Saturday, September 19, 2009

Vietnam's Prime Minister Declares All Properties Belong To Government

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung (r) and his Hungarian counterpart Gordon Bajnai inspect the honor guards in front of the Parliament building in Budapest, 18 Sep 2009Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung says his government will notaccept demands from the Vatican to return confiscated properties to theCatholic Church in Vietnam. Mr Dung made the comments in BudapestFriday, following trade talks with his Hungarian counterpart GordonBajnai.

Answering questions from VOA News,Prime Minister Dung defended Vietnam's policy to stop the CatholicChurch from taking back church buildings and other properties that wereconfiscated by the state since 1954.

In recent weeksVietnamese Catholics have held demonstrations in several parts of thecountry to demand the return of church properties.

However, Mr. Dung said Vietnam would not accept any pressure, including from the Vatican, on this issue.

Hesays that all properties in Vietnam belong to the country and thegovernment. And all the property claims have to be carried outaccording to the law. He adds that every citizen in Vietnam, includingreligious groups have to respect the law and the constitution of thecountry. Mr. Dung also warns that he rejects the idea of any religiousgroups working against the law. He says the property claims of theVatican go against the Vietnamese constitution and the law.

Hiscomments came as Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet reportedlyplanned to visit Italy and to meet with Pope Benedict XVI in Novemberor December as part of efforts re-establish diplomatic relationsbetween Vietnam and the Vatican.

Yet, activists claim Mr.Dung's arguments have been misused by the government to crackdown onboth Catholics and Protestants, amid reports that several churchleaders and individual Christians have been detained.

Mr.Dung spoke after talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai onimproving economic relations, including an $88 million loanagreement between the two nations for the building of a hospital inVietnam.

Hungarian Prime Minister Bajnai told VOA News howeverthat despite the improved economic relations, Hungary and the EuropeanUnion will continue discussions with Vietnam about internationalconcerns over its human rights record.

"We do appreciategreatly that human rights discussion that is going on between Vietnamand the European Union," he said. "Hungary is part of that activediscussion. We consider the European Union an alliance of values,including human values and human rights."

"We share theopinion of our European partners. And we expect that this cooperationand discussion between Vietnam and the European Union will lead to animproving relationship between our countries and alliances," he added.

Mr.Bajnai's comments about Vietnam are closely watched by the EuropeanUnion as Hungary will take over the rotating EU presidency in 2011.

Thecountry is already part of the 'EU Presidential Troika', which consistsof next year's EU presidents Spain and Belgium as well as Hungary.

Vietnam has Southeast Asia's second largest Catholic community after the Philippines, with at least six million followers.

Catholicactivists have criticized Washington for scrapping Vietnam from itslist of Countries of Particular Concern regarding religious rights,saying the move would legitimize the Communist government and what theyview as the war on religion.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

VOA News
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