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Cablegate: Buddhists Mourn Passing of Ubcv Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang

VZCZCXRO1658
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHNH
DE RUEHHM #0608 1900926
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 080926Z JUL 08
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4611
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 3117
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 4837

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 000608

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, DRL/AWH AND DRL/IRF

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM KIRF PREL PGOV VM
SUBJECT: BUDDHISTS MOURN PASSING OF UBCV PATRIARCH THICH HUYEN QUANG

REF: HCMC 617 AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) Summary: Thich Huyen Quang, the 4th most Venerable
Patriarch of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam
(UBCV), died on July 5 in Binh Dinh province after a long battle
with heart, lung and liver problems. While state-run media are
reporting the event via the officially-sanctioned Vietnam
Buddhist Sanga (VBS), UBCV leaders have been at Quang's bedside
since late May and will officiate at his July 11 funeral. Post
believes Quang's most likely successor is the fiery and
politically outspoken Thich Quang Do, who is no more likely to
reconcile with the GVN than was Quang. End summary.

2. (U) The International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB), the
international support organization of Unified Buddhist Church of
Vietnam (UBCV), announced the death of the 4th Most Venerable
Thich Huyen Quang on July 5, 2008 at Nguyen Thieu monastery in
Binh Dinh province. Quang, who was 89 years old, had been
suffering from heart, lung and kidney problems for many years.

UBCV Leadership to Unofficially Officiate Funeral...
--------------------------------------------- -------
3. (SBU) While state-run media outlets reported the news of
Thich Huyen Quang's death on July 5 via the
officially-recognized Vietnam Buddhist Sanga (VBS) Executive
Council in Binh Dinh, UBCV contacts told Poloff that both VBS
and UBCV leaders are unified in their condolences and prayers
for the departed Buddhist leader.

4. (SBU) According to post's UBCV contacts, more than twenty
UBCV monks have been holding a vigil at Thich Huyen Quang's
bedside since late May, including UBCV General Secretary Thich
Quang Do from HCMC. The UBCV will also officiate at Quang's
funeral on July 11, and UBCV leaders expect thirty to forty UBCV
members from Hue, Quang Tri, Tien Giang and Lam Dong provinces
to attend "without difficulties." Similar statements were
reported by RFA in a July 6 interview with IBIB spokesman, Vo
Van Ai.

...Amidst Heavy Security
------------------------
5. (SBU) Post contacts say about 30-40 plain clothes policemen
are currently stationed near and inside Nguyen Thieu Monastery,
and Mr. Ai noted in his July 3 letter to the Ambassador that the
hospital where Quang was being treated imposed "extremely
restrictive conditions" on UBCV visitors, i.e., limiting
visitation time and access. Ai also claimed that Thich Quang Do
had been unsuccessful in his previous attempts to travel from
HCMC to Binh Dinh, but was able to "get through" on May 29
because of Quang's deteriorating condition and because it was on
the same day as the US-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue.

6. (SBU) It is unclear, however, whether the similar
restrictions applied to non-UBCV visitors. We have no
independent confirmation of any previous attempts by Thich Quang
Do to leave HCMC for Binh Dinh. It is therefore equally
possible that Thich Quang Do purposely chose to travel on the
same day as the Human Rights Dialogue. Regardless of these past
difficulties, prayer sessions and funeral preparations appear to
be moving ahead smoothly.

And the 5th UBCV Patriarch Is...
--------------------------------

7. (SBU) The UBCV is not commenting on plans to announce a 5th
Patriarch to succeed Quang, but Ai told RFA there are two
options for deciding the next UBCV leader--either Thich Huyen
Quang may have left a will naming his preferred successor, or
UBCV leadership will vote on the next leader in the event Quang
left no will.

Comment
-------
8. (SBU) Post believes there is a strong possibility the fiery
and outspoken Thich Quang Do will succeed Quang as the 5th UBCV
Patriarch. Given that the GVN has encouraged UBCV leaders to
join the officially-sanctioned VBS in recent years, the
appointment of Do would likely portend a continued lack of
compromise between the UBCV and the GVN. Thich Quang Do has told
Mission officers on many occasions that the UBCV has no desire
to register under the GVN's legal framework because they do not
recognize the GVN's authority over religious matters. What is
much harder to predict is how relations between the UBCV and the
VBS will progress should Thich Quang Do become the next
Patriarch. End comment.

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

FAIRFAX

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