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Cablegate: Possible Detention of Amcit Viet Tan Member in Ho Chi Minh

VZCZCXRO3405
RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #0389/01 0951046
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 041046Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7545
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 4537
RUEHZS/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 000389

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, DRL/AWH, CA/OCS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM PINR CASC VM
SUBJECT: POSSIBLE DETENTION OF AMCIT VIET TAN MEMBER IN HO CHI MINH
CITY


HANOI 00000389 001.2 OF 002


1.(SBU) Summary: Three members of the opposition Viet Tan party have
apparently been detained in Ho Chi Minh City while trying to visit
fellow Viet Tan members including Amcit Nguyen Quoc Quan (NQQ). The
three, Amcit Mr. Mai Huu Bao, Swiss citizen Ms. Nguyen Thi Xuan
Trang and Australian citizen Nguyen Tan Anh, reportedly took food
and medicine to the detention facility where NQQ and the others were
being held on the morning of April 3 and have not been seen since
then. We have sought confirmation from GVN authorities and stated
our strong concerns any actions taken against persons peacefully
expressing their political views. We are also seeking to confirm
the health and safety of AMCIT Mr. Mai Huu Bao through consular
channels. Suggested press guidance is contained para 6. End
summary.

2.(SBU) On April 4, ConGen HCMC received a call from Amcit Tammy
Tran seeking the whereabouts of her friend, Bao Huu Mai. According
to Ms. Tran, Mr. Mai is a member of the Viet Tan organization who
came to visit fellow Viet Tan members in prison here, including
Nguyen Quoc Quan. Ms. Tran said Mr. Mai came with the full
knowledge and support of the Viet Tan organization. She said she
did not know if he eventually reached the jail or not - she last
received an e-mail from him just over a day ago saying he was "busy
and would write more later."

3. (SBU) PAS Hanoi was called on April 4 by an American journalist
saying he had been contacted by a Viet Tan member in the United
States who told him that four Viet Tan members, including one AmCit,
had gone to visit NQQ in prison yesterday but none of the four have
emerged since entering the prison. NQQ's wife also told ConGen HCMC
that an Australian and a Swedish citizen accompanied the Amcit to
the prison. This afternoon the Swiss Embassy called POL Hanoi with
an unconfirmed report that three people have been detained - one
Amcit, one Swiss citizen, and one Australian citizen - all of
Vietnamese heritage and all members of Viet Tan - who entered
Vietnam with the intention of visiting fellow Viet Tan members in
jail.

4. (SBU) On April 4, Viet Tan released a statement (forwarded to
desk) identifying the detained Viet Tan members as:

- "Ms. Nguyen Thi Xuan Trang, 35-year-old medical doctor and Swiss
citizen. Dr. Nguyen is also a member of eth Comite Suisse Vietnam
(COSUNAM)
- Mr. Mai Huu Bao, 38-year-old electrical engineer and American
citizen. Mr. Mai is a past Executive Board Member of the Union of
Vietnamese Student Associations of Southern California and past
President of the Phan Boi Chau Youth for Democracy.
- Mr. Nguyen Tan Anh, 28-year-old mananger of a health-care
non-profit and Australian citizen. Mr. Nguyen is a past president
of the Vietnamese Students Association of New South Wales."

According to the Viet Tan statement, the three went to HCMC at the
end of March with the goal of visiting imprisoned Viet Tan members
Mr. Somsak Khunmi, Mr. Nguyen The Vu, Mr. Nguyen Viet Trung and
Amcit Mr. Nguyen Quoc Quan, who have been detained since last
November. The statement said the three also planned to meet "later
with other democracy activists."

5. (SBU) Ambassador Michalak attempted to phone Vice Foreign
Minister Pham Binh Minh to underscore both our need for information
and our principled opposition to actions against those engaged in
peaceful political activity. The DCM subsequently contacted MFA
Director General Nguyen Ba Hung to make these points, stressing that
we have a separate consular interest in the American citizen
reportedly involved in the case. DG Ba Hung knew nothing of the
incident, but requested specific information, which DCM supplied
from reports received by the Embassy. Giving his initial,
"personal" reaction, Ba Hung stated that Viet Tan is an organization
dedicated to destabilizing Vietnam, and is thus a terrorist group.
Those entering Vietnam to destabilize the nation "should be
arrested." (Comment: Vietnam rejects the argument that the
explicit statements of Viet Tan that it pursues political change in
Vietnam via exclusively peaceful means, pointing to its continued
"embrace" in its publicity materials of the late paramilitary leader
Hoang Co Minh, who was killed during an armed incursion into Vietnam
in 1988. End Comment)

6. (SBU) Following is proposed press guidance:

Q - Has the U.S. Embassy Hanoi or Consulate General HCMC confirmed
that an American citizen is being detained in HCMC? Can the Embassy
or Consulate confirm this is individual is a member of the Viet Tan
Organization?

A - We have seen reports that an American citizen was detained
yesterday by Vietnamese officials in Ho Chi Minh City. We are
working to confirm those reports.

HANOI 00000389 002.2 OF 002

- We have no confirmed information on alleged affiliations of an
individual said to be in detention.

- In those instances in which any U.S. Mission receives
confirmation of the arrest or detention of any American citizen, we
are legally prohibited from commenting on the case unless the
American citizen has authorized us to do so by signing a privacy act
waiver.

7. (U) This cable was coordinated with ConGen HCMC.

MICHALAK

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