FM Spokeswoman affirms Vietnam respects freedom of belief

Ha Noi, Feb. 15 (VNA) -- Viet Nam's law and State respect and ensure freedom of belief and religion and freedom of non-belief and non-religion for all the country's citizens, says Foreign Ministry spokeswoman,Ms. Phan Thuy Thanh.

Ms. Thanh had been asked for Viet Nam's response to a hearing about religion in Viet Nam by the U.S. Congress's Commission for International Religious Freedom.

She told the regular media briefing in Ha Noi on Feb. 15 that "by giving itself the right to speak about religion in other countries, the commission was blantantly interferring in the internal affairs of another nation counter to the United Nations Charter. That cannnot be accepted.

Every religion in multi-religious Viet Nam was equal to the other and every Vietnamese citizen - believer or non-believer - was equal before the law. They enjoyed civic rights and had the obligations of citizenship."

In response to calls by some overseas Vietnamese religious organisations to postpone ratification of the Bilateral Trade Agreement between Viet Nam and the U.S., Ms.Thanh said: "The signing of the BTA was the result of the efforts made by both sides. It meets the interests of both Viet Nam and the United States and constitutes a step forward in the bilateral relations.

"What will the public assessment be if the agreement is affected by the distorted and slanderous allegations of people acting contrary to the common interests of Viet Nam and the U.S. ?" she asked. Ms. Thanh emphasized: "There were more objective opinions supporting the ratification of the BTA at the hearing."