Vietnam has 31 illegal religious cults - media

Reuters, November 23, 1999

HANOI, Nov 23. 1999 (Reuters) - Communist Vietnam has 31 illegal religious cults that mainly exist in rural areas, official media reported.

The Nong Thon Ngay Nay (Rural Today) newspaper, in a report seen on Tuesday, said the cults operated under a total of 51 different names and were headed by "eccentric people with low education and poor knowledge."

It said reports on the country's cults had recently been sent to the cabinet-level Government Committee on Religion in Hanoi, but it was unclear what action would be taken.

Officials were not available to comment.

Vietnam's constitution enshrines freedom of religion, but curbs remain and some Western governments say the country jails people for their religious beliefs, a charge Hanoi denies.

Vietnam is intolerant of cults and has jailed some practitioners.

The strangest cults originated from Taiwan, Japan, China, India and France, the newspaper said.

It said 80 percent of cult followers lived in rural areas and had difficult family situations or suffered from poor health or mental illness.

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