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Cablegate: Clashes Over Land in the Mekong Delta

VZCZCXRO3077
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHNH
DE RUEHHM #0413/01 1120805
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 210805Z APR 08
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4390
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 4613

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HO CHI MINH CITY 000413

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS AND PRM/A

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV VM
SUBJECT: CLASHES OVER LAND IN THE MEKONG DELTA

REF: 07 Ho Chi Minh 1056

HO CHI MIN 00000413 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary: Small-scale but violent clashes sparked by
unresolved land disputes have reportedly broken out between
Khmer ethnic minority people and Government of Vietnam (GVN)
military in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang. Local
contacts confirm a Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) report
that the GVN military conducted raids in early April into the
protestors' villages, leaving several injured. Two ethnic
Khmers have reportedly been arrested. A second KKF report of
the persecution of another Khmer ethnic minority person in Soc
Trang province appears unfounded. End summary.


Clashes in An Giang Province
----------------------------

2. (SBU) The KKF - an exile pro-Khmer group based in the U.S.
and long considered anti-GVN by Vietnamese government officials
- released an April 9 report condemning the Vietnamese
government for violently cracking down on peaceful Khmer ethnic
protestors in Chau Lang commune, Tri Ton district, An Giang
province. According to the KKF, an unknown number of ethnic
Khmers gathered on April 7, upset over the GVN's recent
destruction of a bridge in the neighborhood. GVN authorities
reacted, said KKF, by raiding the protestors' villages on April
8 and targeting two Khmer individuals, Mr. Chau Hen and Mr. Chau
Ut. The KKF report went on to state that police arrested Chau
Hen but Chau Ut had gone missing, and that at least four of
their relatives were injured during the raid.

3. (SBU) POL staff confirmed the demonstration and the police
raid in An Loi and Ta On villages with a Khmer monk who lives in
the area, who said the raid took place early on the morning of
April 9 (rather than April 8 as reported by KKF). According to
the monk, on the night of April 6, Chau Lang commune police, for
unknown reasons, destroyed a bridge leading to rice fields where
local farmers go to work. Frustrated, three hundred farmers
gathered on April 7 and threw stones at the commune people's
committee office. During the retaliatory police raid on April
9, the monk noted, several ethnic Khmers were injured, including
Chau Ut's father. The monk confirmed the arrest of both Chau Hen
and Chau Ut. According to the monk, most of the injured were
denied medical attention. He noted that aside from joining this
protest, Chau Hen and Chau Ut are well-known to the GVN for
their involvement in prior protests over land issues.

4. (SBU) The monk went on to report that on April 10, over 100
Khmer land protestors clashed with about 1,000 GVN soldiers in
the villages of An Loi and Ta On. According to the monk, the
soldiers beat protestors with sticks, while the protestors were
armed with knives. Many Khmers were injured, the monk said, and
again, most were denied medical attention.

5. (SBU) Villagers from An Loi and Ta On told the monk that an
unknown number of women were taken away in a police car, and
that the villagers were so afraid they moved into the pagoda to
sleep. The monk talked with the provincial Executive Council of
the government-recognized Vietnam Buddhist Sangha, district
authorities, and the police, who assured him that there would be
no more arrests. By April 14, most of villagers had been
persuaded by the monk to return home.

Arrests in Soc Trang?
---------------------

6. (SBU) In a second KKF report dated April 2, the KKF accused
GVN authorities of burning down the house of a Khmer woman,
jailing ethnic Khmers who have been persistent with land
complaints, and stealing Khmer crops in Boeng Ansa village, An
Huyen commune, My Xuyen district, Soc Trang province. Contacts
noted that there are no such villages or communes by these
names, even if pronounced in Khmer language. However, a
high-ranking dignitary of the provincial executive council of
Vietnam Buddhist Sangha from My Xuyen district confirmed that a
Khmer woman's house was burned down, but by her younger brother.
The brother had allegedly stabbed another person over some
dispute, the dignitary said. When police came to arrest the
brother, he burned down the house to cover his escape, but was
eventually arrested. No other contacts could confirm any
further arrests.

Comments
--------

7. (SBU) Post is attempting to gain further information
regarding the reasons for the demonstrations in An Giang
province, but believes reports identifying land disputes as the
cause of the unrest to be accurate. The ethnic Khmer minority in
the area have a long history of land disputes (some violent)
with both Vietnamese authorities and their Kinh majority

HO CHI MIN 00000413 002.2 OF 002


neighbors. Details of incidents in the Khmer community are hard
to obtain due to the isolation of the area and the language
barrier (many Khmers do not communicate well in Vietnamese).

8. (SBU) At present, it is unclear if there is any link between
the two arrestees and the KKF. However, faced not only with a
restive Khmer population, but also with a yet-to-be reconciled
portion of the historically militant Hoa Hao Buddhist sect,
security forces in An Giang are known to be aggressive and
hard-line (reftel), and post is not surprised to hear reports of
a heavy-handed police crackdown on Khmer protestors in this
region. Post continues to track incoming reports and seek
verification of these events, but does not expect to have
conclusive information on the details surrounding the
demonstrations for some time to come. End comment.
FAIRFAX

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