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Cablegate: Mfa Raises Concerns About Highlanders in Cambodia and Vietnamese Workers in American Samoa

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

261041Z Mar 01

2001HANOI00702 - UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED PTQ0596

PAGE 01 HANOI 00702 01 OF 02 261056Z
ACTION EAP-00

INFO LOG-00 NP-00 ACQ-00 CIAE-00 DODE-00 DOEE-00 WHA-00
SRPP-00 DS-00 EB-00 FBIE-00 UTED-00 VC-00 H-01
TEDE-00 INR-00 LAB-00 L-00 VCE-00 AC-01 NSAE-00
NSCE-00 OMB-01 OPIC-01 PA-00 PM-00 PRS-00 ACE-00
P-00 SP-00 SS-00 TEST-00 TRSE-00 T-00 USIE-00
PMB-00 DSCC-00 DRL-02 G-00 NFAT-00 SAS-00 SWCI-00
/006W
------------------D70371 261056Z /38
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2362
INFO AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 000702

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL ELAB CB VM
SUBJECT: MFA RAISES CONCERNS ABOUT HIGHLANDERS IN CAMBODIA AND VIETNAMESE WORKERS IN AMERICAN SAMOA

REF: HANOI 00598

UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 02 HANOI 00702 01 OF 02 261056Z

1. SUMMARY: AMERICAS DEPARTMENT DIRECTOR ASKED AMBASSADOR TO
MEET AFTERNOON OF MARCH 26 TO RAISE VIETNAMESE CONCERNS
ABOUT A GROUP OF HIGHLANDERS WHO HAVE ILLEGALLY CROSSED THE
BORDER INTO CAMBODIA AND TO REITERATE VIETNAMESE GOVERNMENT
OBJECTIVES TO REMOVE ALL VIETNAMESE WORKERS FROM AMERICAN
SAMOA. AMBASSADOR PROMISED TO RELAY VIETNAMESE CONCERNS TO
THE DEPARTMENT AND ALSO RAISED U.S. REQUESTS FOR OPPORTUNITY
TO VISIT CENTRAL HIGHLAND AREAS WHICH HAD BEEN THE SITE OF
JANUARY/FEBRUARY DISTURBANCES. ON THE LATTER POINT,
AMERICAS DIRECTOR SAID HE BELIEVED IT WAS "ONLY A MATTER OF
TIME" BEFORE THIS WOULD OCCUR. END SUMMARY

2. AMERICAS DEPARTMENT DIRECTOR NGUYEN MANH HUNG ASKED
AMBASSADOR TO COME TO MFA AFTERNOON OF MARCH 26 AND RAISED
TWO ISSUES WHICH HE SAID HAVE BECOME MORE COMPLICATED
RECENTLY BECAUSE OF USG ACTIONS. HUNG BEGAN BY RAISING THE
CASE OF A GROUP OF CENTRAL HIGHLANDS RESIDENTS WHO HAD
ILLEGALLY CROSSED THE BORDER INTO CAMBODIA. HE SAID THESE
INDIVIDUALS HAD BEEN DETAINED BY CAMBODIAN AUTHORITIES AND
THE TWO COUNTRIES WERE NOW DISCUSSING THEIR RETURN TO
VIETNAM. ACCORDING TO HUNG, THE VIETNAMESE EFFORTS WERE
BEING COMPLICATED BY THE INTERVENTION OF "MEMBERS OF THE
U.S. EMBASSY DEFENSE ATTACHE OFFICE IN PHNOM PENH" WHICH WAS
URGING THE CAMBODIAN GOVERNMENT NOT TO RETURN THESE
VIETNAMESE CITIZENS TO VIETNAM. HUNG STRESSED THAT VIETNAM
AND CAMBODIA HAVE A WRITTEN AGREEMENT COVERING ILLEGAL
BORDER CROSSERS AND THAT THIS AGREEMENT SHOULD GOVERN HOW
THIS CASE WAS HANDLED. HE ASKED THE AMBASSADOR TO RELAY
HANOI'S REQUEST THAT U.S. EMBASSY PHNOM PENH OFFICIALS STOP
THEIR INVOLVEMENT IN THIS BILATERAL MATTER.
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HANOI 00702 01 OF 02 261056Z

3. SEEKING CLARIFICATION OF WHO MIGHT BE INVOLVED, THE
AMBASSADOR ASKED IF THE BORDER CROSSERS WERE IN SOME WAY
FLEEING FROM THE VIETNAMESE AUTHORITIES. HUNG CONCURRED
THAT THE INDIVIDUALS IN QUESTION HAD COME FROM THE BORDER
PROVINCES WHERE THE DISTURBANCES HAD OCCURRED AND IMPLIED
THE INDIVIDUALS WERE IN FACT BEING SOUGHT FOR POSSIBLE
INVOLVEMENT IN THOSE DISTURBANCES. AMBASSADOR SAID WE WERE
UNAWARE OF ANY REPORTS OF ACTIVITIES BY EMBASSY PHNOM PENH
PERSONNEL AND AGREED TO PASS THIS MESSAGE BACK TO THE
DEPARTMENT OF STATE TO REFLECT VIETNAM'S CONCERN.
AMBASSADOR AND DCM IMPLIED THAT THE CROSSING OF THE BORDER
MIGHT, HOWEVER, INVOLVE MORE CONCERNS THAN JUST THE
BILATERAL AGREEMENT BETWEEN VIETNAM AND CAMBODIA.

4. HUNG NEXT TURNED TO GVN CONCERNS ABOUT THE STATUS OF
VIETNAMESE WORKERS IN AMERICAN SAMOA. HE SAID HE'D JUST
LEARNED THAT ABOUT 100 OF THESE WORKERS HAD NOW REPORTEDLY
GONE TO HAWAII -- PURPORTEDLY CONNECTED TO ONGOING
INVESTIGATIONS OF THE NATURE OF THE CONTRACT ACTIVITIES IN
THIS CASE. HUNG SAID THIS TRULY COMPLICATED VIETNAMESE
GOVERNMENT ACTIVITIES DESIGNED TO BRING ALL OF THESE WORKERS
BACK HOME. HE SAID THE GVN HAD COMMITTED TO BRING ALL THESE
PEOPLE HOME AND HAD AGREED TO PAY THE COSTS WHEN THEY
DISCOVERED NEITHER THE WORKERS NOR THE COMPANIES INVOLVED
COULD DO SO. VIETNAMESE AUTHORITIES, HE SAID, UNDERSTAND THE
NEED FOR INVESTIGATION OF POSSIBLE WRONGDOING BUT HOPED THIS
COULD BE ACCOMPLISHED IN A QUICK MANNER EITHER IN AMERICAN
SAMOA OR BY TAKING DEPOSITIONS FROM THE WORKERS. HE SAID HE
SAW NO REAL NEED FOR THESE PEOPLE TO HAVE TO GO TO HAWAII
BECAUSE IT INCREASED "EXPECTATIONS" OF A POSSIBLE LONGER
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HANOI 00702 01 OF 02 261056Z
STAY IN THE U.S.

5. AMBASSADOR SAID HE REMAINED CONCERNED ABOUT THE LONG
DELAY THAT HAD OCCURRED BETWEEN THE FIRST REPORTED DISPUTES
IN AMERICAN SAMOA AND THE VIETNAMESE GOVERNMENT'S DECISION
TO BRING THE WORKERS BACK TO VIETNAM. THE SITUATION NOW WAS
COMPLICATED BECAUSE A LOT OF DIFFERENT LEGAL ISSUES WERE
BEING RAISED, INCLUDING BY PEOPLE WHO DID NOT NECESSARILY
FAVOR IMPROVEMENT OF BILATERAL RELATIONS BETWEEN THE U.S.
AND VIETNAM. SOME OF THESE PEOPLE WOULD LIKE TO PUBLICIZE
THE PROBLEMS AND DISCREDIT VIETNAM ON LARGER GROUNDS. HE
URGED THE VIETNAMESE AUTHORITIES TO TAKE PROMPT ACTION TO
CARRY OUT THE RETURN OF THE VIETNAMESE WORKERS. NOTING HE
WAS UNAWARE OF THE REPORT OF 100 WORKERS BEING TRANSFERRED
TO HAWAII, AMBASSADOR SAID THIS WAS LIKELY THE RESULT OF A
REQUEST FOR A MORE DETAILED INVESTIGATION BY AMERICAN SAMOA
AUTHORITIES WHICH HAS NOW PUT THE CASE IN THE HANDS OF THE
FBI AND THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. HE SAID HE WAS UNAWARE
OF ANY SPECIFIC INS RULING ON THE WORKERS STATUS THAT MIGHT
APPLY TO THEIR GOING TO HAWAII OR TO FURTHER STAYS IN THE
U.S.

6. DCM ASKED HUNG IF ONLY VIETNAMESE COMPANY
REPRESENTATIVES HAD BEEN PRESENT IN AMERICAN SAMOA TO TALK
WITH THE WORKERS ABOUT RETURNING HOME. AMBASSADOR NOTED THE
TWO COMPANIES INVOLVED BELONG TO MINISTRIES AND THUS PERHAPS
THOUGHT THEY WERE INDEED REPRESENTING THE GOVERNMENT'S
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 02 HANOI 00702 02 OF 02 261056Z
CONCERNS. DCM SUGGESTED IT MIGHT BE USEFUL TO HAVE
GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS WHO DID NOT REPRESENT THE COMPANIES
RESPONSIBLE FOR SOME OF THE PROBLEMS BE PRESENT TO HELP THE
WORKERS TO RETURN. AMBASSADOR REITERATED EARLIER
RECOMMENDATIONS THAT VIETNAMESE AUTHORITIES THINK ABOUT
SENDING A BOAT OR PLANE TO PICK UP THE REMAINING WORKERS,
ASSUMING THE GOVERNMENT COULD PREVAIL UPON THEM THAT IT WAS
BEST TO RETURN. HUNG ACKNOWLEDGED THIS WAS VIETNAM'S GOAL
BUT SAID VIETNAM "COULD NOT FORCE THESE PEOPLE TO RETURN
AGAINST THEIR WILL."

7. HUNG CLAIMED "TOO MANY PEOPLE" WERE ADVISING THE
VIETNAMESE WORKERS THEY HAD A REAL OPPORTUNITY TO STAY
PERMANENTLY IN THE U.S. THIS, HE SAID, WAS CONFUSING THE
WORKERS. HE URGED THE U.S. TO TAKE A DEFINITIVE STANCE ON
THIS ISSUE WHICH WOULD MAKE IT CLEAR THERE WAS NO HOPE FOR
RESIDENCE IN THE U.S. HUNG ALSO SAID HE HAD RECEIVED THE
REPORT OF A MEETING BETWEEN BCLTV DIRECTOR SILVER AND
AMBASSADOR BANG IN WHICH SILVER PURPORTEDLY MENTIONED THAT
NUMBER IN OR ENROUTE HONOLULU. HUNG TOOK NOTE OF THE
SUGGESTION ABOUT "OTHER GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS" BEING INVOLVED
AND SAID THE VIETNAMESE EMBASSY HAD BEEN CHARGED WITH
RESPONSIBILITY FOR COORDINATING OFFICIAL ACTIONS AND HE WAS
SURE AMBASSADOR BANG HAD BEEN IN FREQUENT CONTACT WITH
AMERICAN SAMOA OFFICIALS.

8. AMBASSADOR REITERATED USG REQUEST TO VISIT THE CENTRAL
HIGHLANDS NOW THAT THE SITUATION HAD CALMED AND THE PRESS
HAD ALREADY VISITED. HE CALLED ATTENTION TO THE DEPARTMENT
PRESS SPOKESMAN'S STATEMENT OF MARCH 23 AND EARLIER U.S.
REQUESTS TO VISIT. HE SAID THIS WAS THE ONLY TIME HE HAD
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HANOI 00702 02 OF 02 261056Z
BEEN REFUSED PERMISSION TO TRAVEL AND THAT HE BELIEVED IT
WAS TIME TO LET DIPLOMATS RETURN TO THE POLICY OF OPEN
TRAVEL IN COUNTRY. THE AMBASSADOR SAID IF THE VIETNAMESE
AUTHORITIES PREFERRED TO HAVE VISITS BY OTHER THAN
AMBASSADORS HE WAS PREPARED TO HAVE EMBASSY OR CONGEN HCMC
PERSONNEL TAKE THE FIRST TRIPS. BUT, HE SAID, THE TIME WAS
NOW RIPE FOR THIS TO TAKE PLACE. HUNG SAID HE WOULD AGAIN
CONVEY THE AMBASSADOR'S REQUEST TO TRAVEL TO THE REGION. HE
WAS AWARE OF THE AMBASSADOR'S REQUEST IN FEBRUARY AS WELL AS
DCM'S REQUEST LAST WEEK. HE SAID HE FELT IT WAS SIMPLY A
MATTER OF TIME BEFORE THIS WOULD OCCUR BUT HE DID NOT
INDICATE HE FELT THAT OUR REQUEST WOULD GET A FAVORABLE
ANSWER IMMEDIATELY. (NOTE: EMBASSY AND CONGEN PERSONNEL
HAVE ALREADY MADE APPLICATION TO TRAVEL TO THE AFFECTED
REGIONS AND ARE AWAITING FORMAL RESPONSE FROM THE PROVINCIAL
AUTHORITIES. END NOTE)

9. COMMENT: VIETNAMESE HAVE LAID THE GROUND WORK TO BLAME
THE USG IF ANY OF THE HIGHLAND RESIDENTS OF VIETNAM WHO ARE
CURRENTLY IN CAMBODIA SOMEHOW DO NOT MAKE IT BACK TO
VIETNAM. IF THERE IS A QUESTION ABOUT THE STATUS OF THESE
INDIVIDUALS AND THEIR ELIGIBILITY FOR SOME FORM OF
CONSIDERATION AS REFUGEES, IT IS ESSENTIAL TO GET UN OR
OTHER APOLITICAL PERSONNEL INTO THE MIX RIGHT AWAY.
FOLLOWING THE MEETING, AMBASSADOR DISCOVERED E-MAILED WIRE
SERVICE REPORTS QUOTING CAMBODIAN PM HUN SEN AS SAYING ALL
OF THE 24 DETAINED VIETNAMESE WOULD BE RETURNED TO VIETNAM.
HUN SEN IDENTIFIED THESE INDIVIDUALS AS 'REBELS OR
CRIMINALS' AND SAID CAMBODIA HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO SEND THEM
BACK TO THEIR COUNTRY. HUNG WAS CERTAINLY NOT AWARE OF
THESE REPORTS WHEN HE CALLED THE AMBASSADOR TO COME IN. BUT
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HANOI 00702 02 OF 02 261056Z
HE HAS CLEARLY PUT DOWN A MARKER TO SUGGEST ANY CHANGE IN
HUN SEN'S POLICY WILL RESULT IN THE U.S. BEING IDENTIFIED AS
THE CULPRIT.

10. ON AMERICAN SAMOA WORKER ISSUES, WE'D APPRECIATE
CLARIFICATION WHETHER 100 INDIVIDUALS HAVE ALREADY BEEN
REMOVED TO HAWAII. IF NOT, WE URGE THAT USG AGENCIES
CONDUCT WHATEVER INVESTIGATIONS ARE NECESSARY IN AMERICAN
SAMOA WITHOUT TAKING THESE INDIVIDUALS TO THE U.S. FAILURE
TO SO RAISES THE RISK NONE OF THE OTHER WORKERS WILL AGREE
TO LEAVE AMERICAN SAMOA. IT ALSO SETS A PRECEDENT FOR
POSSIBLE FUTURE EFFORTS TO CREATE "CONDITIONS OF WORK" WHICH
WILL ENABLE UNSCRUPULOUS INDIVIDUALS TO "TRAFFIC" ILLEGAL
EMIGRANTS TO THE U.S. UNDER THE GUISE OF HUMANITARIAN
CONCERNS. END COMMENT

PETERSON

UNCLASSIFIED

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