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Cablegate: Authorities Deny Access to Activist Bui Kim Thanh

VZCZCXRO6135
RR RUEHDT RUEHPB
DE RUEHHM #0232 0741108
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 151108Z MAR 07
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2214
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI 1584
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 2388

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 000232

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM SOCI PREL PGOV KIRF PREF VM
SUBJECT: AUTHORITIES DENY ACCESS TO ACTIVIST BUI KIM THANH

REF: A. HCMC 221; B) HCMC 103; B) 06 HCMC 1483; C) 06 HCMC

B. 1361 AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) On March 14, the HCMC External Relations Office
(ERO) responded in the negative to a ConGen diplomatic note
informing the GVN of our plan to visit Bui Kim Thanh, the
HCMC land rights activist who was involuntarily committed
to a mental institution in November 2006. In our dipnote
to the ERO on March 12, we also had sought a meeting with
relevant hospital staff to discuss the case. The ERO noted
that it "cannot arrange the meeting as it (the Thanh case)
is an internal affair of Vietnamese functional
authorities."

2. (SBU) Nonetheless, Poloff traveled to Dong Nai Province
on March 15 to attempt to visit Thanh. Prior to setting
out, we informed the HCMC ERO, noting that, while we
regretted not being able to meet with hospital officials,
we still would seek to meet with Thanh. En route, we
contacted Hospital Director Nguyen Van Tho to inform him of
our visit. The Director did not object to the visit and
noted that we could meet with hospital staff involved in
the case. Ten minutes later, however, the Director called
back after consulting with "the authorities" to say that
"foreigners" could not be allowed access to the hospital
without prior permission. The guards would not allow us
in, he told us. And so it was, upon our arrival at the
facility. PolOff handed the guards a letter to the
Director outlining our disappointment at not being able to
review the case with him or his staff or to visit Thanh,
and noting increasing international interest in Thanh.

3. (SBU) Comment: The initial willingness of the hospital
director to facilitate our visit indicates that the
decision to deny us access was made at the political level
and that there was no practical reason from his perspective
as to why we could not visit. While we were not successful
in gaining access to Thanh this time, our visit was a clear
signal that we take this case very seriously and will
continue to pursue it. End Comment.

WINNICK

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