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(ANS) – Vietnam’s Prime Minister, Phan Van Khai, will allow outlawed Protestant “house churches” in the restive Central Highlands to operate if they will renounce connections to a former guerrilla group that Hanoi has accused of organizing massive anti-government protests, state-controlled media reported on Saturday. According to a story just released by the Associated Press (AP), under the decree issued Friday, the house churches, which had been banned by the government, will be allowed to operate if they revoke all ties to FULRO, the French acronym for the United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races, a guerrilla group that fought alongside the Americans during the Vietnam War, said the Liberated Saigon newspaper. “The underground churches are operated by followers of Dega Protestantism, an unsanctioned form of evangelical Protestantism that Vietnam has condemned as being linked to a separatist movement,” the AP story stated. “If the religious followers there have pure religious needs, commit to abiding by the law, do not work for the reactionary FULRO, and have no connection to Dega Protestantism, the local governments will create conditions for them to carry out normal religious activities at home or at suitable places in their villages,” the newspaper quoted the decree as saying. The AP story continued by saying, “The prime minister called for local governments to ‘seriously and effectively implement these specific tasks,'” but it was unclear exactly when the decree would take effect. The decree also said, “Protestant followers in Vietnam ‘s northern mountainous provinces will be allowed to practice their religion.”

“However, the ruling calls for severe punishments against illegal religious activities, and local governments will publicize the names of those who disguise themselves as Protestant clergy to engage in anti-government activities,” the newspaper said.