized activities of religious groups that it regarded to be at variance with state laws and policies or a challenge to the Communist Party’s authority, according to the 32 page report.

Vietnam routinely insists that no one is imprisoned for their religious beliefs. However, Article 258 of the country’s penal code proscribes jail terms of up to three years for abusing the rights to freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of belief, religion, assembly, association and other democratic freedoms to infringe on the interests of the state.

The other states named as countries of particular concern are Saudi Arabia, Burma, China, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Eritrea.

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