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Cablegate: Police, Protestors Clash in New Land Protest

VZCZCXRO2014
PP RUEHDT RUEHPB
DE RUEHHM #0706 1841002
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 031002Z JUL 07
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2831
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 2013
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 3032

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 000706

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL SOCI ECON VM
SUBJECT: POLICE, PROTESTORS CLASH IN NEW LAND PROTEST

REF: 06 HCMC 625 AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) Press and HCMC government contacts confirmed on July 3
Internet reporting of a clash between land rights protestors and
police in HCMC on July 1. The bulk of the protestors were from
the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang. They sought to
overturn a GVN decision to expropriate their land to build a
high-voltage power line. Separately, HCMC press reported that in
late June, fishermen in the central province of Khanh Hoa
clashed with authorities as they protested the construction of a
new state-owned shipyard in their fishing grounds and anchorage.


2. (SBU) Land protestors from Tien Giang had been assembling in
front of the National Assembly offices near the HCMC airport for
at least a week prior to the incident. We were told that on June
28, there was an urgent meeting in Hanoi between Nguyen Viet
Thanh, Deputy Head of the GVN anti-corruption Committee, and
Tien Giang provincial leaders. General Thanh is a native of
Tien Giang and a former police general, who has been heavily
involved in dealing with land protestors in the past. In the
fall of 2006, Thanh met with land protestors in HCMC from the
Mekong Delta, HCMC and Tay Ninh provinces, and told them that
they must cease their protests if they wished the government
address their complaints. He warned that the state would punish
those that continued their protests. Shortly following Thanh's
warning, the land protests fizzled out.

3. (SBU) On June 29, General Thanh, the Tien Giang leaders, and
the Chief and Deputy Inspectors for the GVN flew to HCMC to meet
with the protestors. They reportedly asked the protestors to
return to Tien Giang so that their grievances could be
processed, but they refused.

4. (SBU) A local government contact confirmed Internet reporting
that, the following day, police clashed with protestors in
HCMC's District 6, where they were staying. It is unclear thus
far, how and why the incident occurred, but our contact told us
that police did use force against the protestors. However, he
firmly denied that any protestors were killed, however. HCMC's
media has not reported on the protests; our contacts indicated
that the press is highly unlikely to risk the censors' wrath,
despite confirmation of clashes between police and protestors.

5. (SBU) Comment: Our contacts in the land rights movement in
HCMC claimed not to be connected in any way to the Tien Giang
protests. The Tien Giang protestors appear well-organized and
briefed in how to exploit the Internet to gain maximum
international attention for their cause. Nonetheless, public
protest remains a brave act, especially after a powerful
Hanoi-based figure traveled to HCMC and told them to end their
protest.

6. (SBU) Comment Continued. The Tien Giang protest -- as well
as the unrelated fisheries protest in Central Vietnam --
reflects the continued frustration of Vietnam's underclass.
Based on past experience, they have no confidence that the
government and the Party will protect their interests. Thus,
they believe they have no effective outlet to challenge official
decisions or to obtain fair compensation. The move by protest
organizers to "internationalize" the land protests by
publicizing them on the Internet is a risky strategy; it is
likely that the GVN will seek to mediate a peaceful end to the
protest, but later try and identify and arrest organizers,
especially if they are affiliated with dissident groups. How
government officials deal with the subject of land expropriation
and compensation will help determine the pace of major planned
infrastructure projects, not just in HCMC, but throughout the
South. End Comment.

WINNICK

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