01/21/2005, 00.00
VATICAN – VIETNAM
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A ray of hope for diplomatic ties between the Holy See and Vietnam

State media say it is question of time. However, internal repression continues.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Vietnam seems more open to diplomatic ties with the Holy See. Vatican sources told AsiaNews about promising signs in that direction.

Recently, the president of Italy's lower house of parliament, Pier Ferdinando Casini, visited Vietnam where local state media played up the event.

They reported that Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong told Mr Casini that Vietnam and the Holy See had no quarrel, and that both sides have been meeting regularly. Establishing official ties was "only a question of time", Luong reportedly said.

Speaking to AsiaNews, some Vatican insiders said that the Vietnamese government has been sending the right signals. The fact that state media talked about diplomatic relations is something new and a sign Vietnam is serious about it.

Fr Guy-Marie Nguyen Hong Giao told UCA News said "that such an important piece of news on diplomacy cannot be announced by state-run media without the approval of high-ranking officials". Vietnam is now ready for diplomatic relations.

Card Jean Baptiste Phan Minh Man cautions against too much optimism. As much as he is for diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Vietnam, he believes that the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two sides depends primarily on Vietnam. "I know the Holy See is ready to do so at any time".

The cardinal, who is also Archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City, added that over the past three decades there have been signs of increasing religious freedom in the country, although freedom is "still limited and permitted" rather than a basic human right.

Despite these recent musings, some analysts note that Vietnam wants its cake and eat it too—a more liberal façade to the international community and the iron fist at home.

This month, it allowed the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh and a 190-member delegation from 30 countries to visit the country from January to April and talk with local Buddhists, in effect ending the Zen Buddhist master's 38-year exile from Vietnam. In the sixties the Venerable Thich had irked both the Americans and the Vietcong for his criticism of both sides in the war.

By contrast, human rights abuses and repression continue, especially against the Montagnards.  Back in December many Christians living in the central plateau were arrested as a preventive measure against possible demonstrations on Christmas Day.

The authorities wanted to avoid a repeat of the incidents that occurred at Dak Lak, Gia Lai and Dak Nong over the 2004Easter holiday.

 

 

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