Search

 

Cablegate: Christmas in the Central Highlands: Tolerance and Repression for Ethnic Minority Protestants

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

151416Z Jan 02

2002HOCHI00039 - UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED PTQ3774

PAGE 01 HO CHI 00039 01 OF 03 151450Z
ACTION EAP-00

INFO LOG-00 NP-00 AID-00 AMAD-00 ACQ-00 CIAE-00 DINT-00
DODE-00 SRPP-00 DS-00 EB-00 ED-01 FBIE-00 UTED-00
VC-00 HHS-01 H-01 TEDE-00 INR-00 IO-00 L-00
VCE-00 AC-01 NSAE-00 NSCE-00 OIC-02 OMB-01 OPIC-01
PA-00 PC-01 PM-00 PRS-00 ACE-00 P-00 SP-00
IRM-00 SSO-00 STR-00 TEST-00 TRSE-00 USIE-00 PMB-00
DSCC-00 PRM-00 DRL-02 G-00 NFAT-00 SAS-00 SWCI-00
/011W
------------------57FA7B 151451Z /38
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5880
INFO AMEMBASSY HANOI IMMEDIATE
USMISSION GENEVA
ASEAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HO CHI MINH CITY 000039

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV AND EAP/PD/MSPEER
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR PRM
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR DRL/IRF
CINCPAC FOR FPA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREF PGOV PINS SOCI PREL KIRF VM CB RELFREE HUMANR ETMIN
SUBJECT: CHRISTMAS IN THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS: TOLERANCE AND REPRESSION FOR ETHNIC MINORITY PROTESTANTS


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: ACCORDING TO TWO ETHNIC MINORITY
LEADERS, ETHNIC MINORITY PROTESTANTS IN THE CENTRAL
HIGHLANDS ENCOUNTERED A MIXTURE OF TOLERANCE AND
REPRESSION BY LOCAL AUTHORITIES AT CHRISTMASTIME.
THERE WERE ALLEGED INCIDENTS OF SEVERE POLICE ABUSE IN
SOME VILLAGES, BUT IN OTHER VILLAGES, AUTHORITIES
SEEMED TO ALLOW GROUPS AS LARGE AS SEVERAL HUNDRED
PEOPLE TO ATTEND CHRISTMAS PRAYER SERVICES. IN A
SEPARATE INCIDENT, VIETNAMESE SOLDIERS WERE ALLEGED TO
HAVE KILLED AS MANY AS EIGHT PERSONS WHEN UP TO 230
PERSONS WERE PREVENTED FROM CROSSING THE BORDER INTO
CAMBODIA ON CHRISTMAS DAY. SEPTEL REPORTS FURTHER ON
PROTESTANTS IN THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS. END SUMMARY.

CHRISTMAS IN THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS
----------------------------------
2. (SBU) ON JANUARY 15, TWO ETHNIC MINORITY PROTESTANT
LEADERS, ONE FROM DAK LAK PROVINCE AND ONE FROM GIA LAI
PROVINCE, CAME DOWN FROM THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS TO MEET
WITH CG AND POLOFF FOR MORE THAN TWO HOURS. THEY SAID
LOCAL AUTHORITIES IN THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS HAD BEEN
WORRIED THAT THE SAME GROUPS WHO HAD ORGANIZED ANTI-
GOVERNMENT DEMONSTRATIONS IN FEBRUARY/MARCH 2001 WOULD
USE CHRISTMAS AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO STAGE MORE
DEMONSTRATIONS. OFFICIALS IN THE VARIOUS LOCALITIES
TOOK DIFFERENT APPROACHES IN TRYING TO PREVENT
CHRISTMAS GATHERINGS FROM GETTING OUT OF HAND. IN SOME
LOCATIONS, OFFICIALS ALLOWED GATHERINGS OF SEVERAL
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HO CHI 00039 01 OF 03 151450Z
HUNDRED PEOPLE; IN OTHER PLACES, THEY ALLOWED PEOPLE TO
PRAY TOGETHER ONLY IN SMALL GROUPS IN THEIR HOMES. YET
IN OTHERS, PROTESTANT CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS WERE
FORBIDDEN OUTRIGHT. SOME LOCAL AUTHORITIES PUSHED
CHRISTMAS SERVICES AHEAD TO THE SUNDAY BEFORE
CHRISTMAS.

3. (SBU) ACCORDING TO THE LEADER FROM DAK LAK PROVINCE,
400-500 ETHNIC MINORITY PROTESTANTS GATHERED IN BUON
CUOR KNIA VILLAGE FOR AN OUTDOOR CHRISTMAS EVE VIGIL
THAT AUTHORITIES ALLOWED TO GO ON ALL NIGHT. (POST
NOTE: THIS VILLAGE WAS VISITED BY CONGENOFFS DURING A
PRE-CHRISTMAS TRIP TO THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS.) ON
CHRISTMAS DAY, HOWEVER, THE TWO ETHNIC MINORITY
MINISTERS WHO LED THE SERVICES WERE DETAINED AND HELD
FOR FIVE DAYS. THEIR DETENTION WAS NOT IN CONNECTION
WITH THE CHRISTMAS SERVICE, ACCORDING TO OUR SOURCE.
POLICE DETAINED THEM BECAUSE THEY WERE SUSPECTED OF
BEING INVOLVED WITH TWELVE VILLAGERS WHO HAD ATTEMPTED
TO CROSS THE BORDER TO CAMBODIA ON CHRISTMAS DAY (SEE
NEXT SECTION).

4. (SBU) THE LEADER SAID THAT IN KRONG PA DISTRICT, DAK
LAK PROVINCE, ABOUT 600 ETHNIC MINORITY PROTESTANTS
GATHERED FOR AN OUTDOOR CHRISTMAS VIGIL. ON CHRISTMAS
DAY, HOWEVER, POLICE SUMMONED THE FEMALE MINISTER OF
THE CONGREGATION TO THE POLICE STATION FOR SEVERAL DAYS
OF QUESTIONING. OUR SOURCE SPECULATED THE POLICE WERE
DISMAYED AT THE LARGE TURNOUT AT HER CHURCH.

5. (SBU) THE LEADER SAID THAT HE HAD PERSONALLY LED A
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HO CHI 00039 01 OF 03 151450Z
PRAYER CEREMONY OF ABOUT 250 PERSONS OUTSIDE HIS HOME.
HE SAID HE WAS AWARE OF AT LEAST FIVE OR SIX OTHER
PLACES IN DAK LAK PROVINCE WHERE PEACEFUL PRAYER
GATHERINGS OF MORE THAN 100 PERSONS TOOK PLACE. HE
SAID THAT IN NUMEROUS VILLAGES IN THE PROVINCE, POLICE
ALLOWED GROUPS OF 50 PEOPLE OR FEWER TO GATHER IN HOMES
TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS.

6. (SBU) THIS SOURCE EMPHASIZED, HOWEVER, THAT IN OTHER
VILLAGES IN DAK LAK PROVINCE, AUTHORITIES PASSED THE
WORD THAT NO ETHNIC MINORITY PROTESTANT CHRISTMAS
SERVICES WOULD BE ALLOWED. AS A RESULT, OUR SOURCE
CLAIMED MOST ETHNIC MINORITY CHRISTIANS EITHER DID NOT
CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS OR PRAYED QUIETLY IN THEIR HOMES.

7. (SBU) THE LEADER FROM GIA LAI PROVINCE SAID
CHRISTMAS THERE WAS SIMILAR. IN PLEI BRENG VILLAGE,
NEAR THE PROVINCIAL SEAT OF PLEIKU, SOLDIERS ASSISTED
IN ORGANIZING THE CHRISTMAS PRAYER SERVICES. THIS
SOURCE SPECULATED IT WAS LESS A MATTER OF HOLIDAY
SPIRIT THAN A MEANS FOR MAINTAINING CONTROL OVER
EVENTS. HE SAID THAT IN GIA LAI'S CHU PRONG AND CHU SE
DISTRICTS, NO CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS WERE ALLOWED.

8. (SBU) IN PEK VILLAGE IN DAK DOA DISTRICT, ABOUT 1500
PERSONS GATHERED ON DECEMBER 24, AND WERE PREPARING TO

PAGE 02 HO CHI 00039 02 OF 03 151451Z
SUBJECT: CHRISTMAS IN THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS: TOLERANCE
AND REPRESSION FOR ETHNIC MINORITY PROTESTANTS

STAGE AN ANTI-GOVERNMENT DEMONSTRATION. AFTER A FEW
HOURS, POLICE AND ETHNIC MINORITY PROTESTANT LEADERS
PERSUADED THE PEOPLE TO RETURN TO THEIR HOMES
PEACEFULLY. OUR SOURCE SAID HE WITNESSED EVENTS IN DAK
DOA PERSONALLY.

9. (SBU) HE SAID THAT POLICE DETAINED AND TORTURED TWO
PASTORS FROM CHU SE DISTRICT BY PUTTING STICKS BETWEEN
THEIR FINGERS AND THEN SLAMMING THEIR HANDS WITH A
BOOK. ONE OF THE TWO, 32-YEAR-OLD R'MAH NHUI (ALSO
KNOWN AS AMA SOREN) FROM IA LE VILLAGE IN CHU SE
DISTRICT, CAME TO THE LEADER'S HOME AND SHOWED HIM HIS
BROKEN FINGERS. HE ASSERTED THE POLICE DID THIS
BECAUSE THEY HEARD HE WAS PLANNING TO ORGANIZE A
CHRISTMAS PRAYER SERVICE.

10. (SBU) SPECIFICALLY ASKED ABOUT ALLEGATIONS OF
TORTURE BY ELECTRIC SHOCK, THE LEADER FROM GIA LAI
PROVINCE SAID HE WAS UNAWARE OF POLICE USING THESE
TACTICS. THE LEADER FROM DAK LAK PROVINCE, HOWEVER,
SAID BUON CUOR KNIA POLICE BEAT UP AND SHOCKED WITH
ELECTRIC WIRES 12 PEOPLE WHO HAD ATTEMPTED TO CROSS
INTO CAMBODIA. BOTH LEADERS SAID POLICE -- ETHNIC
MINORITY AS WELL AS ETHNIC VIETNAMESE KINH -- ROUTINELY
ROUGHED UP SUSPECTS DURING DETENTION. NEITHER SOURCE
WAS AWARE OF ANYONE DETAINED IN CONNECTION WITH
CHRISTMAS SERVICES WHO WAS STILL BEING HELD.

UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HO CHI 00039 02 OF 03 151451Z
ALLEGATIONS OF KILLINGS ON THE CAMBODIAN BORDER
--------------------------------------------- --
11. (SBU) BOTH LEADERS RELATED THAT APPROXIMATELY 230
ETHNIC MINORITY PERSONS ATTEMPTED TO CROSS INTO
CAMBODIA ON CHRISTMAS DAY. THEY CAME IN TWO GROUPS -
ONE GROUP OF ABOUT 30 PERSONS FROM KON TUM PROVINCE;
ANOTHER GROUP OF ABOUT 200 PERSONS FROM DAK LAK
PROVINCE. A GUIDE LED THEM TO A PLACE ON THE CAMBODIAN
BORDER NEAR GIAO VILLAGE IN DAK MIL DISTRICT, DAK LAK
PROVINCE.

12. (SBU) ACCORDING TO OUR SOURCES, THE GUIDE TOLD THE
GROUP HE WOULD LEAVE THEM AND RETURN AFTER PURCHASING A
MOBILE PHONE IN DAK MIL TOWN. TWO HOURS LATER,
VIETNAMESE SOLDIERS SURROUNDED THE GROUP. THE LEADERS,
WHO WERE RELATING SECOND-HAND REPORTS, INSISTED THAT
ONE GROUP OF VIETNAMESE SOLDIERS APPROACHED FROM THE
EAST AND ANOTHER FROM THE WEST, I.E. VIETNAMESE FROM
THE CAMBODIAN SIDE OF THE BORDER. OUR DAK LAK SOURCE
SAID THIS WAS CLEARLY A "SET-UP".

13. (SBU) THIS LEADER FROM DAK LAK SAID A SECURITY
OFFICIAL TOLD HIM THAT 186 PERSONS WERE DETAINED, BUT
MOST WERE RETURNED TO THEIR HOME VILLAGES BY MILITARY
VEHICLE AND RELEASED THE SAME DAY. HE STRESSED THAT
NONE OF THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN THE GROUP WAS
MISTREATED, BUT ASSERTED THAT A DOZEN MEN WERE BEATEN
AND TORTURED WITH ELECTRIC SHOCK UPON THEIR RETURN TO
BUON CUOR KNIA.

14. (SBU) THE LEADER FROM GIA LAI PROVINCE SAID THAT
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HO CHI 00039 02 OF 03 151451Z
ETHNIC MINORITY VILLAGERS WHO LIVE IN THE AREA TOLD HIM
THAT NEAR TO WHERE KON TUM, GIA LAI AND THE CAMBODIAN
PROVINCES OF RATANAKIRI AND MONDULKIRI MEET, SEVERAL
PERSONS FROM THE GROUP BEING RETURNED TO KON TUM TRIED
TO ESCAPE. SOLDIERS OPENED FIRE AND KILLED FOUR
PERSONS, ACCORDING TO THESE VILLAGERS. IN A SEPARATE
INCIDENT, ACCORDING TO THIS SAME LEADER, SOLDIERS SHOT
AND MAY HAVE KILLED FOUR OTHER PEOPLE AS THEY TRIED TO
ESCAPE BY SWIMMING ACROSS THE SRE PAK RIVER IN DAK LAK
PROVINCE. (THE LEADER FROM DAK LAK PROVINCE DID NOT
MENTION THESE INCIDENTS BEFORE DEPARTING.) WHEN ASKED
SPECIFICALLY IF HE BELIEVED IT WAS GVN POLICY TO KILL
VILLAGERS ATTEMPTING TO CROSS INTO CAMBODIA, OUR GIA
LAI SOURCE SAID "NO", BUT HE BELIEVES SOLDIERS ARE TOLD
TO "STOP PEOPLE FROM CROSSING," AND SOMETIMES "MISTAKES
ARE MADE."

15. (SBU) THE LEADER FROM GIA LAI PROVINCE SAID THAT
TWO OF THE 30 PEOPLE FROM KON TUM PROVINCE ARE STILL
UNDER DETENTION IN A PRISON IN PLEIKU. THEIR NAMES ARE
HOANH AND AMA XUAN. THREE PERSONS FROM DAK LAK ARE
STILL BEING DETAINED, BUT HE KNEW THE NAME OF ONLY ONE
OF THEM - RAHLAM LUA (ALSO KNOWN AS AMA DUY).

"DEGA PROTESTANTS" VS. MAINSTREAM PROTESTANTS
---------------------------------------------

16. (SBU) BOTH LEADERS SPOKE OPENLY ABOUT THE SPLIT
BETWEEN MAINSTREAM ETHNIC MINORITY PROTESTANTS IN THE
CENTRAL HIGHLANDS AND THE "DEGA PROTESTANTS" WHO
ACTIVELY SUPPORT AN INDEPENDENT ETHNIC MINORITY
("DEGA") STATE IN THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS. ALL OF THE
PERSONS WHO ATTEMPTED TO CROSS THE BORDER INTO CAMBODIA
WERE "DEGA PROTESTANTS," ACCORDING TO THE LEADERS. THE
LEADER FROM DAK LAK PROVINCE CHARACTERIZED THE "DEGA
PROTESTANTS" AS "FALSE CHRISTIANS," WHO IGNORE THE
ADVICE OF "TRUE" PROTESTANT PASTORS TELLING THEM NOT TO
GO TO CAMBODIA.

17. (SBU) WHEN ASKED DIRECTLY ABOUT THE REASONS FOR
ETHNIC MINORITY VILLAGERS TO CROSS INTO CAMBODIA, THE
LEADER FROM GIA LAI PROVINCE DIVIDED THE GROUPS INTO
TWO. HE SAID HE BELIEVED THE PEOPLE WHO FLED TO
CAMBODIA IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2001
UNREST WANTED TO ESCAPE GVN PERSECUTION. BUT, HE
BELIEVES THOSE WHO HAVE GONE TO CAMBODIA SINCE THE
SUMMER (INCLUDING THE GROUP WHO ATTEMPTED TO CROSS ON
CHRISTMAS DAY) WERE MOTIVATED BY PROMISES OF MONEY AND
THE HOPE OF RESETTLEMENT IN THE U.S. HE ASSERTED THEY
HAD "HEARD BY TELEPHONE" THAT SUCH OPPORTUNITIES WERE
AVAILABLE. (NOTE: THIS ETHNIC MINORITY LEADER'S COMMENT
IS SIMILAR TO WHAT GVN OFFICIALS HAVE BEEN TELLING US.
END NOTE.)

18. (SBU) SINCE THIS GIA LAI SOURCE WAS FAMILIAR WITH
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HO CHI 00039 03 OF 03 151451Z
THE MONTAGNARD FOUNDATION, WE ASKED HOW HE WOULD
CHARACTERIZE IT. HE RESPONDED THAT WHILE IT ADVOCATED
HUMAN RIGHTS, THESE DAYS ITS POLITICAL AGENDA (AN
INDEPENDENT DEGA STATE) HAD THE UPPER HAND. WHEN ASKED
HOW MUCH SUPPORT THERE WAS IN THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS FOR
AN INDEPENDENT DEGA STATE, THIS SOURCE SAID THAT WHILE
100 PERCENT OF THE PEOPLE SUPPORTED HUMAN RIGHTS, NOT
MORE THAN 30 PERCENT OF ETHNIC MINORITIES SUPPORTED A
SEPARATE STATE. THIS LEADER DESCRIBED THE DEGA
PROTESTANTS AS USING RELIGION TO FURTHER THEIR
POLITICAL AGENDA. WHILE EVERYONE SUPPORTS FREEDOM OF
RELIGION AND HUMAN RIGHTS, HE SAID, MOST OF THE PEOPLE
DO NOT SUPPORT USING THESE IDEAS TO WAGE A WAR AGAINST
THE GOVERNMENT.

DOES ANYONE HAVE A MONOPOLY ON THE TRUTH?
-----------------------------------------
19. (SBU) WE BELIEVE OUR TWO SOURCES ARE RELIABLE AND
PRESENTED INFORMATION THEY THOUGHT ACCURATE. HOWEVER,
WE HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO CORROBORATE THE SECOND-HAND
REPORTS OF KILLINGS AT THE BORDER. WHEN ASKED IF THEY
WOULD CHARACTERIZE WHAT HAPPENED WITH PROVINCIAL
CHRISTMAS SERVICES AS "NORMAL" OR "EXCEPTIONAL"
REPRESSION, THEY SAID THE WIDE RANGE OF OFFICIAL
ACTIONS WAS "NORMAL." WHILE NEITHER LEADER SYMPATHIZED
WITH "DEGA" POLITICAL AIMS, THEY WERE CLEARLY CONCERNED
ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES. THEY AGREED THAT PROVINCIAL
AUTHORITIES WANTED TO PREVENT RELIGIOUS SERVICES FROM
TAKING A POLITICAL TURN. BUT AS THEIR ACCOUNTS
INDICATE, THE CHRISTMAS SITUATION VARIED FROM VILLAGE
TO VILLAGE IN THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS REGION. THESE TWO
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HO CHI 00039 03 OF 03 151451Z
SOURCES DID NOT MAKE ANY OVERALL GENERALIZATIONS, AS
THEY ACKNOWLEDGED IT IS POSSIBLE FOR PEOPLE OF ONE
VILLAGE TO BE UNAWARE OF WHAT IS HAPPENING IN ANOTHER
VILLAGE JUST ONE KILOMETER DOWN THE SAME ROAD.

YAMAUCHI

UNCLASSIFIED

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 


Myanmar: UN Condemns Escalating Violence In Deadliest Day Of Protests So Far

In response to the killing of at least 18 protesters demonstrating against Myanmar’s military coup, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) on Sunday together with the UN chief, strongly condemned the “escalating violence” and called for an immediate end to the use of force... More>>

Syria: Economic Decline, Rising Hunger And Surging Humanitarian Needs

Syria’s fragile economy has “suffered multiple shocks” over the past 18 months, with its currency plummeting and joblessness swelling as people struggle to cover their basic needs, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator told the Security Council ... More>>

OECD: Final Quarter Of 2020 Shows Continued Recovery In G20 International Merchandise Trade

G20 international merchandise trade continued to rebound in the fourth quarter of 2020 ( exports up 7.2% and imports up 6.8%), following the sharp falls seen in the first half of 2020, as lockdown measures affected trade globally. Although growth ... More>>


Focus On: UN SDGs


UNFCCC: Greater Climate Ambition Urged As Initial NDC Synthesis Report Is Published

UN Climate Change today published the Initial NDC Synthesis Report, showing nations must redouble efforts and submit stronger, more ambitious national climate action plans in 2021 if they’re to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global temperature rise by 2°C—ideally 1.5°C—by the end of the century... More>>


2021: Critical Year To ‘reset Our Relationship With Nature’ – UN Chief

During this time of “crisis and fragility”, the UN chief told the United Nations Environment Assembly on Monday that human well-being and prosperity can be vastly improved by prioritizing nature-based solutions. Painting a picture of the turmoil ... More>>


Paris Agreement: UN Secretary-General António Guterres To Mark U.S. Reentry With Envoy For Climate John Kerry

Watch live at webtv.un.org UN Secretary-General António Guterres will join U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John F. Kerry at an event marking the United States’ reentry into the Paris Agreement this Friday. The discussion with the Secretary-General ... More>>