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Cablegate: Gvn Promises and Detainee Releases in Wake of Land Rights

VZCZCXRO5757
PP RUEHDT RUEHPB
DE RUEHHM #0805/01 2111109
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 301109Z JUL 07
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2938
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 2073
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 3140

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HO CHI MINH CITY 000805

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/MLS BRETT BLACKSHAW

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL SOCI ECON VM
SUBJECT: GVN PROMISES AND DETAINEE RELEASES IN WAKE OF LAND RIGHTS
PROTESTS

REF: HCMC 766 AND PREVIOUS

HO CHI MIN 00000805 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary: Since land rights protests in Ho Chi Minh City
were broken up by police on July 18, the GVN has continued
publicizing the measures it is taking to address land rights
protesters' concerns, including the establishment of fourteen
interagency inspection teams to look into unresolved land claims
disputes. Eyewitnesses have dismissed overseas reports that
heavy police violence was used to break up protests and most of
the protest organizers earlier reported detained have been
released. ConGen has been unable to confirm the status of two
others. End summary.

GVN CREATES MULTI-AGENCY TASK FORCE
-----------------------------------
2. (U) Press reports continue to reflect positive GVN actions in
the aftermath of the forcible breakup of land rights protests in
HCMC on July 18. According to local media reports, senior State
Inspectorate official Tran Van Truyen announced the
establishment of 14 inspection teams on July 26 to resolve
outstanding claims in Vietnam's southern provinces. These
inspection teams will include officials from the Ministries of
Natural Resources and Environment, Finance, Construction, the
State Inspectorate and the Office of Government(OOG - an
Executive-level office which advises the Prime Minister and
Cabinet members among others). Press reports also stated that
some 'simple cases' of land disputes and compensation had been
settled in the province of Dong Thap. According to one report,
the Deputy Party Secretary of Tien Giang province, home to the
largest number of protesters, personally met with protesters to
listen to their claims and called for relevant agencies to
proceed with the resolution.

3. (SBU) Despite this active press campaign, ConGen's contacts
noted no concrete breakthroughs in this thorny issue. Mr. Nguyen
Van Trinh (aka, Ba Trinh), a Tien Giang resident and one of the
two main organizers of reftel protests, told ConGen that he has
not heard of any successful settlements. Monk Thich Minh Nguyet
of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), who
visited the protesters during their three-week demonstration in
HCMC and maintains close contacts with the organizers (reftel),
told us that Tien Giang authorities have made promises but that
he has observed no actual progress to date.

DETAINEE UPDATE
---------------
4. (SBU) ConGen attempts to communicate with the protest
organizers have been limited because their cell phones appear to
have been blocked, but we did manage to speak with Nguyen Van
Trinh. Despite several reports -- primarily from overseas
Vietnamese groups -- of police using water hoses, cattle prods,
and tear gas to break up demonstrators, Trinh said he did not
see any tear gas, and that water hoses were only used to clean
the area where protesters had been camped for three weeks.
Trinh did confirm that he was forcibly placed into a police
truck and suffered minor injuries when he tried to resist, but
said he was not beaten. Released after one night in police
custody, Trinh said he has been summoned to return for
interviews with the police almost everyday. Trinh told us that
police have asked him for names of other organizers and
information on how funds from the UBCV and overseas Vietnamese
supporters were funneled to the protesters. Police have also
tried to pressure Trinh into signing a commitment not to
organize or take part in land protests in the future. Trinh
said he does not yet know whether he will be prosecuted for his
role in the protests.

5. (SBU) Pastor Duong Kim Khai, a ConGen contact with several
connections within the land rights movement, confirmed that Ms.
Nguyen Thi Bao Phuong, the PalTalk user arrested for allegedly
giving food to the protesters and whose case was the focus of
several inquiries from U.S. based NGO's, was released after a
brief detention. Pastor Khai also confirmed that the other main
organizer previously reported in reftel, Ms. Cao Que Hoa, has
been released. ConGen has been unable to confirm the present
status of two other protest organizers, Ms. Vu Thanh Phuong and
Ms. Hien.

COMMENT
-------
6. (SBU) Though the establishment of 14 interagency inspection
teams shows a willingness to admit that the protestors had a
valid grievance and perhaps even a GVN willingness to take
action on the land protesters' claims, actual resolution of
these complicated and difficult cases will likely take some time
to materialize even if the GVN's press statements are completely
sincere. The GVN's handling of the protest organizers has been
restrained thus far, but ConGen will continue attempts to
confirm detainee releases as well as report any future arrests

HO CHI MIN 00000805 002.2 OF 002


or prosecutions of land protest organizers. End comment.

7. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Hanoi.
FAIRFAX

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