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Cablegate: Unhcr Addresses Statelessness in Vietnam

VZCZCXRO1199
RR RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #0301/01 0461001
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 151001Z FEB 07ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4637
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 2564
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 6827
RUEHZS/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1172
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM 0080

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 000301

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS AND PRM, BANGKOK FOR REFUGEE COORDINATOR, GENEVA
FOR RMA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM HUMANR PREF CB VM
SUBJECT: UNHCR ADDRESSES STATELESSNESS IN VIETNAM

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Summary
-------

1. (SBU) In a February 12 meeting with the Charge, UNHCR Regional
Representative for Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam Hasim Utkan
and UNHCR colleagues described their ongoing efforts to work with
the GVN to resolve the situation facing several thousand stateless
ethnic Cambodians, resident in Vietnam since the 1970s. UNHCR also
hopes to address the issue of hundreds of stateless Vietnamese women
who had been former Taiwan brides and now have neither Vietnamese
nor Taiwanese citizenship. The UNHCR representatives said that a
potential GVN solution for resolving the stateless Cambodian cases
through naturalization could be "precedent setting" and assist UNHCR
in resolving other international stateless persons, including
possibly the 340,000 stateless ethnic Vietnamese in China, who had
fled Vietnam in the late 1970s. With a "Statelessness Unit" and new
line item budget at UNHCR HQ, UNHCR hopes to raise public awareness,
in general, on stateless cases around the world. End Summary.

Background on Stateless Cambodians
---------------------------

2. (SBU) When the Khmer Rouge took power in Cambodia in 1975 and
began its "killing fields" campaign, thousands of Cambodians fled
the country into Vietnam. UNHCR established camps on this side of
the border, eventually assisting some 27,000 refugees. Some were
resettled, while many others eventually returned to Cambodia.
However, a population of some 9,500 remained and is now in legal
limbo in Vietnam. These individuals are unable to claim citizenship
in either Vietnam or Cambodia, own property or otherwise function as
citizens. Most of these individuals are ethnic Chinese who did not
have any documentation proving Cambodian citizenship prior to 1975,
complicating their efforts to return home. To date, the GVN has not
permitted them to claim citizenship, requiring individuals to obtain
Cambodian documentation that they have formally renounced their
citizenship - which the Government of Cambodia (RGC) does not
acknowledge in the first place.

3. (SBU) The GVN issued temporary residency cards to these
individuals, and their children and grandchildren born in Vietnam
receive temporary residency cards rather than birth certificates.
While the population has access to primary education and health
care, lack of meaningful documentation has barred them from
receiving marriage certificates or bank loans and other public
benefits. To remedy this, UNHCR recently restarted its discussions
with the GVN and RGC on this matter.

UNCHR Pleased with Improved GVN Cooperation
----------------------------------

4. (SBU) UNHCR Representative for Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and
Vietnam Hasim Utkan and Legal Officer Philippe Leclerc (of
UNHCR-Geneva's "Statelessness Unit") traveled to Vietnam for talks
with the GVN on resolving the Cambodian statelessness issue. During
their February 12 meeting with the Charge, they described UNHCR's
efforts to date and sought USG support in encouraging the GVN to
take a proactive position on resolving of these cases. UNHCR is
"pleased" that the GVN is now cooperating on this matter, Utkan
said.

5. (SBU) In a February 11 meeting with Vice Foreign Minister Nguyen
Phu Binh, VFM Binh told Utkan that, per an instruction from the
Prime Minister's office in December 2006, the GVN would now assist
in resolving these stateless cases. VFM Binh reportedly said that
this will start with a "census" of cases soon to be undertaken by
Vietnam's Ministry of Justice (MOJ). VFM Binh also told Utkan that
UNHCR's technical assistance and training would be welcome in
undertaking this census, which Utkan told us is "a welcome change"
from past GVN attitudes. After the census, the GVN would share the
list and proceed with a formal request on citizenship determination
to the RGC. However, this could be problematic as many official
Cambodian archives and records were destroyed during the Khmer Rouge
period, so it is more than likely that the RGC will not be able to
confirm citizenship in many cases. Nevertheless, UNHCR is pleased
that the GVN is now pursuing a solution of this matter, Utkan said.


Request for Sustained International Interest
------------------------------------

6. (SBU) The UNHCR representatives said that UNHCR has appealed to
the Swedish Government for its cooperation and has pushed to include
this issue on the formal agenda of the next round of the EU-Vietnam
Human Rights Dialogue, Utkan continued. In addition, the UNHCR team
will meet with MOJ on February 13 to discuss the logistics of the

HANOI 00000301 002.3 OF 002


statelessness census and UNHCR's role. UNHCR's Leclerc added that
UNHCR now has a limited budgetary line item to pursue resolution of
stateless cases around the globe. It will use this budget in part
to raise international awareness of "statelessness," including in
Vietnam.

Taiwan Brides
-------------

7. (SBU) Leclerc also raised with us the issue of hundreds of
Vietnamese women who have returned to Vietnam after divorcing their
Taiwanese (or, in some cases, Chinese) husbands. Because they gave
up their Vietnamese citizenship before becoming Taiwanese (or
Chinese) citizens, they are effectively stateless. UNCHR would like
to find a way to resolve these cases with the GVN, but the team did
not discuss this matter at their February 11 meeting with MFA VFM
Binh. That said, they plan to raise this at their February 13 MOJ
meeting and with the UN Country Team in Vietnam.

Progress Could be "Precedent Setting"
-------------------------------------

8. (SBU) Utkan noted that a potential GVN plan for naturalization of
these stateless Cambodians would be "an interesting precedent" as
UNHCR is also looking at the issue of resolving 340,000 "stateless"
Vietnamese in China. These are ethnic Chinese-Vietnamese or "Hoa"
(the Vietnamese word for Han) who fled Vietnam because of active
discrimination after the 1979 border conflict between China and
Vietnam. (Note: Many of these Hoa had never really been culturally
accepted in Vietnam in the first place, because of their
"reputation" in Vietnam of being seen as merchants solely out to
make money. End note.) Most of these Chinese-Vietnamese have now
become fully acclimated to life in China and lost their claim to
Vietnamese citizenship. In fact, the PRC has tried unsuccessfully
for some time to return to Vietnam 20 problematic individuals, Utkan
said.

ALOISI

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