In recent years, Viet Nam has made improvements in ensuring religious freedom, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and beliefs Heiner Bielefeldt said at a press conference yesterday in the capital.

After conducting a 10-day country visit at the invitation of the Government, Bielefeldt said that conditions for the exercise of religious freedom had improved in Viet Nam since 1975.

"They now have generally more space for practicing religion than in the past," he said.

The UN envoy cited Viet Nam's ratification of most international human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, whose article 18 protects freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief.

Bielefeldt also applauded Viet Nam's newly amended Constitution, which covers in its second chapter "human rights and citizens' fundamental rights and duties," as well as a proposal to pass a law on religious affairs based on the current Ordinance on Belief and Religion, adopted in 2004.

There are currently 37 registered religious organisations in the country with 24 million followers.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Le Hai Binh also said yesterday that Bielefeldt's visit was part of a co-operation mechanism between the UN and Viet Nam.

Binh added that the country had made all efforts at central and local levels to allow the UN envoy to meet with various religious groups and stakeholders.

Bielefeldt will present a formal report to the 28th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2015.