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Cablegate: Tensions Remain High in Standoff with Buddhists

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

070928Z Jun 01

2001HOCHI00684 - UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED PTQ6509

PAGE 01 HO CHI 00684 01 OF 03 070943Z
ACTION EAP-00

INFO LOG-00 AID-00 AMAD-00 CIAE-00 SRPP-00 MEDE-01 EB-00
EUR-00 UTED-00 H-01 TEDE-00 INR-00 IO-00 L-00
NSAE-00 OIC-02 OPIC-01 PRS-00 P-00 SP-00 SSO-00
SS-00 STR-00 TEST-00 TRSE-00 USIE-00 SNIS-00 NISC-00
PRM-01 DRL-02 G-00 NFAT-00 SAS-00 /008W
------------------F56A50 070944Z /38
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5140
INFO AMEMBASSY HANOI IMMEDIATE
USMISSION GENEVA IMMEDIATE
NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
AMCONSUL HONG KONG PRIORITY
ASEAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
JICPAC HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
DIA WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HO CHI MINH CITY 000684

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV AND EAP/PD/JMARTIN
STATE ALSO FOR DRL/IRF AND S/S-O
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 02 HO CHI 00684 01 OF 03 070943Z
CINCPAC FOR FPA
SECDEF FOR ISA/EA/LSTERN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM KIRF VM HUMANR RELFREE
SUBJECT: TENSIONS REMAIN HIGH IN STANDOFF WITH BUDDHISTS

REF: A. HANOI 1340 B. HCMC 0632 AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: TENSIONS REMAIN HIGH IN HCMC AND HUE AS
POLICE MAINTAINED TIGHT SURVEILLANCE OVER SEVERAL PAGODAS
WHOSE RESIDENTS INCLUDE MONKS LOYAL TO THE BANNED UNIFIED
BUDDHIST CHURCH OF VIETNAM (UBCV). UBCV MONKS FROM
VARIOUS LOCATIONS IN SOUTHERN VIETNAM HAD PLANNED TO
CONGREGATE IN CENTRAL QUANG NGAI PROVINCE ON JUNE 7 IN
DEFIANCE OF GOVERNMENT PROHIBITIONS (SEE REF B AND
PREVIOUS). THICH QUANG DO, WHO HAD PLANNED TO LEAD THE
DELEGATION, WAS PLACED UNDER HOUSE ARREST ON JUNE 1 AND
REMAINS CONFINED TO HIS LIVING QUARTERS INSIDE THE THANH
MINH ZEN PAGODA IN HCMC (SEE REF A). POLICE ON JUNE 7
EXPELLED FROM THE COUNTRY A MEMBER OF THE EUROPEAN
PARLIAMENT, WHO DEMONSTRATED IN FRONT OF QUANG DO'S
PAGODA. PHONE LINES TO MANY PAGODAS HAVE BEEN CUT, AND
CONTACTS WHOM CONGEN HAVE BEEN ABLE TO REACH BY PHONE
EXPRESS FEAR AND ANGER. ONE MONK IN HUE SAID THE
SITUATION THERE IS "EXTREMELY TENSE." END SUMMARY.

THICH QUANG DO UNDER HOUSE ARREST
---------------------------------

2. (U) THICH QUANG DO, THE SECOND-RANKING MONK IN THE
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HO CHI 00684 01 OF 03 070943Z
OUTLAWED UBCV, HAD NOTIFIED GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES THAT HE
WOULD LEAD A DELEGATION OF MONKS TO QUANG NGAI PROVINCE ON
JUNE 7 WITH THE PURPOSE OF TAKING UBCV PATRIARCH THICH
HUYEN QUANG BACK TO HIS HOME PAGODA IN HCMC. HUYEN QUANG
HAS BEEN CONFINED TO AN ISOLATED PAGODA IN CENTRAL VIETNAM
SINCE 1982. MONKS, INCLUDING THICH QUANG DO, WHO HAVE
VISITED THE 83-YEAR-OLD HUYEN QUANG, HAVE NOTED A MARKED
DETERIORATION IN THE PATRIARCH'S HEALTH OVER THE PAST
TWELVE MONTHS. THEY ARE CONCERNED OVER THE LACK OF
MEDICAL FACILITIES IN QUANG NGAI PROVINCE, AND NOTING THAT
HIS TERM OF DETENTION WAS OFFICIALLY CONCLUDED IN 1997,
HAVE URGED OFFICIALS TO ALLOW QUANG TO RETURN TO HCMC.
(NOTE: IN DECEMBER 1999, OFFICIALS REPORTEDLY OFFERED TO
ALLOW HUYEN QUANG TO BE RELOCATED TO HANOI WHERE QUALITY
MEDICAL FACILITIES ARE AVAILABLE. QUANG REPORTEDLY TOLD
THEM HE WOULD NEVER GO TO HANOI. END NOTE.)

3. (SBU) IN AN EFFORT TO PREVENT THE UNAUTHORIZED
DELEGATION OF UBCV MONKS TO TRAVEL TO QUANG NGAI PROVINCE,
POLICE ENTERED THICH QUANG DO'S THANH MINH ZEN PAGODA IN
HCMC ON JUNE 1 AND READ A GOVERNMENT DECISION TO PLACE HIM
UNDER A TWO-YEAR ADMINISTRATIVE DETENTION (HOUSE ARREST)
ORDER. POLICE ALSO CUT THE PHONE LINES TO THE PAGODA.
POLOFF SPOKE WITH PENELOPE FAULKNER, OF THE UBCV'S
INFORMATION OFFICE IN PARIS ON JUNE 3. SHE SAID THAT HER
CONTACTS IN HCMC REPORT THAT QUANG DO IS CONFINED TO HIS
LIVING QUARTERS ON THE THIRD FLOOR OF THE PAGODA. NO ONE
EXCEPT POLICE OFFICERS HAS HAD DIRECT ACCESS TO HIM SINCE
JUNE 1. SEVERAL NON-UNIFORMED POLICE MAINTAIN A PRESENCE
OUTSIDE HIS ROOM IN THE PAGODA. WHENEVER POLICE ENTER HIS
ROOM, ACCORDING TO FAULKNER'S CONTACTS, THEY DO SO TWO AT
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HO CHI 00684 01 OF 03 070943Z
A TIME IN ORDER TO ENSURE THAT NEITHER OF THEM COOPERATES
WITH HIM TO SMUGGLE OUT MESSAGES.

4. (SBU) THE SCHEDULED TIME FOR DEPARTURE OF THE
DELEGATION TO QUANG NGAI PROVINCE WAS 10:00 A.M. ON JUNE
7. POLOFF DROVE DIRECTLY BY THE PAGODA AT 9:55 A.M. AT
THAT TIME, THE GATES TO THE PAGODA WERE OPEN, BUT THE AREA
BEHIND THE GATES LEADING TO THE ENTRANCEWAY TO THE PAGODA
AND THE LIVING QUARTERS WAS EMPTY. TWO PERSONS WHO MAY
HAVE BEEN PLAINCLOTHES POLICEMEN SAT AT A COFFEE SHOP
ACROSS THE STREET. THERE WAS NO UNUSUAL ACTIVITY.

EUROPEAN MP ARRESTED AND DEPORTED
---------------------------------

5. (SBU) OLIVIER DUPUIS, A BELGIAN MEMBER OF THE EUROPEAN
PARLIAMENT, ENTERED THE PAGODA ON THE MORNING OF JUNE 7.
HE REPORTEDLY PLANNED TO STAGE A SIT-IN DEMONSTRATION IN
SYMPATHY WITH QUANG DO. PLAINCLOTHES POLICE ALLOWED HIM
TO STAY IN THE PAGODA FOR MORE THAN AN HOUR, BUT THEN TOOK
HIM BACK TO HIS HOTEL IN A "MILITARY VAN," ACCORDING TO
ONE WITNESS.


6. (SBU) BUT DUPUIS, WHO IS ALSO SECRETARY OF THE ITALIAN-
BASED TRANSNATIONAL RADICAL PARTY, WAS NOT DISSUADED. HE
REPORTEDLY RETURNED TO THE PAGODA IN THE LATE AFTERNOON
WITH AN ASSISTANT, MARTIN SCHULTES, AND UNFURLED A BANNER
THAT SAID "RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FOR VIETNAM" IN BOTH ENGLISH
AND VIETNAMESE. POLICE THEN DETAINED BOTH DUPUIS AND
SCHULTES AND EXPELLED THEM FROM THE COUNTRY. THE BELGIAN
EMBASSY WAS NOT ABLE TO SAY IF EITHER DUPUIS OR SCHULTES
WERE EVER OFFICIALLY "ARRESTED" OR "DEPORTED," BUT AN
OFFICER AT THE EMBASSY DID CONFIRM TO POLOFF THAT
IMMIGRATION POLICE ESCORTED DUPUIS FROM HIS HOTEL TO
HCMC'S TAN SON NHUT AIRPORT, AND HE LEFT THE COUNTRY AT
ABOUT 9:00 P.M. ON JUNE 7.

ANXIETY AT HCMC PAGODAS
-----------------------

7. (SBU) IN THE AFTERNOON OF JUNE 7, CONGEN CALLED THE AN
QUANG PAGODA IN HCMC, THE HOME PAGODA OF THICH HUYEN
QUANG, AND ASKED FOR THICH TAM AN, A MONK WHO REPORTEDLY
HAD BEEN DETAINED BY POLICE THE DAY BEFORE. THE PERSON
WHO ANSWERED THE PHONE SAID THAT IF WE WISHED TO TALK WITH
TAM AN, WE SHOULD GO THERE IN PERSON AND THEN ABRUPTLY
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HO CHI 00684 02 OF 03 070944Z
HUNG UP THE PHONE. WE THEN CALLED THE RESIDENTIAL NUMBER
OF THICH TRI QUANG, WHO ALSO LIVES AT AN QUANG PAGODA AND
IS ONE OF THE THREE RANKING MONKS OF THE OFFICIAL BUDDHIST
ASSOCIATION IN HCMC. TRI QUANG SAID HE WAS NOT AWARE OF
ANY ATTEMPTS BY MONKS TO GO TO QUANG NGAI PROVINCE THAT
MORNING. HE SAID THAT THICH TAM AN WAS PRESENT AT THE
PAGODA BUT, AS OF JUNE 4, HE WAS UNAVAILABLE TO COME TO
THE PHONE AT THE MOMENT (REF A). CONGEN ALSO CALLED THICH
HIEN PHAP, ANOTHER OF THE THREE RANKING MONKS OF THE
OFFICIAL BUDDHIST ASSOCIATION WITH WHOM WE HAVE MET
SEVERAL TIMES BEFORE. PHAP, WHO HAS IN THE PAST BEEN
WILLING TO TALK ABOUT THE UBCV, SEEMED ANNOYED BY OUR
INQUIRIES AND SAID HE KNEW NOTHING MORE ABOUT THICH QUANG
DO AND THE UBCV PROBLEMS THAN WHAT WAS REPORTED ON
TELEVISION.

8. (SBU) CONGEN CALLED THE XA LOI PAGODA IN HCMC. AT ONE
NUMBER, THE PERSON WHO ANSWERED THE PHONE SUGGESTED WE
CALL BACK LATER. WHEN WE CALLED AN HOUR LATER, NO ONE
ANSWERED THE PHONE. AT ANOTHER NUMBER, THE PERSON WHO
ANSWERED THE PHONE BECAME ANGRY AT OUR INQUIRIES. HE SAID
NOTHING UNUSUAL WAS HAPPENING AT THE PAGODA AND SUGGESTED
WE SHOULD PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE MATTER.

9. (SBU) CONGEN ALSO CALLED CAO DAI AND CATHOLIC CONTACTS
WHO LIKELY WOULD BE AWARE OF THE UBCV SITUATION. THESE
CONTACTS, WHO HAVE NEVER HESITATED TO TALK OVER THE
TELEPHONE BEFORE, SAID THEY WOULD BE WILLING TO MEET
POLOFF, BUT DID NOT WANT TO SPEAK OVER THE PHONE.
LIKEWISE, POLOFF WAS ABLE TO REACH THE HCMC-BASED UBCV
MONK WHO DEPARTED HCMC ON JUNE 1 FOR QUANG NGAI. HE IS
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HO CHI 00684 02 OF 03 070944Z
BACK IN HCMC, BUT SAID IT WAS "TOO DANGEROUS" TO SPEAK
OVER THE TELEPHONE. (NOTE: POLOFF PLANS TO MEET WITH THIS
CONTACT AS SOON AS TIME PERMITS. HE RESIDES IN ONE OF THE
RURAL DISTRICTS, LOCATED AT SOME DISTANCE FROM THE CITY.
END NOTE.)

TENSIONS IN HUE
---------------

10. (SBU) CONGEN WAS UNABLE TO REACH THICH THAI HOA AT THE
TU HIEU PAGODA IN HUE CITY. ALL PHONE LINES TO THE PAGODA
HAVE NOW BEEN CUT. (REF A REPORTED THAT THAI HOA'S
RESIDENTIAL NUMBER WAS OUT OF SERVICE, BUT THE TWO LINES
TO THE MAIN PAGODA WERE STILL WORKING.) THE LINES TO
PHUOC THANH PAGODA AND THIEN LAM PAGODA ARE SIMILARLY OUT
OF SERVICE. THE LINE TO BAO QUOC PAGODA WAS OUT OF
SERVICE, BUT CONGEN WAS ABLE TO GET THROUGH ON ANOTHER
NUMBER. POLOFF ASKED TO SPEAK WITH THICH THIEN HANH, WHO
REPORTEDLY HAD BEEN CALLED IN FOR QUESTIONING BY POLICE A
FEW DAYS EARLIER. THE PERSON WHO ANSWERED THE PHONE ASKED
US TO CALL BACK AGAIN IN TEN MINUTES. WE CALLED
REPEATEDLY FOR THE REST OF THE DAY, BUT NO ONE PICKED UP
THE RECEIVER AT THE OTHER END.

11. (SBU) CONGEN ALSO CALLED THE CHAU LAM PAGODA IN HUE,
THE RESIDENCE OF THICH PHUOC VIEN, ONE OF THOSE WHO
REPORTEDLY PLANNED TO TRAVEL TO QUANG NGAI. WHEN WE ASKED
TO SPEAK WITH PHUOC VIEN, THE PERSON WHO ANSWERED THE
PHONE ENGAGED IN A LONG CONVERSATION WITH SOMEONE ELSE
PRESENT AT THE PAGODA BEFORE ANSWERING. HE THEN TOLD US
TO CALL BACK IN TEN MINUTES. TEN MINUTES LATER, AND
SEVERAL TIMES AFTER THAT, THE PHONE WENT UNANSWERED. WHEN
SOMEONE FINALLY ANSWERED THE PHONE, WE WERE TOLD THAT
THICH PHUOC VIEN WAS BUSY AND UNABLE TO TALK WITH US.

12. (SBU) AT LONG QUAN PAGODA IN HUE, THE PERSON WHO
ANSWERED THE TELEPHONE ENGAGED IN A CURIOUS CONVERSATION.
WHEN WE ASKED A QUESTION, HE HESITATED FOR A LONG TIME,
THEN ASKED WHY WE WERE ASKING ABOUT THE UBCV, THEN
HESITATED SOME MORE. AFTER HE TALKED WITH SOMEONE ELSE
WHO APPARENTLY WAS PRESENT IN THE ROOM WITH HIM, HE
SHOUTED SOMETHING UNINTELLIGIBLE AND THEN HUNG UP THE
PHONE.

13. (SBU) A MONK AT PHUOC DUYEN PAGODA IN HUE SAID POLICE
HAD BEEN PRESENT ON THE PAGODA'S GROUNDS UNTIL 11:30 P.M.
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HO CHI 00684 03 OF 03 070944Z
THE NIGHT BEFORE. HE SAID HE HAD BEEN CALLED IN FOR
QUESTIONING AT THE POLICE STATION IN THE MORNING. HE SAID
THAT POLICE HAD ALSO CALLED IN THICH CHI THANH (FROM THE
PHUOC THANH PAGODA), THICH THIEN HANH (FROM THE BAO QUOC
PAGODA), AND THICH CHI MAU. THE MONK AT PHUOC DUYEN
PAGODA SAID HE AND 30 TO 40 OTHER MONKS FROM HUE STILL
PLANNED TO GO TO QUANG NGAI, BUT THAT CAR AND TAXI OWNERS
WERE TOO AFRAID TO PROVIDE VEHICLES FOR THEM. SEVERAL
TIMES DURING THE CONVERSATION, HE SAID THE SITUATION IN
HUE WAS "EXTREMELY TENSE" AND THE MONKS WERE "ANGRY."

14. (U) MEANWHILE, A UBCV PRESS RELEASE FROM PARIS SAID
THAT POLICE HAVE SURROUNDED THICH HUYEN QUANG'S RESIDENCE
IN QUANG NGAI PROVINCE, AND "UBCV MEMBERS TRYING TO VISIT
HIM HAVE BEEN TURNED AWAY."

COMMENT
-------

15. (SBU) CLOSE POLICE SURVEILLANCE OF UBCV MONKS LIKELY
WILL PREVENT ANY OF THEM FROM MEETING WITH THICH HUYEN
QUANG FOR THE TIME BEING. THEIR SUCCESS IN SEALING OFF
HUYEN QUANG, HOWEVER, MAY ONLY ADD TO THE FRUSTRATION AND
RESENTMENT OF HIS SUPPORTERS (WHO ARE SIZABLE IN NUMBER).
FURTHERMORE, VIETNAM IS STILL LEFT WITH THE PROBLEM OF AN
AGING UBCV PATRIARCH IN AN ISOLATED PAGODA IN QUANG NGAI
PROVINCE. SHOULD HIS HEALTH EVENTUALLY FAIL HIM WHILE
STILL IN DETENTION IN THIS REMOTE PROVINCE, THE TENSIONS
OF RECENT DAYS MAY SEEM MILD IN COMPARISON.

RAY
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HO CHI 00684 03 OF 03 070944Z

UNCLASSIFIED

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