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Cablegate: Gvn Steps Up Divide and Conquer Attacks On Ubcv

VZCZCXRO4004
PP RUEHHM
DE RUEHHM #0523/01 1340913
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 140913Z MAY 07
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2619
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 1896
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0022
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0033
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 2816

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HO CHI MINH CITY 000523

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KIRF SOCI PINR VM
SUBJECT: GVN STEPS UP DIVIDE AND CONQUER ATTACKS ON UBCV

REF: A) HCMC 407; B) HCMC 266; C) HCMC 261

1. (SBU) Summary: Vietnam's Ministry of Public
Security-affiliated newspaper covered prominently its Vice
Minister's April 30 meeting with Thich Huyen Quang, the ailing
90-year old Patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam
(UBCV), as a gesture of GVN goodwill and reconciliation. The
article portrayed the Patriarch as a moderate Buddhist leader,
but slammed UBCV General Secretary Thich Quang Do as a dangerous
anti-GVN renegade impeding the unification of the Buddhist
church. Our contacts in the UBCV confirm that police have been
asking repeatedly about the Patriarch's will and succession
plans. The GVN apparently fears that Thich Quang Do, younger,
healthier, based in HCMC and far more politically assertive,
poses a far greater threat should he inherit the leadership of
the UBCV as is expected. End Summary.

2.(U) On May 5, the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) mouthpiece
"Cong An" newspaper ran a front page story on the April 30
meeting between MPS Vice Minister Nguyen Van Huong and UBCV
Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang at his pagoda in Binh Dinh Province.
The article called the meeting "friendly and open-hearted." It
reported that the influential MPS Vice Minister highlighted
previous efforts by the GVN to work with Quang and the UBCV,
including Quang's meeting with former Prime Minister Phan Van
Khai in April 2003 in Hanoi. Huong said that reports of Quang
being under surveillance or pagoda arrest for the past 20 years
are "incorrect." He "strongly affirmed" to Quang that he can
travel anywhere he wants and noted the March 2007 visit of the
Consul General (Ref A) and his ability to travel to HCMC for
medial treatment in 2006 (Ref B) as evidence of his freedom.
According to the Cong An article, Huong invited Quang to attend
the upcoming conference of the GVN-recognized Vietnam Buddhist
Sangha (VBS) to contribute his ideas towards the "improvement
and unification of Vietnamese Buddhism."

3. (U) The article quotes Huong as warning Quang to cease
associating with UBCV General Secretary Thich Quang Do, who is
"abusing religion to hide his political purposes." Huong
cautioned that Do was taking advantage of Quang's prestige to
"disturb the people's solidarity." He asserted that Do had
faked Quang's last will and testament to ensure that, upon
Quang's death, he would be appointed supreme UBCV leader. Huong
stated Do drafted the Buddha's birthday message on Quang's
behalf with false statements designed to incite anti-GVN
sentiments. The article claimed that Quang "was very upset
about this." According to the article, Quang closed the meeting
by affirming that he does not work against the interests of the
Vietnamese people or the VBS and expressed his desire to visit
Hanoi and meet with the Prime Minister.

The UBCV: More False GVN Propaganda

------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Post contacted two of Thich Huyen Quang's aides in Binh
Dinh Province and a key UBCV leader in HCMC to discuss the MPS
press play. They told us that Quang is aware of the MPS article
and was dismissive of its contents.

The three monks confirmed that the meeting with the Vice
Minister occurred and that Huong was accompanied by the
provincial MPS Director and his deputy. Quang was alone.

5. (SBU) Quang reportedly told his aides that the Vice Minister
again sought to discourage him from associating with Thich Quang
Do. Quang said that VM Huong told him that he was free to
travel so long as he does not meet with Do. One of Quang's
aides noted that the Vice Minister inquired about the
Patriarch's will -- something that police now do often -- but
Quang replied that it is an internal UBCV matter. One aide was
present at the conclusion of the meeting and overheard the Vice
Minister warn Quang that "Thich Quang Do is holding hands with
the Americans," to which Quang replied, "so too is the GVN I
understand."

6. (SBU) On May 11, the Paris-based International Buddhist
Information Bureau, the UBCV's international representative,
released Thich Huyen Quang's "Buddha Day" message. We confirmed
with an aide of Thich Huyen Quang that the message is authentic
and was transmitted to Paris from Binh Dinh a few days before
the meeting with Vice Minister Huong. The message is critical
of the GVN and touches on some of the most neuralgic issues for
the Communist Party, including Vietnam's border demarcation deal
with China. The message notes that:

-- "the UBCV is suffering some of the worst repression in over
20 years. I am forbidden to travel to receive medical care. The
Most Venerable Thich Quang Do is prohibited to visit me in Binh
Dinh. In 20 provinces all over the country, members of UBCV
Representative Boards are coerced and repressed."

HO CHI MIN 00000523 002 OF 002

-- "imposing monasteries have been built, and costly ceremonies
organized, but all this cannot hide the fact that the beliefs of
religious followers are not respected in Vietnam."

-- "spiritual integrity is no different from territorial
integrity. If we take the land that our forefathers so
painstakingly built, and give it away to foreign powers, what is
left of our people's nation and homeland? In the same way, the
human spirit must not cower or surrender to illegitimate and
immoral forces."

Comment

-------

7. (SBU) If the Vice Minister's approach to Thich Huyen Quang
was to try and drive a wedge in the UBCV hierarchy or to pitch
-- again -- for Quang to lead the UBCV into the VBS, he failed.
Quang's strident Buddha Day message makes it clear that,
although he is more frail and soft-spoken than Thich Quang Do,
their views are the same. Quang, 90, is in poor health. The
GVN is concerned that Thich Quang Do will inherit the leadership
of the UBCV. Though 80, Do is strong and relatively healthy,
based in HCMC, and more politically assertive. The reality on
the ground for UBCV provincial leaders continues to be
difficult. For example, the authorities continue to summon
members of various provincial boards of the UBCV -- particularly
in the Mekong Delta and in Hue and Khanh Hoa provinces in
Central Vietnam -- to "working sessions with the police," and
demand that they drop their UBCV affiliation or face arrest.
End Comment.
WINNICK

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