Phnom Penh (VNA) – Head of Vietnam’s Government Committee for Religious Affairs Vu Chien Thang said he wishes that the Cambodian Ministry of Cults and Religion would create favourable conditions for overseas Vietnamese following Buddhism and Caodaism in the country to join religious activities.

He made the statement at his talks with Cambodian Minister of Cults and Religion Him Chhem in Phnom Penh on April 2, which forms part of his working visit to Cambodia from April 1-6.   

Chhem expressed thanks to the Vietnamese voluntary soldiers, Government, and people for helping Cambodia escape the Pol Pot genocidal regime in the past, saying the future generation needs to remember this and work together to preserve solidarity.

He told that Cambodia now has two Buddhist schools, a university, and affiliates in the provinces of Kampong Chhnang, Battambang, and Kampong Cham.

Cambodia is now home to more than 5,000 pagodas and 700,000 Buddhist followers. The most popular religions in the country are Buddhism, Islamism, Catholicism, and nine smaller religions, including Caodaism and Hoa Hao Buddhism, he said, stating that the Cambodian government hopes that all religions can live in peace together.

Thang informed his host about major religious activities in Vietnam over the years, saying that the Vietnamese Government assists the work of religions in holding events to promote people-to-people and cultural diplomacy.

Religious institutions in Vietnam have been making increasingly positive contributions to national construction and defence, he said, adding that there are 16 active religions working in 43 organisations, with 24 million followers – accounting for one third of the total population, nearly 30,000 places of worship, and 14 religious training establishments.

The guest affirmed that Vietnam is a multi-religion nation and that the Government will always offer all possible support to religions.

During a visit to the Vatican in September 2018, permanent Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh held a working session with Pope Francis. Both sides upheld the spirit of dialogue between religions and states and agreed to upgrade bilateral diplomatic ties from the level of non-resident envoy to resident envoy in the near future.

He said Vietnam has invited Cambodia to join the third 2019 United Nations Day of Vesak scheduled for May at the Tam Chuc Buddhist Cultural Centre in the northern province of Ha Nam, following two successful editions in 2008 and 2014.

The same day, the Vietnamese delegation paid a courtesy call to Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An, who is also a high-ranking representative of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Thang briefed the host about the outcomes of a meeting on promoting religious cooperation between Vietnamese and Cambodian provinces sharing the border in 2018. 

Men Sam An said the revival of religion in Cambodia began following the January 7, 1979 victory when Cambodian people and Vietnamese voluntary soldiers toppled the Pol Pot  regime.

She said both Vietnam and Cambodia will always support and promote religious freedom, however only if all its activities remain in line with the law.

During the stay, the delegation also paid courtesy calls and held working sessions with religious dignitaries, including Supreme Patriarch of the Thammayut order Bour Kry, Cambodia’s Caodaism leader. –VNA