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Cablegate: Ethnic Minority Returnees -- Reality Sets In

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

060217Z Apr 02

2002HOCHI00336 - UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED PTQ4858

PAGE 01 HO CHI 00336 01 OF 02 060300Z
ACTION EAP-00

INFO LOG-00 NP-00 AID-00 AMAD-00 ACQ-00 CIAE-00 DINT-00
DODE-00 DOEE-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
JUSE-00 L-00 VCE-00 AC-01 NSAE-00 NSCE-00 OIC-02
OMB-01 OPIC-01 PA-00 PC-01 PER-00 PM-00 PRS-00
ACE-00 P-00 SP-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
------------------7FF43F 060300Z /38
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6193
INFO AMEMBASSY HANOI IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY BANGKOK PRIORITY
USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY
USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HO CHI MINH CITY 000336

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT. FOR EAP/BLCTV (J.STROTZ/A.LANGLAND
DEPT. FOR DRL/IRF, PRM

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREF PGOV PINS SOCI PREL KIRF VM CB HUMANR ETMIN
SUBJECT: ETHNIC MINORITY RETURNEES -- REALITY SETS IN
UNCLASSIFIED


PAGE 02 HO CHI 00336 01 OF 02 060300Z

REF: A) HANOI 0791 B) HCMC 0201 C) HCMC 0202

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: SIX WEEKS AFTER THEIR UNHCR REPATRIATION
AND THE ONSET OF REALITY, ETHNIC MINORITY RETURNEES HAVE
OPENLY ARTICULATED THEIR REASONS FOR LEAVING VIETNAM FOR
CAMBODIA - LACK OF FARMLAND, AND TO A SOMEWHAT LESSER
EXTENT, RELIGION. ALL SIX OF THE UNHCR RETURNEES WE SPOKE
TO ON A RECENT TRIP TO KON TUM PROVINCE ASKED FOR UNHCR TO
BEGIN ITS FOLLOW-UP MONITORING OF THEIR SITUATIONS AS SOON
AS POSSIBLE. TWO SAID THEY LIVED IN FEAR. THE ONE
"SPONTANEOUS, VOLUNTARY RETURNEE" WE SPOKE TO CLEARLY
REGRETTED HIS DECISION TO RETURN TO GIA LAI PROVINCE.
ANOTHER VILLAGER WHO "HAD THOUGHT ABOUT" LEAVING FOR
CAMBODIA CHANGED HIS MIND WHEN HIS BROTHER-IN-LAW WAS
ARRESTED FOR TRYING TO CROSS THE BORDER AND BEATEN. YET
ANOTHER VILLAGER SAID SHE HOPED HER HUSBAND, A HOUSE CHURCH
PREACHER, WOULD NOT RETURN BECAUSE IT WAS TOO DANGEROUS.
WHILE SOME PROVINCIAL OFFICIALS SEEMED SENSITIVE TO LAND
ISSUES AND TENSIONS BETWEEN ETHNIC MINORITIES AND THE
VIETNAMESE KINH MAJORITY, THE LACK OF RESOURCES, AN
UNIMAGINATIVE BUREAUCRACY, AND WEAK POLITICAL DIRECTION HAVE
HAMPERED EFFORTS TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM. THIS MESSAGE
PROVIDES A MORE DETAILED ACCOUNT OF THE SAME TRIP DISCUSSED
BY AMBASSADOR BURGHARDT IN REFTEL A. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) AMBASSADOR AND CONGENOFFS VISITED THE CENTRAL
HIGHLANDS PROVINCES OF KON TUM AND GIA LAI, MARCH 30 THROUGH
APRIL 1. PROVINCIAL AUTHORITIES CONCEDED VIRTUALLY
UNLIMITED ACCESS TO THE UNHCR RETURNEES IN KON TUM. IN RAC
VILLAGE, THE AMBASSADOR MET WITH SIX OF THE 15 UNHCR
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HO CHI 00336 01 OF 02 060300Z
RETURNEES - TWO OF WHOM HAD MET WITH CONGENOFFS BACK ON
MARCH 1. THIS TIME THEIR STORY WAS DIFFERENT. ACCORDING TO
THESE VILLAGERS, THEY FACED DISCRIMINATION AND INTIMIDATION
AFTER THEIR RETURN. LAND PROBLEMS WERE NOW SEEMINGLY
INTRACTABLE -- UNFERTILE LAND IN ROCKY SOIL ON STEEP HILLS
AT BEST; LAND THE VILLAGERS HAD HAD TAKEN AWAY BY VILLAGE
AUTHORITIES TO ESTABLISH NEW ECONOMIC ZONES OR GIVEN TO
RECENT VIETNAMESE KINH MIGRANTS AT WORST. KON TUM OFFICIALS
ACKNOWLEDGED THEY WERE TWO YEARS BEHIND IN PROVIDING LAND
COMPENSATION FOR SOME VILLAGES, BUT SAID THEY HAD ALREADY
RESETTLED SEVERAL VILLAGES IN NEW LOCATIONS, BUILT STURDY
HOUSES AND ALLOCATED VIABLE FARMLAND.

3. (SBU) SPEAKING OPENLY IN FRONT OF DISTRICT/VILLAGE
LEADERS, LOCAL MEDIA, AND OTHER VILLAGERS, ONE 24-YEAR OLD
UNHCR RETURNEE STATED THAT LAND PROBLEMS WERE AT THE HEART
OF HIS DISCONTENT. EVEN WITH SOME FELLOW VILLAGERS
EXPRESSING DISAGREEMENT AND TRYING TO SHUSH HIM UP, THIS
RETURNEE WAS DEFIANT: "I WANT MY FRIENDS TO COME UP HERE AND
LISTEN BECAUSE I WANT THEM TO KNOW I SPEAK THE TRUTH. THEY
CAN ALSO SHARE THEIR OPINIONS. I DO NOT WANT THEM TO
COMPLAIN LATER THAT I HAVE SAID TOO MUCH. . . . .MY LAND WAS
NOT FERTILE AND MY LIVELIHOOD WAS TOO UNSTABLE." HE SAID
SINCE HIS FEBRUARY 19 RETURN AFTER FIVE MONTHS IN A CAMP, HE
HAS NOT HAD ANY LAND TO FARM.

4. (SBU) TWO OTHER UNHCR RETURNEES (ONE WHO HAD BEEN SICK
WHEN CONGENOFFS VISITED ON MARCH 1, AND THE SECOND VERY
UNCOMMUNICATIVE THE FIRST TIME AROUND) NODDED IN AGREEMENT.
ALL THREE ARE PROTESTANTS. ONE MENTIONED RELIGION AS A
PROBLEM, BUT IN A RATHER CONVOLUTED WAY: "MY LAND WAS NOT
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HO CHI 00336 01 OF 02 060300Z
PRODUCING MUCH, OTHER THINGS WERE GOING WRONG IN MY LIFE
WITH MONEY AND MY COW AND CHICKENS DIED, SO I PRAYED TO THE
TRADITIONAL DEITIES."

5. (SBU) A LATECOMER TO THE GROUP, HOWEVER, EXPLICITLY
STATED THAT HE WOULD NOT HAVE FLED TO CAMBODIA IF HE HAD NOT
FEARED BEING ARRESTED BECAUSE HE WAS A RECENT CONVERT TO
PROTESTANTISM.

6. (SBU) NONE OF THESE UNHCR RETURNEES EXPECTED ANY MORE OF
THE 39 VILLAGERS WHO HAD LEFT FOR CAMBODIA TO RETURN - NOR
WOULD THEY ENCOURAGE THEM TO, INCLUDING ONE RETURNEE WHOSE
SON IS STILL IN MONDOLKIRI CAMP. TWO RETURNEES WHO HAD
COMPLETED SOME SCHOOLING SAID THEY UNDERSTOOD THEIR THREE
OPTIONS ON REPATRIATION AND MADE A CHOICE TO RETURN TO
VIETNAM. TWO YOUNGER RETURNEES WITH NO/NO SCHOOLING - WHILE
ACKNOWLEDGING THEY WANTED TO RETURN TO VIETNAM - SAID THEY
DID NOT UNDERSTAND THE THREE OPTIONS, NOR THE PAPER THEY
WERE ASKED TO SIGN IN THE CAMP.

7. (SBU) TWO RETURNEES GAVE LETTERS TO THE AMBASSADOR FOR
TRANSMITTAL TO UNHCR, IN WHICH THEY CLAIMED DISCRIMINATION
AND INTIMIDATION. THEY PLEADED WITH UNHCR TO START THEIR
FOLLOW-UP MONITORING AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. "YES, YOU MUST
COME VISIT OUR VILLAGE AGAIN," ALL SIX RETURNEES URGED
CONGENOFFS."

8. (SBU) VISITING PUIH VILLAGE IN GIA LAI PROVINCE, THE
AMBASSADOR AND CONGENOFFS MET WITH A VARIETY OF VILLAGERS.
THE "SPONTANEOUS" VOLUNTARY RETURNEE WAS QUIET AND NOT READY
TO ANSWER TOO MANY QUESTIONS. HE HAD RETURNED WITH 29
OTHERS JUST ONE WEEK AGO. HE SAID HE HAD PARTICIPATED IN
THE FEBRUARY 2001 DEMONSTRATIONS AGAINST AUTHORITIES WHO HAD
TAKEN HIS LAND. ACCORDING TO HIM, VILLAGE OFFICIALS
DEMANDED 200-300 SQUARE METERS FROM CERTAIN VILLAGERS ("NOT
EVERYBODY, JUST SOME") FOR A PURPORTED COFFEE PLANTATION
THAT WOULD PROVIDE MORE EMPLOYMENT FOR THE ETHNIC
MINORITIES. IN FACT, THE LAND WENT TO "OTHER (VIETNAMESE
KINH) INDIVIDUALS." ANOTHER VILLAGER SAID HE HAD THOUGHT
ABOUT GOING TO CAMBODIA HIMSELF, BUT CHANGED HIS MIND AFTER
HIS BROTHER-IN-LAW WAS ARRESTED LEAVING THE VILLAGE FOR THE
BORDER AND WAS BEATEN. YET A THIRD VILLAGER DESCRIBED HOW
HER HUSBAND, A HOUSE CHURCH PREACHER, HAD BEEN DETAINED AND
BEATEN FOR A WEEK. AFTER HIS RELEASE, HE DECIDED TO GO TO
CAMBODIA. THE WIFE DOES NOT EXPECT HIM TO RETURN, NOR DOES
SHE BELIEVE IT WOULD BE SAFE IN ANY CASE.

9. (SBU) CONVERSATIONS AT BOTH VILLAGES WERE MARKED BY SOME
UNEASE, BUT ALSO FRANKNESS AND COURAGE. SOCIAL TENSIONS
BETWEEN THE ETHNIC MINORITIES AND THE VIETNAMESE KINH, THE
INFLUX OF VIETNAMESE KINH MIGRANTS FROM THE NORTH,
SUBSISTENCE AGRICULTURE AND PRACTICING PLANTATION
AGRICULTURE ON OVERWORKED AND SHRINKING PARCELS OF LAND HAVE
MADE THE ALREADY HAND-TO-MOUTH EXISTENCE OF THE VILLAGERS
EVEN MORE UNBEARABLE. COMPARED TO BARELY A MONTH AGO,
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HO CHI 00336 02 OF 02 060300Z
CONGENOFFS BELIEVE THE MOOD IN AT LEAST RAC VILLAGE HAS
WORSENED IN TERMS OF DESPERATION FOR OUTSIDE HELP.

YAMAUCHI

UNCLASSIFIED

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