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Vietnam : Agreement Reached But Results Awaited

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom

(USCIRF) notes that the agreement announced last week between the U.S. and Vietnamese governments appears to address a number of important religious freedom concerns, but the Commission emphasizes that dramatic actions still need to be taken by Vietnam before CPC designation should be altered. The effect of signing this agreement is the avoidance of more stringent actions available under the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), including economic sanctions, required for countries designated as “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs. Vietnam was designated a CPC by the State Department in September 2004.

“This was the first diplomatic agreement signed with a CPC country since the passage of IRFA. The use of CPC designation as a diplomatic tool has allowed the two countries to talk seriously about religious freedom issues. However, we note that although some details of the agreement were discussed, the agreement itself is not public and the Commission has not seen it,” said USCIRF Chair Preeta D. Bansal. “Moreover, the agreement only signals promises of improvement and not actual measurable progress, and from what has been announced by the State Department, it appears to leave a number of important areas of religious freedom concern unaddressed.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to monitor the status of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief abroad, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related international instruments, and to give independent policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress.