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Cablegate: Another Hcmc Activist Arrested; Bui Kim Thanh Update

VZCZCXRO3847
PP RUEHDT RUEHPB
DE RUEHHM #0333 0940640
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 040640Z APR 07
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2339
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 1683
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 2528

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 000333

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM SOCI PREL PGOV KIRF PREF VM
SUBJECT: ANOTHER HCMC ACTIVIST ARRESTED; BUI KIM THANH UPDATE

REF: A. ORONA/SILBERSTEIN 3/30 EMAIL; B) HCMC 248 AND

B. PREVIOUS; C) 06 HANOI 2077 AND PREVIOUS; D) HCMC 232 AND
C. PREVIOUS; E) 06 HCMC 218

1. (SBU) On April 3 we met with the sister of lawyer Tran
Thi Thuy Trang to confirm ref A reports that Ms. Trang was
arrested in HCMC on March 7. Trang is an associate of Le
Quoc Quan, a National Endowment for Democracy fellow, who
was arrested on March 8 in northern Vietnam shortly after
his return from the United States. Quan was charged with
"participation in activities to overthrow the People's
Government," under Article 79 of the Vietnamese penal code.

2. (SBU) The sister told us that Trang has been in charge
of the HCMC office of the law firm "Quan and Associates"
for over a year. Located near HCMC's Tan Binh Industrial
Park, the firm specialized in commercial law and in
providing services to firms in the industrial zone.
However, following the outbreak of labor unrest in HCMC and
neighboring provinces in early 2006 (ref E), Trang became
increasingly involved in defending workers involved in
labor disputes. The sister did not know how Trang, who
graduated from law school in HCMC in 1999, began her
association with the Hanoi-based Le Quoc Quan.

3. (SBU) Trang's sister told us that the family was unaware
of Trang undertaking any anti-GVN activities or efforts to
promote independent labor. Nonetheless, when police came
to their house to arrest Trang on March 7, the one arrest
warrant they were allowed to see stated that Trang "stored
anti-Communist Party and anti-GVN materials." Police
refused to divulge what the other charges were. Police
thus far also have refused to allow the family visitation
rights or to allow the defense lawyer they hired access to
Trang.

Bui Kim Thanh
-------------

4. (SBU) Separately, we spoke by phone on April 2 with a
relative of Bui Kim Thanh, the land rights activist
involuntarily committed to a mental institution since
November 2006 (ref D). The relative told us that she was
able to visit and speak with Thanh in the mental
institution in late March. At that time, Thanh reportedly
said that she believed that she would be forced to remain
in the mental institution for at least another few months.
However, Thanh's husband said that she would have to spend
a year in the mental institution and would only be eligible
for release at the end of October 2007. The relative
added that one of Bui Kim Thanh's brothers confronted
Thanh's sons about their refusal to intervene more
forcefully on their mother's behalf. The sons reportedly
replied that ?she is in there because she refuses to admit
that she is ill. If she admits it, we could get her out in
no time.?

Comment
-------

5. (SBU) The detention of Tran Thi Thuy Trang brings to 24
the number of dissidents and activists in the HCMC Consular
District that have been imprisoned or detained since late
2006. Trang's involvement, however peripheral, in
organizing workers and protecting their rights outside
Party-controlled structures would have been more than
enough to trigger her arrest. Pressure by the authorities
on Bui Kim Thanh to acknowledge that she is mentally ill is
a standard tactic in the MPS repertoire to discredit
activists. Her case increasingly parallels that of Baptist
pastor Than Van Truong, who was forced to acknowledge that
he was mentally ill before being released from the same
mental institution in 2005. Truong was involuntarily
committed to the mental institution by police for a year.

WINNICK

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