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Cablegate: Buddhist Tensions Continue

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

110320Z Jun 01

2001HOCHI00699 - UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED PTQ4413

PAGE 01 HO CHI 00699 01 OF 03 110320Z
ACTION EAP-00

INFO LOG-00 MFA-01 AID-00 AMAD-00 CIAE-00 INL-00 SRPP-00
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
------------------F6B390 110320Z /38
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5151
INFO AMEMBASSY HANOI IMMEDIATE
USMISSION GENEVA 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
NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HO CHI MINH CITY 000699

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

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

PAGE 02 HO CHI 00699 01 OF 03 110320Z
CINCPAC FOR FPA
SECDEF FOR ISA/EA/LSTERN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM KIRF VM HUMANR RELFREE
SUBJECT: BUDDHIST TENSIONS CONTINUE

REF: A. HCMC 0684 B.HANOI 1340 C. HCMC 0632 AND PREVIOUS

1. SBU) SUMMARY: REFTELS REPORTED THE HOUSE ARREST OF UBCV
BUDDHIST THICH QUANG DO AFTER HE CALLED FOR UBCV BUDDHISTS
TO TRAVEL UNAUTHORIZED TO QUANG NGAI PROVINCE ON JUNE 7
WITH THE PURPOSE OF RETURNING UBCV PATRIARCH THICH HUYEN
QUANG FROM CONFINEMENT IN QUANG NGAI TO HCMC. AS MANY AS
100 BUDDHIST MONKS FROM HUE ATTEMPTED TO GO TO QUANG NGAI
ON JUNE 7. POLICE TURNED MOST OF THEM BACK BEFORE THEY
COULD REACH THE BORDER OF THUA THIEN HUE PROVINCE. POLICE
REPORTEDLY DETAINED APPROXIMATELY 20 MONKS AND NUNS FROM
HUE AFTER REACHING QUANG NGAI. ANOTHER 25 MONKS AND NUNS
FROM HUE WERE TURNED BACK AFTER REACHING THICH HUYEN
QUANG'S PAGODA AND ARE CURRENTLY PRESENT IN QUANG NGAI
TOWN. ONE UBCV BUDDHIST MONK FROM HCMC WAS TURNED BACK
AFTER ATTEMPTING TO ENTER THICH HUYEN QUANG'S PAGODA ON
JUNE 2. HE DESCRIBED THE SECURITY AROUND HUYEN QUANG'S
PAGODA AS EXTREMELY TIGHT. THE HCMC-BASED MONK AND OTHER
UBCV MONKS IN HUE SAY THE SITUATION IN HUE AND QUANG NGAI
REMAIN VERY TENSE. END SUMMARY.

BUDDHISTS FROM HUE ATTEMPT TO TRAVEL TO QUANG NGAI
--------------------------------------------- -----

UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HO CHI 00699 01 OF 03 110320Z
2. (SBU) ON JUNE 8, POLOFF MET WITH A UBCV MONK IN HCMC
WHO HAD TRAVELED TO QUANG NGAI ON JUNE 2 AHEAD OF THE
PLANNED JUNE 7 CONGREGATION. HE AND UBCV MONKS IN HUE
WHOM POLOFF SPOKE TO BY TELEPHONE SAID THAT AT ABOUT 1:00
A.M. ON JUNE 7 POLICE IN HUE SUMMONED THICH TRAN CHI (WHO
WAS ONE OF THE LEADERS OF THE PLANNED HUE DELEGATION TO
QUANG NGAI). WHILE HE WAS STILL AT THE POLICE STATION,
MONKS BEGAN ARRIVING AT HIS PAGODA, THE TU PHONG PAGODA,
AT ABOUT 4:00 A.M. BY 6:00 A.M. TRAN CHI HAD NOT YET
RETURNED, SO THE 60 OR SO MONKS, NUNS, AND LAYPERSONS WHO
HAD GATHERED SET OFF WITHOUT HIM. THEY DEPARTED BY
MOTORCYCLE BECAUSE PERSONS WHO HAD PROMISED TO SUPPLY CARS
AND TAXIS REFUSED, EXPLAINING THAT POLICE HAD WARNED THEM
THEIR VEHICLES WOULD BE CONFISCATED AND THEY WOULD BE
SUBJECT TO ARREST. SECURITY FORCES WERE PRESENT ON THE
STREETS IN HUE, AND 10 POLICE CARS AND SEVERAL POLICE ON
MOTORCYCLES FOLLOWED THE GROUP. WHEN THE CONVOY REACHED
THE LA NGA PASS IN THE MOUNTAINS ABOUT TWO HOURS OUTSIDE
OF HUE CITY, THEY MET A ROADBLOCK CONSISTING OF A LARGE
POLICE VAN AND ABOUT THIRTY SECURITY FORCES. POLICE TOLD
THEM THAT THOSE WHO HAD PROPER REGISTRATION FOR THEIR
MOTORCYCLES AND A DRIVER'S LICENSE WOULD BE ALLOWED TO
PROCEED. THOSE WHO DID NOT WOULD HAVE TO RETURN HOME OR
BE TAKEN INTO CUSTODY FOR BREAKING THE LAW. VERY FEW OF
THE MONKS HAD THE NECESSARY DOCUMENTATION. AFTER A LONG
DISCUSSION, THEY DECIDED TO RETURN HOME. THE POLICE CARS
AND MOTORCYCLES ESCORTED THEM ALL THE WAY BACK TO THEIR
SEVERAL PAGODAS.

3. (SBU) ANOTHER GROUP OF ABOUT 20 UBCV BUDDHISTS DEPARTED
HUE IN TWO VANS. THEY REACHED QUANG NGAI IN THE AFTERNOON
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HO CHI 00699 01 OF 03 110320Z
OF JUNE 7, BUT STOPPED AT A POLICE ROADBLOCK ABOUT TWO
KILOMETERS FROM THICH HUYEN QUANG'S PAGODA. POLICE
REPORTEDLY DETAINED THIS GROUP AND THEY REMAINED IN
DETENTION ON JUNE 8. (POST WAS UNABLE TO OBTAIN THE NAMES
OF ANY OF THE DETAINED BUDDHISTS OR ANY FURTHER DETAILS OF
THEIR REPORTED DETENTION.)

4. (SBU) AT LEAST ANOTHER 25 OTHER UBCV MONKS, NUNS AND
SUPPORTERS FROM HUE TRAVELED TO QUANG NGAI AND WERE TURNED
AWAY AT THE ROADBLOCK TO THICH HUYEN QUANG'S PAGODA. THEY
CURRENTLY REMAIN IN QUANG NGAI TOWN AND ARE IN CONTACT
WITH SUPPORTERS IN HCMC AND HUE BY MOBILE PHONE. THEY
REPORTED THAT A TWELVE-YEAR-OLD MALE BUDDHIST NOVICE WAS
TAKEN INTO POLICE CUSTODY IN QUANG NGAI TOWN ON THE
MORNING OF JUNE 7. POLICE FOUND HIM PASSING OUT LEAFLETS
CRITICIZING THE GOVERNMENT FOR INTERFERING IN RELIGIOUS
AFFAIRS. THE BOY IS A RESIDENT OF QUANG NGAI.

5. (SBU) UBCV BUDDHISTS IN HUE AND IN QUANG NGAI SAY THAT
TENSIONS ARE VERY HIGH IN BOTH PLACES, AND THAT SECURITY
PRESENCE IS HEAVY IN THE TOWNS AND AROUND ALL THE PAGODAS.
THEY SAY POLICE ARE ASKING FOR IDENTIFICATION DOCUMENTS
FROM ANY MONK OR NUN THEY SEE ON THE STREET. THE UBCV
BUDDHISTS ARE CURRENTLY CONSIDERING WHAT THEY SHOULD DO
NEXT AND REPORTEDLY HAVE NOT RULED OUT THE IDEA OF PUBLIC
DEMONSTRATIONS.

AN HCMC-BASED MONK TURNED BACK IN QUANG NGAI
--------------------------------------------

6. (SBU) POLOFF MET JUNE 8 WITH A UBCV MONK WHO DEPARTED
HCMC AT 6:00 P.M. ON JUNE 1, DROVE THROUGH THE NIGHT, AND
REACHED QUANG NGAI LATE IN THE AFTERNOON OF JUNE 2. THE
MONK HAD VISITED THICH HUYEN QUANG ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS IN
THE PAST FEW YEARS WITHOUT INCIDENT AND IS KNOWN BY THE
LOCAL POLICE. THIS TIME HE AND HIS DRIVER WERE STOPPED AT
A ROADBLOCK ABOUT ONE KILOMETER FROM HUYEN QUANG'S PAGODA.
HE SAID THERE WERE ABOUT 40 POLICEMEN AND TEN SOLDIERS
MANNING THE ROADBLOCK. HE COULD SEE ANOTHER 40 OR 50
SECURITY FORCES IN SMALL GROUPS FARTHER DOWN THE ROAD.

7. (SBU) HE CAME OUT OF HIS VEHICLE AND SAT WITH THE
POLICEMAN IN CHARGE IN A TENT SET UP NEARBY. THE
POLICEMAN READ A WRITTEN STATEMENT FROM THE PROVINCIAL
PEOPLE'S COMMITTEE THAT STATED THE AREA WAS UNDER A PUBLIC
HEALTH QUARANTINE BECAUSE OF AN OUTBREAK OF VIRAL DISEASE,
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HO CHI 00699 02 OF 03 110320Z
AND NO ONE WAS ALLOWED TO ENTER. AFTER THIS FORMALITY,
THE POLICE QUESTIONED HIM FOR TWO HOURS. THEY ASKED HIM
ABOUT HIS RECENT VISITS TO THE UNITED STATES AND TO
THAILAND. (HE HAD VISITED THE U.S., THAILAND AND CHINA
EARLIER THIS YEAR.) THEY WANTED TO KNOW WHAT THE
BUDDHISTS IN THESE COUNTRIES WERE SAYING ABOUT THE
SITUATION REGARDING THICH HUYEN QUANG AND IF THEY WERE
INVOLVED IN PLANNING PROVOCATIVE ACTIONS AGAINST THE
GOVERNMENT OF VIETNAM. THEY ALSO ASKED HIM ABOUT RECENT
PROGRAMMING ON RADIO FREE ASIA. THEY TOLD HIM THAT THICH
QUANG DO WAS CAUSING SOCIAL INSTABILITY, AND THAT THEY
WERE SIMPLY DOING THEIR JOBS IN MAINTAINING SOCIAL ORDER.
THEN THEY LET HIM GO. WHEN HE LEFT, IT WAS AFTER DARK.
HE NOTICED THAT THE ELECTRICAL POWER IN THE AREA (THE ROAD
TO THE PAGODA GOES THROUGH A SMALL VILLAGE) WAS CUT, BUT
THE POLICE HAD A GENERATOR.

8. (SBU) HE RETURNED TO THE HOUSE IN QUANG NGAI TOWN WHERE
HE HAD PLANNED TO SPEND THE NIGHT, BUT DECIDED INSTEAD TO
RETURN IMMEDIATELY TO HCMC. THE NEXT DAY, HE HEARD THAT
POLICE WERE LOOKING FOR HIM AT THE HOUSE AND AT SEVERAL
PAGODAS IN THE AREA.

CONFLICTING REPORTS OF RESTRICTIONS IN HCMC
-------------------------------------------

9. (SBU) THE HCMC-BASED UBCV MONK SAID THAT OVER A FIVE-
DAY PERIOD BEGINNING JUNE 1, POLICE IN HCMC SEARCHED ALL
OR NEARLY ALL THE PAGODAS IN HCMC. POLICE SUMMONED MANY
PERSONS FOR QUESTIONING, AND FINED SOME OF THEM CERTAIN
AMOUNTS OF MONEY FOR VARIOUS OFFENSES. AT HIS PAGODA,
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HO CHI 00699 02 OF 03 110320Z
FIVE NUNS AND LAY PERSONS WERE QUESTIONED. HE KNEW
PERSONALLY OF PEOPLE AT SEVERAL OTHER PAGODAS IN THE CITY
WHO HAD SIMILAR ENCOUNTERS WITH THE POLICE.

10. (SBU) HE ALSO SAID THAT ON JUNE 1, THE HCMC DEPARTMENT
OF PUBLIC SECURITY, THE COMMITTEE FOR RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS,
AND THE OFFICIAL BUDDHIST ASSOCIATION HELD A MEETING AT
THE AN QUANG PAGODA IN HCMC. OFFICIAL BUDDHIST
REPRESENTATIVES FROM EACH OF THE CITY'S DISTRICTS ATTENDED
THE MEETING. THEY LATER PASSED WORD VERBALLY TO THE
CITY'S PAGODAS OF TWO DECISIONS MADE AT THE MEETING: 1)
THAT NO LAY PERSONS WOULD BE ALLOWED TO STAY OVERNIGHT AT
ANY PAGODAS IN THE CITY FOR THREE MONTHS, AND 2) THAT FOR
THREE MONTHS, ANY BUDDHIST MONK OR NUN GOING OUTSIDE A
PAGODA SHOULD TRAVEL BY CAR OR TAXI, AND WOULD NOT BE
ALLOWED TO TRAVEL BY MOTORCYCLE, BICYCLE, OR BY FOOT. THE
UBCV MONK SURMISED THAT THE PURPOSE OF THIS RATHER ODD
DECISION WAS TO DISCOURAGE BUDDHIST MONKS AND NUNS FROM
TRAVELING AND ALSO TO KEEP THEM FROM BEING SEEN IN PUBLIC,
DURING THIS SENSITIVE TIME.

11. (SBU) CONGEN CALLED THE OFFICIAL HCMC BUDDHIST
ASSOCIATION ON JUNE 8 TO INQUIRE ABOUT THE DECISIONS MADE
AT THE JUNE 1ST MEETING. THICH HIEN PHAP, THE SECRETARY
GENERAL OF THE ASSOCIATION, SAID THERE HAD BEEN A MEETING,
BUT ONLY AMONG BUDDHISTS. HE SAID THE MEETING HAD BEEN TO
ENCOURAGE MONKS AND NUNS TO OBSERVE MORE CLOSELY THIS YEAR
THE TRADITIONAL BUDDHIST "PERIOD OF MEDITATION," WHICH
OCCURS IN THE SUMMER. FOR THE NEXT THREE MONTHS, THE
ASSOCIATION IS ENCOURAGING MONKS AND NUNS TO REMAIN IN
THEIR PAGODAS TO MEDITATE. HE SAID THAT IF A MONK OR NUN
FOUND IT NECESSARY TO GO OUTSIDE THEIR PAGODAS, THEY COULD
GO BY ANY MEANS OF TRANSPORT THEY CHOSE.

COMMENT
-------

12. (SBU) POST WILL CONTINUE TO MONITOR THE SITUATION AND
REPORT ON SIGNIFICANT EVENTS AS THEY UNFOLD. POST
BELIEVES THAT THE WELL-COORDINATED PUBLIC SECURITY
RESPONSE TO THE PLANNED UBCV PROVOCATION (INTIMIDATING
INDIVIDUALS BY SEARCHING PAGODAS, QUESTIONING THEM AT
POLICE STATIONS, CUTTING PHONE LINES, ROADBLOCKS,
ENCOURAGING OBSERVANCE OF THE "PERIOD OF MEDITATION,"
PLACING THICH HUYEN QUANG'S PAGODA UNDER "QUARANTINE") AND
THE INTEREST POLICE SHOWED IN ASKING ABOUT OVERSEAS
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HO CHI 00699 03 OF 03 110320Z
SUPPORT OF THE UBCV ALL UNDERSCORE THE INSECURITY OF THE
AUTHORITIES IN THEIR DEALINGS WITH THE UBCV BUDDHISTS.
EVENTS OVER THE PAST FEW DAYS AND THE GOVERNMENT'S
RESPONSE PROVE THAT THE ORGANIZATION IT OUTLAWED 20 YEARS
AGO, REMAINS A RELIGIOUS (AS WELL AS A POLITICAL) FORCE TO
BE RECKONED WITH.

RAY

UNCLASSIFIED

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