The US ambassador to Vietnam has praised Vietnam’s moves towards religious freedom, but called on senior leaders to loosen controls on free speech.
Michael Michalak, who has been ambassador to Vietnam for two years, said that human rights breaches were still being committed, including the arrest of human rights lawyer Le Cong Dinh and others connected to opposition groups.
Michalak said that the government-run television had broadcast a ‘confession’ from various people who have been criminalised for doing what, in other countries, would be considered as normal practice.
In 2004, the US State Department designated Vietnam as a country of particular concern for severe violations of religious freedom. In 2006, new laws decreed in Hanoi outlawed forced recanting of faith and pledged to uphold freedom of religious worship.
The communist state has a mainly Buddhist population and a large Catholic community. According to Wikipedia, there are six million Catholics and fewer than one million Protestants in the country (2007 data).