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Cablegate: Labor Activists Convicted

VZCZCXRO9984
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHNH
DE RUEHHM #1220 3461517
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 121517Z DEC 07
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3425
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 2347
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 3644

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 001220

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS AND DRL/AWH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL ELAB SOCI VM
SUBJECT: LABOR ACTIVISTS CONVICTED


Summary
-------
1. (SBU) Four United Workers-Farmers Organization (UWFO)
activists were convicted on December 10 for "abusing democracy
and freedom rights to infringe upon the interests of the State
and the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and
citizens." The activists received sentences from one to four
years in prison for disseminating information critical of the
GVN's labor and land use policies. Several other dissident
trials will take place over the next few weeks, marking, for the
most part, the final round of convictions for those arrested
since the GVN's crackdown on pro-democracy groups began in late
2006. End Summary.

2. (U) On December 10, Vietnam press reported the convictions of
four labor activists associated with the United Worker's Farm
Organization (UWFO), a group of labor organizers formed in late
2006 with ties to the People's Democratic Party (PDP). UWFO's
primary activities have included working with factory workers
and dispossessed farmers in 2006 to enlist grassroots support
for the democracy movement. The People's Court in southern Dong
Nai province convicted the four for "abusing democracy and
freedom rights to infringe upon the interests of the State and
the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and
citizens" under Article 258 of Vietnam's Penal Code. The court
meted out prison sentences of four years and six months to Mr.
Doan Van Dien, three years to Ms. Tran Thi Le Hong and one year
and six months to Doan Huy Chuong (Doan Van Dien's son).
Another activist, Mr. Phung Quang Quyen, was also sentenced to
one year and six months in prison. An earlier group of UWFO
leaders had been sentenced in May 2007.

Activities Centered on Land Rights
----------------------------------
3. (SBU) Vietnamese press reports say that Dien, Hong and Quyen
were collecting information on land rights disputes, posting the
information on Internet, and sending it to U.S.-based support
groups in order to "slander the Vietnamese State." The reports
also say Chuong "pretended to be a worker" when he accused the
GVN of "repressing workers and arresting demonstrators" during
interviews with Radio Free Asia and Hoa Mai Radio. Reports also
accuse Dien of preparing and distributing anti-GVN leaflets
during last year's APEC meeting in Hanoi. All three were
arrested in Dong Nai and have remained in detention since
November 15, 2006, shortly after the launch of the organization.

Activist Defended Himself
-------------------------
4. (SBU) ConGen contacts present at the trial say Dien, a former
member of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and a
Mennonite preacher, represented himself, Hoang and Chuong at the
trial. In his defense, Dien told the judge what he did was not
wrong and that he acted to "help people in desperate
situations." A court-appointed lawyer represented Phung Quang
Quyen.

5. (SBU) ConGen's contacts say the court produced leaflets the
group had allegedly authored calling for factory strikes to
demand better benefits and salaries as well as land rights
dispute documents. The Court accused Dien of disseminating the
leaflets in Dong Nai province and at one of HCMC's industrial
parks. The court also said Dien and the others sent land
dispute documents to the pro-democracy Lac Hong Party Alliance
group in the U.S.

Connections with other Dissidents
---------------------------------
6. (SBU) The Lac Hong Party Alliance was formed in January 2006
by the Vietnam Progression Party (Father Nguyen Van Ly's group)
and "For the People," a US-based political group led by Nguyen
Cong Bang. "For the People" runs the Hoa Mai group, which
advocates for human rights in Vietnam via their website and
radio services in the U.S., Europe and Australia.

Comment
-------
7. (SBU) This trial is one in a long series of convictions for
the PDP and other democracy activists arrested since the GVN
crackdown on dissent began in late 2006. Post is attempting to
confirm details regarding several other trials of detained
dissidents scheduled to take place over the next few weeks.
These convictions are the final nail in coffin for the fledgling
democracy movement that existed in Vietnam prior to the GVN
crackdown. Most of the leaders of these movements are now
imprisoned, have fled abroad, are in hiding or are under house
arrest. End Comment.

8. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Hanoi.

FAIRFAX

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