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US wants to help remove Vietnam from special watch list on religious freedom: Ambassador

The US Embassy wishes to cooperate with Vietnam to remove the Southeast Asian nation from the US’s special watch list on religious freedom, Ambassador Marc E. Knapper told Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Vu Chien Thang during their meeting in Hanoi on April 14.

The ambassador noted that the Vietnam-US relationship has been expanded in various fields, and the two countries held candid, open talks over various issues and at different levels, recalling the long phone talks between Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and President Joe Biden last March.

Ten years since the establishment of the bilateral comprehensive partnership and 28 years since the normalisation of the bilateral ties, representatives from the two countries have compared notes many times on issues of shared concern, including those relating to religious freedom, in a frank, open and respectful manner, the diplomat continued.

Knapper said he had served as the political counselor of the US Embassy in Vietnam from 2004 to 2007. During that time, the embassy coordinated with Washington in removing Vietnam from the list of countries of particular concern regarding religious freedom. This decision was made based on the US’s objective assessment that Vietnam has made significant progress in creating conditions for religious followers to practise their belief and religion as they desire, he stressed.

Knapper said he was proud of Vietnam’s achievements in improving conditions for religious followers at that time, emphasising that the country is also making progress in this regard.

The ambassador said the above-said watch list is not fixed but is reviewed annually, suggesting local authorities quickly take actions to help people facing difficulties in practising their belief and religion.

He also urged Vietnam to simplify procedures for religious registration, proving its commitments to ensuring the freedom of belief and religion, and affirmed that the US government wants to cooperate with the country in these efforts.

Vietnam should contact the embassy when it finds any inaccurate information in the US’s report on religious freedom, Knapper suggested, noting that the bilateral exchange channel always opens. For his part, Thang expressed his wish that Knapper will significantly contribute to promoting the relations between the two governments and peoples, and work as Vietnam’s “ambassador of religion and religious policy” in the US.

Vietnam has announced a white book on religions, which provides official information about the religious situation in Vietnam, as well as relevant policies and guidelines, and achievements it recorded in this field, he told the ambassador.

The official affirmed Vietnam’s consistent policies on religious freedom that facilitate the development of religions. He, however, pointed to obstacles to realising the policies as Vietnam is a developing nation.

It is also not easy for Vietnam, a multi-religion country, to make its Law on Belief and Religion cover all conducts of religions, he went on.

The Deputy Minister laid emphasis on an undeniable fact that progress has been made in policies on religious freedom, as well as religious practice in Vietnam. Therefore, it was a surprise to those directly engaging in religious affairs and legal religious organisations when the US Department of State decided to place Vietnam on the special watch list on religious freedom, he said.

The Ministry of Home Affairs is working hard together with religions, with the support of agencies, to deal with this issue, he said, noting his hope that with efforts by both Vietnam and the US, Vietnam will soon be removed from the watch list.

The Vietnamese Constitution and policies consider the demand for belief and religion a legitimate need of all people, regardless of their background, including those who have been deprived of their citizenship as well as foreigners residing in Vietnam, the official said, briefing the ambassador on efforts by localities, agencies, ministries and the Prime Minister in this field.

Thang, therefore, urged the US to take a holistic view to assess the policies and guidelines of the Vietnamese Party and State, and called on the embassy and the ambassador himself to support this./.

Source: Vietnam News Agency