Viet Nam Willing to Negotiate with US on Religious Differences: PM

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung on October 23 told a delegation of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom that Viet Nam is willing to talk with the US on religious differences.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung shakes hands with the US delegation head Michael Lawis Cromartie in Ha Noi on Oct. 23, 2007.

PM Dung welcomed the US religion watchdog delegation and reiterated Viet Nam’s unwavering standpoint of respecting the public rights to religion and non-religion.

He said he was pleased to see developments in cooperative and friendly ties between the two countries.

“The Vietnamese Government always pursues a policy of looking towards the future in the interest of the two nations. The Government and people of Viet Nam always want to and will do their best to further promote bilateral relations in all fields,” said the Prime Minister.

He, however, admitted that there are differences in cultures, lifestyles, religious freedom, and legal systems between Viet Nam and the US.

He explained that it is because each nation has its own history and cultural traditions.

“The Vietnamese Government is always willing to listen to and enter into negotiations with the US on such differences,” said PM Dung.

He continued by saying that as a UN member, Viet Nam understood the UN declaration on human rights. However, the issue should be based on the Vietnamese Constitution and laws that reflect the people’s aspirations.

Any Vietnamese citizen who violates the law of the Vietnamese State will have to be punished according to domestic laws, regardless of religious or ethnic identities, he emphasized.

The Government leader pledged to provide the best available conditions for the US religion watchdog delegation during their working visit in Viet Nam.

He, however, said the delegation should conduct their study and adopt a new, appropriate concept regarding religion in Viet Nam in an objective way that reflects the truth and avoids imposing its lopsided viewpoints about religious freedom.

“The delegation should also study the situation of the Vietnamese people who suffer from Agent Orange dioxin contamination.”

For his part, Michael Lawis Cromartie - the US delegation head - expressed thanks to the Prime Minister as well as to the Vietnamese Government for providing his delegation with what it needs for studying religious situations in the Southeast Asian country.

The US delegates highly valued the fine relations between the two countries, saying the two parties should boost cooperation and dialogues on religious differences.

According to recent statistics, Ho Chi Minh City has 2.4 million religious followers, accounting for one third of all the city residents, and over 1,500 worshipping places.

Buddhism remains the biggest religion with 1.6 million adherents, followed by Catholicism with 645,000, Protestantism over 65,000, Cao Dai religion around 48,000 and there are some 5,000 Muslims in the city.

In the past two years, the city government has issued operating licenses to 22 Protestant organizations with over 8,000 followers.

Source: VNA, Sai Gon Giai Phong

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