Special Rapporteur blocked on fact-finding trip to Vietnam

A UN Expert investigating religious freedom during a fact-finding trip to Vietnam found his quest blocked after individuals he wanted to meet were intimidated.

Heiner Bielefeldt, U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, feared ‘serious violations’ of faith freedoms in the country, he said on 31 July, after people he was meeting faced intimidation, harassment and surveillance by ‘unidentified agents’ reports Reuters.

Mr Bielefeldt told a news conference: “I received credible information that some individuals whom I wanted to meet with had been either under heavy surveillance, warned, intimidated, harassed or prevented from travelling by police.

“I was closely monitored of my whereabouts … while the privacy and confidentiality of some meetings could have been compromised.”

Some positive developments in the coexistence of faiths were observed by the UN expert. However his investigation was marred by the fact  there was no unsupervised access to interview people without the latter being threatened or punished, according to Mr Bielefeldt.

Vietnam is a communist country which is also mainly Buddhist. Faiths are under state supervision and any not registered with the Government are believed to be suppressed by the authorities.