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Cablegate: Embassy Convenes Eac and Town Hall Meetings

VZCZCXRO9176
OO RUEHBZ RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHGO #0914/01 2700119
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 270119Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY RANGOON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6563
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0538
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 4070
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 7628
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 5185
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 3319
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0974
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 RANGOON 000914

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MLS; INR/EAP; S/ES-O/CMS; CA/OCS/ACS;
DS/IP/EAP, DS/ITA, DSCC

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC CASC AMGT PREL AEMR BM
SUBJECT: EMBASSY CONVENES EAC AND TOWN HALL MEETINGS

REF: RANGOON 911 AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) Summary. The Embassy on September 25 held an EAC
meeting to discuss security given the current political
situation. The EAC agreed that the Embassy's security
posture was sufficient given the current political situation.
The EAC recommended town hall meetings to discuss recent
developments with local employees and American citizens.
Accordingly, we hosted on September 26 two town hall
meetings; more than 150 American citizens attended. Embassy
officials clarified the facts of the current political
situation, explained basic security measures, and addressed
questions and concerns. RSO advised American citizens to
avoid demonstrations and large crowds, and instead seek
shelter away from the protests. Charge emphasized that we
will continue to pass information to American citizens in a
timely fashion and urged people to be aware of their own
personal security. End Summary.

EAC Meeting Convened
--------------------

2. (SBU) On September 25, the Emergency Action Committee
(EAC) for American Embassy Rangoon met to discuss the
security situation in Burma in light of ongoing protests that
have become more political in tone (Reftel). The EAC agreed
that the Embassy's current precautions and security posture
were sufficient but made the following recommendations:

--American Staff should increase radio checks on the Embassy
E&E network;
--All employees should have sufficient food and water
available in their residences in the event that sheltering in
place became necessary;
--and all employees should stay alert to the daily changes in
the movements of anti-government protests, avoid areas of
mass demonstrations, and report any security incidents and
problems.

Discussing the Current Situation
--------------------------------

3. (SBU) Per the EAC's recommendation, Embassy Rangoon
hosted on September 26 two Town Hall meetings for local staff
and American citizens to discuss the current political
situation. More than 150 American citizens attended. The
Charge opened the meeting by explaining that Embassy
officials wanted to provide factual information to Amcits
hearing many rumors about the current political situation.
She emphasized that we would continue to pass information to
Americans in a timely fashion, while requesting patience as
we tried to restore full communications now that we had moved
into our new Embassy. Our officers continue to work with both
Washington and local authorities to resolve the communication
issues as quickly as possible.

4. (SBU) Poloff then addressed the group, explaining the
current situation. Noting that while the demonstrations,
which began on September 19, have grown in size, he
emphasized that news reports of 100,000 protestors were
greatly exaggerated. Embassy officials observed most of the
demonstrations, he explained, and saw at most 10,000
demonstrators at the peak of the protests. Several thousand
people often observe these protests daily. Since September
19, the demonstrations have become increasingly political,
with more civilians and political activists, holding
political banners and chanting political slogans, joining the
protests daily. Poloff also reported that we had not
observed any significant uniformed presence at the
demonstrations nor arrests or violence associated with the
recent demonstrations led by monks. However, he added that
he saw armed military troops gathering downtown the evening
of September 25.

5. (SBU) Although the demonstrations have not been violent,
RSO informed American citizens that they should be aware of

RANGOON 00000914 002 OF 002


their personal security and recommended that they avoid the
protests. There is little danger from the actual protestors,
he explained, but a safety threat exists as the police have
no crowd control capability. If people see crowds, they
should seek shelter in a safe place. RSO also explained that
the Embassy had no additional information on the curfew or
the restrictions on gatherings of more than five people, but
were requesting clarification and would pass along
information received. The restriction on groups was not new,
Charge noted, but has tended to be selectively enforced. He
emphasized that people should use common sense, avoid
dangerous situations, and report any security incidents to
the Embassy.

Answering Amcits' Concerns
--------------------------

6. (SBU) Several Amcits inquired about the Embassy's
communications system, noting that they have been unable to
get through. We passed them a different embassy phone number
-- 95-1-650-006 -- which should rollover calls to the next
available line. We acknowledged the phones had frequently
been busy and pledged to do our utmost to resolve the
problems quickly. Conoff noted that the Department would
likely release a new public announcement shortly. We will
post the information online and disseminate it through the
warden system. Conoff also encouraged all Americans to
register with the Embassy; afterwards more than 20 did.

7. (SBU) One American, noting that some schools are closed
for security reasons, asked for the Embassy's recommendations
regarding school closures. Charge explained that the RSO has
been providing updated security information to the schools so
that the administrations and parents can make informed
decisions about classes. We subsequently learned that one
school decided to close until mid-October, moving up a
scheduled break.

8. (SBU) Several participants asked about possible
evacuation plans. The Charge replied that the current
situation did not warrant an evacuation; and the Embassy
would continue to monitor and assess the situation to keep
Amcits informed. If the security situation deteriorates and
foreigners become targets, the Embassy will advise Amcits
about departing the country. Until then, individuals should
remain vigilant about their own individual security. One
asked whether they could take refuge at the Embassy. Charge
explained that we were not equipped to house large numbers of
people, and said people should be safe in their own homes.
We advised them to stock up on water and food. RSO
reiterated that people should avoid crowds and seek shelter
in a safe location. An American citizen spoke up at the
conclusion, stating that people should stay close to home for
the next week and see how the demonstrations play out.
VILLAROSA

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