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Cablegate: Central Highlands Authorities Continue to Arrest Montagnard

VZCZCXRO8348
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHNH
DE RUEHHM #0693 2110909
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 290909Z JUL 08
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4713
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 3175
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 4941

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 000693

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, PRM/A AND DRL/AWA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREF PREL PGOV SOCI VM
SUBJECT: CENTRAL HIGHLANDS AUTHORITIES CONTINUE TO ARREST MONTAGNARD
DEMONSTRATORS

REF: A) HCMC 447 B) HCMC 480 C) HCMC 674

1. (SBU) Summary: Six ethnic minority "instigators" of mass
demonstrations were arrested by authorities in Gia Lai province
this month, according to a recent government news report. Post
contacts confirmed the arrests, but say only two now remain in
custody. While official reports call the detainees Front Unifie
de Lutte des Races Opprimees (FULRO) separatists, post contacts
continue to cite land issues as the reason for the April unrest.
End summary.

2. (SBU) Cong An (Police) newspaper on July 4 reported that Gia
Lai provincial authorities arrested Montagnard Nam Ty and five
of his "henchmen" for their role in April demonstrations (Ref
B). Reliable post contacts confirmed the arrests but could not
ascertain the names of Nam Ty's colleagues. On July 22, a
pastor contact reported that only two alleged "instigators"
remained in custody. Post contacts are hesitant to pursue their
inquiries further, given the sensitive nature of the issue.

3. (SBU) The authorities have accused Ty of inciting 20 people
to "continue demonstrating through August." Cong An described
Ty and his fellow Montagnards as "FULRO instigators" who had
tried to "deceive ignorant people about the history, human
rights, law, and maps of the Degar Republic." Front Unifie de
Lutte des Races Opprimees (FULRO), a paramilitary separatist
group that sought the establishment of an independent state for
ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands, laid down their arms
in 1992, but former members remain active via overseas groups.
The Cong An article said the Gia Lai People's Committee Chairman
feted the Province's Political Affairs Division and awarded it
10 million VND (600 USD) in recognition of their work on the
investigation and arrests.

4. (SBU) Comment: While the situation in the Central Highlands
has calmed considerably following the April unrest, these recent
arrests show authorities are continuing to arrest individuals
they consider ringleaders of "Degar Republic separatism." Post
contacts, on the other hand, suggest that the demonstrations had
more to do with land appropriation abuses by political insiders
rather than FULRO-formented rebellion (Ref A). While land
rights protests and the resulting crack-down on poor peasants
are a country-wide phenomenon (ref C), discontent over land
appropriation policies in the Central Highlands is complicated
by a racial and cultural dimension. Corrupt land grabs by
Kinh-majority officials are particularly provocative to ethnic
minorities who have already seen their traditional lifestyle and
land come under pressure from large-scale internal migration and
state-sponsored economic development projects in recent years.

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

FAIRFAX

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