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Cablegate: Vietnam's Central Highlands: Refugees Who

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

041614Z Mar 02

2002HOCHI00203 - UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED PTQ1686

PAGE 01 HO CHI 00203 01 OF 03 041656Z
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 MOFM-05 MOF-01 AC-01 NSAE-00 OIC-02 OMB-01
OPIC-01 PA-00 PC-01 PM-00 PRS-00 ACE-00 P-00
SP-00 SSO-00 STR-00 TEST-00 TRSE-00 USIE-00 EPAE-00
PMB-00 DSCC-00 PRM-00 DRL-02 G-00 NFAT-00 SAS-00
SWCI-00 /017W
------------------6F26F0 041657Z /38
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6046
AMEMBASSY HANOI IMMEDIATE
INFO USMISSION GENEVA
ASEAN COLLECTIVE
NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HO CHI MINH CITY 000203

SIPDIS

DEPT. FOR EAP/BLCTV, EAP/PD
DEPT. ALSO FOR PRM AND DRL/IRF

E.O. 12958:N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREF PGOV PINS SOCI PREL KIRF VM CB HUMANR ETMIN
SUBJECT: VIETNAM'S CENTRAL HIGHLANDS: REFUGEES WHO
RETURNED ON THEIR OWN AND SOME WHO NEVER MADE IT ACROSS


UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 02 HO CHI 00203 01 OF 03 041656Z
1. (U) SUMMARY: DURING A MARCH 1-3 TRIP TO THE CENTRAL
HIGHLANDS, CONGENOFFS MET WITH VILLAGERS IN TWO DAK LAK
COMMUNITIES AND VISITED A PROTESTANT WORSHIP HOUSE IN ONE
OF THE COMMUNITIES. SEVERAL OF THE VILLAGERS WERE ETHNIC
MINORITY VIETNAMESE RETURNEES FROM CAMBODIA -- TWO OF WHOM
HAD RETURNED ON THEIR OWN, PRIOR TO UNHCR REPATRIATION.
ONE FAMILY HAD BEEN TURNED BACK TO VIETNAM AT THE BORDER.
NONE CLAIMED ANY MISTREATMENT AT THE HANDS OF VIETNAMESE
AUTHORITIES UPON THEIR RETURN, THOUGH ONE SAID OTHER
VILLAGERS HAD TAUNTED HER. THERE WAS ONE DETAILED
COMPLAINT ABOUT A LAND DISPUTE. BECAUSE THE VILLAGERS DID
NOT SPEAK MUCH VIETNAMESE, CONGENOFFS HAD TO RELY ON THE
VILLAGE CHIEF AND A VILLAGE INTERPRETER TO HELP WITH
TRANSLATION. END SUMMARY.

THE RETURNEE WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD

2. (U) IN DAK LAK PROVINCE, CG EMI LYNN YAMAUCHI AND FSN
POL/ECON ASSISTANT MET WITH Y THAT, AN ETHNIC MNONG BHER
MALE. HE HAD RETURNED TO YUN YUH VILLAGE ON FEBRUARY 16,
2001, WITHOUT ASSISTANCE FROM UNHCR (WHOSE FIRST GROUP OF
REPATRIATES TO VIETNAM RETURNED ON FEBRUARY 19). THE
VILLAGE CHIEF AND ANOTHER VILLAGER WHOSE RELATIVES WERE
STILL IN CAMBODIA ALSO ATTENDED THIS MEETING.

3. (SBU) ACCORDING TO Y THAT, HE WAS "LURED AWAY BY BAD
PEOPLE" AND CROSSED THE BORDER TO CAMBODIA, 15 KM AWAY.
THE "BAD PERSON'S" NAME WAS MA CHEL. HE HAD LEFT HIS
COFFEE FIELDS, WIFE AND FOUR CHILDREN BEHIND. Y THAT STAYED
IN THE MONDOLKIRI CAMP, BUT AS FAR AS HE KNEW, HIS CAMP HAD
RECEIVED NO VISITORS FROM VIETNAM, CAMBODIA, OR THE U.S.
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HO CHI 00203 01 OF 03 041656Z
NOW THAT HE WAS BACK IN YUN YUH, HE WAS HAPPY. HIS FRIENDS
CAME TO VISIT HIM AND HE WAS TREATED WELL UPON HIS RETURN.
Y THAT SPORTED A CRISPLY-IRONED, PINK SHORT-SLEEVED SHIRT,
KHAKI SHORTS, AND NUMEROUS TATTOOS ON HIS FOREARMS. HE
OFFERED TO SHOW CONGENOFFS HIS HOME, WHICH WAS MODEST, BUT
FULL OF "FRIENDS". THE COFFEE TABLE FEATURED FAMILY PHOTOS
UNDER THE GLASS TOP.

4. (U) Y SER, THE VILLAGE CHIEF SINCE 1987, RESPONDED TO
QUESTIONS FROM THE CG. HE STATED THAT ECONOMIC AND LIVING
STANDARDS HAD BEEN IMPROVING IN YUN YUH UNTIL AROUND 1999.
THE VILLAGE MAINLY CULTIVATES COFFEE AND HAS NOT STARTED TO
DIVERSIFY ITS CROPS. IT HAS A POPULATION OF 811, OF WHOM
"750 ARE BELIEVERS WHO HAVE THEIR OWN WORSHIP HOUSE".
THERE IS NO RESIDENT PASTOR, WHICH IS WHY THEIR WORSHIP
HOUSE CANNOT BE CALLED A CHURCH. THE VILLAGE HAD HAD A
PEACEFUL, "NORMAL" CHRISTMAS, WITH LARGE ATTENDANCE AT THE
WORSHIP HOUSE SERVICES.

5. (U) ACCORDING TO VILLAGE CHIEF Y SER, 64 VILLAGERS -
INCLUDING ENTIRE FAMILIES - HAD LEFT YUN YUH LAST SPRING.
HE DISCOVERED THIS WHEN PEOPLE DID NOT SHOW UP FOR WORSHIP
SERVICES AND FROM "CAMBODIAN TRADERS WHO HAD TOLD (HIM)
THEY HAD SEEN SOME OF (HIS) PEOPLE OVER IN CAMBODIA." Y
SER SAID THERE HAD BEEN NO HINT OF PROBLEMS PRIOR TO THEIR
DEPARTURE. WHILE HE HAD HEARD THAT OTHER VILLAGES "HAD
LOST" PEOPLE, HE BELIEVED HIS VILLAGE HAD LOST THE MOST.
YUN YUH VILLAGE HAS ELECTRICITY AND IRRIGATION. THERE IS
AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, WITH INSTRUCTION IN VIETNAMESE BY
VIETNAMESE KINH TEACHERS.

UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HO CHI 00203 01 OF 03 041656Z
6. (U) CONOFFS HAD SPLIT OFF FROM THE CG AND DPO, AND WERE
FOLLOWED BY FOUR "VILLAGERS" WHO REMAINED WITH THEM FOR THE
TWO-HOUR VISIT. ALTHOUGH THE FOUR MEN APPEARED TO BE
VILLAGERS, IT SEEMED THEY MIGHT ALSO VILLAGE SECURITY
OFFICERS. IN RESPONSE TO CONOFFS' QUESTIONS ABOUT
RELIGIOUS PRACTICE, THESE VILLAGERS SAID THEY WERE
PROTESTANTS. BASED ON SUBSEQUENT INTERACTION, CONOFFS SAW
NO REASON TO DOUBT THAT. WHEN CONOFFS ASKED TO SEE THEIR
PLACE OF WORSHIP, THEY WERE LED TO A BARN-LIKE STRUCTURE
CONTAINING 24 BENCHES, AN ALTAR WITH A SIMPLE CROSS, BIBLES
IN THE LOCAL DIALECT, AND CHRISTIAN SONGBOOKS. THE
VILLAGERS EXPLAINED THAT 120 HOUSEHOLDS WERE PROTESTANT.
SEVEN HUNDRED WORSHIPPERS ATTENDED SERVICES EVERY SUNDAY;
14 HOUSEHOLDS WERE CATHOLIC AND TRAVELED TO A NEARBY TOWN
TO ATTEND SERVICES. WHEN ASKED ABOUT CHRISTMAS 2001, THE
VILLAGERS SAID THERE WERE "NO PROBLEMS."

"I'M PRETTY SURE I MADE IT TO CAMBODIA"

7. (U) ALSO IN DAK LAK PROVINCE, CONGENOFFS VISITED BUON
SUT M'GRU VILLAGE, COMPRISED OF ETHNIC EDE AND VIETNAMESE
KINH. ACCORDING TO THE VILLAGE CHIEF OF 27 YEARS, MA HONG,
NINE PEOPLE WERE TURNED BACK AT THE CAMBODIAN BORDER BY
VIETNAMESE SOLDIERS. ONE GROUP WAS A DIVORCED WOMAN AND
HER CHILD; THE OTHER GROUP WAS A WIFE (WHOSE HUSBAND HAD
ALREADY GONE TO CAMBODIA) AND HER FIVE CHILDREN. THE SUT
M'GRU VILLAGE CHIEF SAID THERE HAD BEEN NO BEATINGS, NO
VIOLENCE AT THE BORDER. HE SAID HE FELT SORRY FOR THE
RETURNEES, WHO HAD "BEEN LURED AWAY BY BAD PEOPLE." DURING
HIS TENURE AS VILLAGE CHIEF, THE POPULATION HAD INCREASED
FROM 300 TO THE CURRENT 1001. SUT M'GRU HAS BEEN
ELECTRIFIED SINCE 1994. IT HAS AN ELEMENTARY AND JUNIOR
HIGH SCHOOL WITH VIETNAMESE KINH AND EDE TEACHERS. MA HONG
EXPECTS THE ETHNIC MINORITY LANGUAGE BILINGUAL PROGRAM TO
BEGIN NEXT YEAR. MOST VILLAGERS FOLLOW TRADITIONAL TRIBAL
PRACTICES OF WORSHIPPING THE GODS OF WATER, GOOD HARVESTS,
ETC. MA HONG NOTED THAT WHILE THERE WERE "JUST A FEW
PROTESTANT HOUSEHOLDS," THEY WORSHIPPED AT HOME.

8. (SBU) DPO SPOKE THROUGH A VILLAGE INTERPRETER WITH AN
EDE WOMAN WHO SAID SHE HAD TRIED TO GET TO THE CAMPS IN
CAMBODIA, BUT HAD GOTTEN LOST ON THE WAY. THE CONVERSATION
- TRANSLATED FROM EDE TO VIETNAMESE AND THEN ENGLISH - TOOK
PLACE IN A COMFORTABLE, LARGE WOODEN HOUSE WHERE THE WOMAN,
WHO IS ONE OF TWELVE CHILDREN, WAS SURROUNDED BY FAMILY
MEMBERS. THE WOMAN'S NAME WAS A MI THOI. SHE SAID SHE
WENT TO CAMBODIA BECAUSE A "BAD PERSON" HAD TOLD HER THAT
IF SHE COULD JUST GET ACROSS THE BORDER, SHE WOULD BE GIVEN
MONEY AND THE CHANCE TO HAVE A BEAUTIFUL LIFE IN A NEW
COUNTRY. SHE SAID SHE CROSSED INTO CAMBODIA BUT COULD NOT
FIND THE CAMPS. AFTER SPENDING TWO WEEKS IN THE WOODS, SHE
RETURNED TO SUT M'GRU. A MI THOI SAID SHE WAS ON HER OWN
THE WHOLE TIME, EXCEPT FOR HER 6-YEAR OLD SON, WHOM SHE HAD
TAKEN WITH HER. SHE SAID SHE WAS DIVORCED AND A
PROTESTANT, BUT DID NOT INDICATE THIS WAS A FACTOR IN HER
DECISION TO LEAVE THE VILLAGE FOR CAMBODIA. DPO LATER
LEARNED A MI THOI HAD NO EDUCATION, SINCE HER FAMILY HAD
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HO CHI 00203 02 OF 03 041657Z
BEEN TOO POOR WHEN SHE WAS YOUNGER.

9. (SBU) A MI THOI REPEATED SEVERAL TIMES THAT HER FAMILY
HAD WELCOMED HER BACK AND THAT SHE WAS VERY HAPPY TO BE
WITH THEM AGAIN. STILL, SHE APPEARED QUITE SAD. SHE SAID
HER FAMILY AND THE WHOLE VILLAGE HAD HELPED HER SINCE HER
RETURN. ASKED FOR SPECIFICS, SHE SAID HER FAMILY HAD GIVEN
HER A HOUSE OF HER OWN. THE ONLY PROBLEM SHE MENTIONED WAS
RELATED TO A FEW "BAD VILLAGE OFFICIALS" WHO THOUGHT SHE
WAS RICH BECAUSE OF HER NEW HOUSE AND WERE CAUSING HER
DIFFICULTIES. A MI THOI DID NOT SEEM AFRAID TO SPEAK UP
AND ANSWERED SEVERAL QUESTIONS AT LENGTH AND WITH EMOTION.
DPO BELIEVES THE VILLAGE INTERPRETER PROBABLY SUMMARIZED
ANSWERS RATHER THAN TRANSLATING ALL THE DETAILS, BUT
GENERALLY PROVIDED AN ACCURATE PICTURE OF A YOUNG WOMAN
LEADING A VERY DIFFICULT LIFE WHO DECIDED TO TRY FOR
SOMETHING BETTER AND FAILED.

UNSCRUPULOUS LOCAL AUTHORITIES AND LAND CONFISCATION?

10. (U) CG (ACCOMPANIED BY FSN POL/ECON ASSISTANT AND
VILLAGE CHIEF MA HONG) VISITED THE WIFE (WHOSE HUSBAND HAD
ALREADY GONE TO CAMBODIA) AND HER FIVE CHILDREN. THE
HUSBAND'S NAME IS Y-DHEC EBAN. THE WIFE'S NAME IS H'DRO
ADUONG. ACCORDING TO THE WIFE, HER HUSBAND LEFT FOR
CAMBODIA LAST AUTUMN. THE TIMELINE IS UNCLEAR, BUT SOME
TIME LATER, THE FAMILY CAME HOME ONE NIGHT TO FIND THE
ELECTRICITY CUT OFF. UNCERTAIN ABOUT WHAT THAT MEANT, THEY
DECIDED TO TRY TO FOLLOW THEIR FATHER TO CAMBODIA, BUT WERE
TURNED BACK AT THE BORDER. H'DRO ADUONG GREW MORE RETICENT
AT THIS POINT, EVEN THOUGH IT APPEARED THE VILLAGE CHIEF
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HO CHI 00203 02 OF 03 041657Z
WAS REASSURING HER IN THEIR NATIVE EDE LANGUAGE.

11. (SBU) THE FAMILY'S ELDEST DAUGHTER HOWEVER, WHO
APPEARED TO BE ABOUT 20-YEARS OLD, WAS FIDGETING AND
CLEARLY ANGRY ABOUT SOMETHING. SHE HAD ENGAGED IN A
RUNNING DISCUSSION WITH HER MOTHER IN ETHNIC EDE SINCE THE
CG'S ARRIVAL. SHE SAID HER NAME WAS A ME PHIAN. IN
RESPONSE TO QUESTIONS, SHE CLAIMED THAT THERE HAD BEEN LAND
PROBLEMS WITH THE LOCAL AUTHORITIES OVER THE LAST 20
MONTHS. AFTER RUMMAGING IN A CUPBOARD, SHE PRODUCED COPIES
OF LEGAL DOCUMENTS SEEKING RETURN OF LAND THAT HER FATHER
(Y-DHEC EBAN) CLAIMED THE VILLAGE CHIEF AND CU SUE COMMUNE
PEOPLE'S COMMITTEE HAD UNLAWFULLY CONFISCATED AND SOLD FOR
THEIR OWN PROFIT. A SEPARATE DOCUMENT WAS A LETTER OF
COMPLAINT TO THE VILLAGE POLICE, ALLEGING THAT BECAUSE OF
THE LAND DISPUTE, SIX OTHER ETHNIC MINORITY VILLAGERS HAD
COME TO BEAT Y-DHEK EBAN'S WIFE. THEY INJURED HER SO BADLY
THAT SHE HAD TO GO TO THE DAK LAK PROVINCIAL HOSPITAL FOR
EMERGENCY TREATMENT. BOTH DOCUMENTS INDICATE THE
PETITIONER (Y-DHEK EBAN) HAD PRESENTED HIS CASE SEVERAL
TIMES TO THE COMMUNE COMMITTEE.

12. (SBU) WHEN CG LATER ASKED A PROVINCIAL OFFICIAL WHETHER
SHE WAS FAMILIAR WITH THE CASE, THE OFFICIAL RESPONDED YES.
ACCORDING TO THIS OFFICIAL, THE FAMILY IS RIGHT ON CERTAIN
POINTS, BUT WRONG ON OTHERS. THEN THE OFFICIAL VOLUNTEERED
RETURNED ON THEIR OWN AND SOME WHO NEVER MADE IT ACROSS

UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 02 HO CHI 00203 03 OF 03 041657Z
THAT THE ETHNIC MINORITY VILLAGERS OFTEN DO NOT UNDERSTAND
LAWS AND REGULATIONS - "EVEN THOSE THAT GIVE THEM GREATER
PRIVILEGES AND BENEFITS THAT THE REST OF US (VIETNAMESE
KINH) DO NOT HAVE."

13. (SBU) RETURNING TO THE ELDEST DAUGHTER A ME PHIAN, SHE
SAID THE FAMILY HAD DEPARTED ON DECEMBER 24 FOR THE
CAMBODIAN BORDER. SHE WAS NOT CERTAIN WHEN THEY HAD
RETURNED, BUT THE VILLAGE CHIEF RECKONED IT WAS 8-9 DAYS
AFTER THAT. CG ASKED HOW THE FAMILY HAD BEEN TREATED SINCE
THEIR RETURN. A ME PHIAN RESPONDED WITH A NEUTRAL SHRUG,
BUT COMPLAINED THAT SOME DRUNKEN VILLAGERS HAD TAUNTED AND
SCARED THE FAMILY LATE ONE NIGHT. THE VILLAGE CHIEF THEN
INTERRUPTED TO SAY THAT THE POLICE RESPONDED IMMEDIATELY
AND TOOK THE ROWDIES TO THE COMMUNE STATION AND TOLD THEM
NOT TO DO IT AGAIN. A ME PHIAN DID NOT CONTRADICT THIS.
ASKED IF THE BROKEN CLOCK WITH A THREE-DIMENSIONAL PICTURE
OF THE LAST SUPPER MEANT THE FAMILY WAS PROTESTANT OR
CATHOLIC, SHE REPLIED THEY WERE PROTESTANT. SHE GAVE NO
INDICATION THAT SHE THOUGHT THIS HAD PLAYED A ROLE IN
EITHER THE LAND OR BORDER-CROSSING ISSUES.

14. (SBU) COMMENT: A ME PHIAN'S FEARLESSNESS IN PRESENTING
US THE LAND DOCUMENTS RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE VILLAGE CHIEF
(WHO MIGHT WELL HAVE BEEN ONE OF THE "CORRUPT LOCAL
OFFICIALS" REFERRED TO IN THE WRITTEN ALLEGATIONS) WAS
IMPRESSIVE. SHE HAD RECEIVED NO SCHOOOLING, AND IN FACT,
THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF EDUCATION AMONG THE RETURNEES WE MET
WAS FOURTH GRADE. EVEN THE VILLAGE CHIEF TOLD US THAT HIS
IDEA OF "FAR AWAY" WAS ANYTHING BEYOND 60 METERS. DAK LAK
MARKED THE FIRST TIME WE HAD HEARD A GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HO CHI 00203 03 OF 03 041657Z
HINT OPENLY AT RESENTMENT TOWARD ETHNIC MINORITIES FOR THE
SPECIAL BENEFITS THEY ARE ENTITLED TO. IT WAS ALSO THE
ONLY DETAILED "LAND PROBLEM" WE HEARD ABOUT ON THIS TRIP.
SEPTEL WILL FOLLOW ON THIS LAST SUBJECT. YAMAUCHI

UNCLASSIFIED

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