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Cablegate: Crosses, Cadres, and Conversations in The

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

160810Z Apr 02

2002HOCHI00390 - UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED PTQ9757

PAGE 01 HO CHI 00390 01 OF 02 160854Z
ACTION EAP-00

INFO LOG-00 NP-00 AID-00 AMAD-00 CIAE-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
OIC-02 OMB-01 OPIC-01 PA-00 PER-00 PM-00 PRS-00
ACE-00 P-00 SP-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 /010W
------------------86C6E1 160854Z /38
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 6237
INFO AMEMBASSY HANOI
USMISSION GENEVA
ASEAN COLLECTIVE
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
JICPAC HONOLULU HI
SECDEF WASHDC
DIA WASHDC
NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HO CHI MINH CITY 000390

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV AND EAP/PD/KFOSTER
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR PRM
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR DRL
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 02 HO CHI 00390 01 OF 02 160854Z
CINCPAC FOR FPA
SECDEF FOR ISA/EA/ABLAGG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KIRF PREF SOCI VM CB ETMIN HUMANR RELFREE
SUBJECT: CROSSES, CADRES, AND CONVERSATIONS IN THE
CENTRAL HIGHLANDS


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: PLAIN WHITE CROSSES DREW THE
ATTENTION OF CONGEN OFFICERS AS WE DROVE THROUGH THE
CENTRAL HIGHLAND PROVINCE OF DAK LAK. A COFFEE BREAK IN
NHAN CO COMMUNE IN DAK LAP DISTRICT ALLOWED FOR CASUAL
CONVERSATION WITH SEVERAL OF THE VILLAGERS. LOCAL
SECURITY OFFICERS KEPT INSERTING THEMSELVES INTO OUR
CONVERSATIONS, BUT THE VILLAGERS PAID THEM NO MIND.
BACK ON THE ROAD, OUR "ESCORTS" KEPT PACE ALMOST UNTIL
THE PROVINCIAL BORDER. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) CG, CONOFF AND FSN POL/ECON ASSISTANT DROVE BACK
TO HO CHI MINH CITY FROM DAK LAK'S CAPITAL CITY, BUON
ME THUOT, ON THE NEW HIGHWAY 14. LARGE, PLAIN WHITE
CROSSES OVER THE DOORWAYS OF SEVERAL HOUSES ON THE NEW
HIGHWAY DREW OUR ATTENTION.
3. (SBU) CONGENOFFS STOPPED AT A COFFEE STALL NEXT TO A
HOUSE WITH A WHITE CROSS OVER THE ENTRY, IN WHICH
CATHOLIC RELIGIOUS ARTIFACTS WERE PLAINLY VISIBLE
THROUGH THE WINDOWS AND DOORWAY. THE OWNER OF THE
COFFEE STALL GREETED US IN RUSTY ENGLISH, SAYING HE HAD
LEARNED THE LANGUAGE FROM HIS "MANY AMERICAN FRIENDS IN
THE PAST." HE IDENTIFIED HIMSELF AS ALSO THE OWNER OF
THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR. (NOTE: IN SUBSEQUENT CONVERSATION
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HO CHI 00390 01 OF 02 160854Z
IN VIETNAMESE, THE MAN'S ACCENT SUGGESTED HE ORIGINALLY
CAME FROM NORTHERN VIETNAM, AND MOVED SOUTH DURING THE
1954 MASS INTERNAL MIGRATION. HIS REMARKS INDICATED
THAT HE MIGHT HAVE WORKED FOR THE U.S. MILITARY OR AN
AMERICAN BUSINESS BEFORE 1975.)

4. (U) CONVERSATION WAS INTERRUPTED WHEN THREE MEN
ARRIVED BY MOTORBIKE AND SAT DOWN AT THE CAFE'S OTHER
TABLE. THE CAFE OWNER IMMEDIATELY WENT TO WAIT ON THE
NEWCOMERS, ASKING IF THEY "HAD COME ON BUSINESS." THE
MEN REPLIED THEY WERE JUST STOPPING FOR COFFEE, BUT IT
WAS CLEAR THEY WERE PLAINCLOTHES SECURITY OFFICIALS
MONITORING THE PRESENCE OF FOREIGNERS IN THEIR COMMUNE.
THE CAFE OWNER JOINED THE MEN AT THEIR TABLE, BUT DID
NOT SEEM CONCERNED ABOUT OUR PRESENCE. HE DIRECTED
OCCASIONAL COMMENTS TOWARD CG FROM THE OTHER TABLE. HE
WAS DELIGHTED WHEN CONOFF ASKED TO TAKE PHOTOS OF HIS
HOUSE AND THE CROSS.

5. (SBU) CONGEN GROUP PROCEEDED FURTHER UP THE ROAD AND
WAS INVITED INTO AN EQUIPMENT AND VEHICLE REPAIR SHOP
WITH A CROSS OVER ITS DOORWAY. THE OWNERS WERE A MIDDLE-
AGED COUPLE WITH 10 GROWN CHILDREN. THEY OPENLY
DISPLAYED LARGE POSTERS OF POPE JOHN PAUL II, AN ALTAR
WITH THE VIRGIN MARY, AND STATUES OF SEVERAL SAINTS
SURROUNDED BY CANDLES. THE WIFE SAID THE FAMILY WAS
CATHOLIC AND ATTENDED A CHURCH 80 KILOMETERS AWAY. THE
COUPLE SAID THAT THERE WAS A PROTESTANT CHURCH ABOUT
NINE KILOMETERS AWAY, LOCATED OFF THE MAIN HIGHWAY.
THE FAMILY MOVED TO NHAN CO COMMUNE SEVEN YEARS EARLIER
WHEN THE AREA WAS MUCH MORE SPARSELY SETTLED. FROM
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HO CHI 00390 01 OF 02 160854Z
BUON ME THUOT SEVEN YEARS AGO BECAUSE OF TOUGH ECONOMIC
CONDITIONS???, BUT THE WIFE NOTED LIFE IN NHAN CO
COMMUNE WAS WORSE. SHE CITING DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES,
THE WIFE MADE AN OPEN PLEA FOR ASSISTANCE TO THE
COMMUNE - CLOTHING, SCHOOL SUPPLIES, ETC. ABOUT TEN
MINUTES INTO THAT CONVERSATION, A MAN ENTERED THE SHOP-
CUM-HOUSE AND SAT DOWN AT THE TABLE WITHOUT SAYING A
WORD. THE COUPLE DID NOT INTRODUCE THE NEWCOMER, NOR
DID THE MAN GREET CONGENOFFS. HE APPEARED TO BE
ANOTHER NON-UNIFORMED SECURITY OFFICER, CHECKING UP ON
OUR ACTIVITIES IN THE VILLAGE.

6. (U) CONGENOFFS RETURNED TO THEIR VEHICLES AND
CONTINUED DOWN HIGHWAY 14, FOLLOWED BY A CAR THAT HAD
BEEN PARKED IN THE VILLAGE. ABOUT 40 MINUTES LATER,
WHEN CONGENOFFS STOPPED FOR LUNCH, THE THREE MEN IN THE
CAR FOLLOWED US INTO THE RESTAURANT AND MAINTAINED
THEIR WATCH THROUGHOUT THE MEAL. IT WAS OBVIOUS THEY
WERE PLAINCLOTHES SECURITY OFFICERS WHEN THEY HEADED
FOR THEIR CAR AFTER WATCHING US PAY THE BILL. WHAT
THEY DID NOT KNOW WAS THAT WE PLANNED TO EAT A
WATERMELON WE HAD PURCHASED EARLIER FOR DESSERT. WHEN
THE SECURITY OFFICERS NOTICED WE HAD NOT LEFT THE
RESTAURANT RIGHT AFTER THEM, THEY HAD TO SEND ONE MAN
BACK ON THE PRETEXT OF NOT HAVING FINISHED DRINKING ALL
HIS SODA. BUT AFTER CONFIRMING CONGENOFFS HAD FINISHED
DESSERT, GOTTEN INTO THEIR VAN, AND WERE DRIVING TOWARD
THE BORDER (ONLY TWO MILES AWAY), THE OFFICIALS DID NOT
FOLLOW.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: A NOT-VERY-SUBTLE, BUT NOT-TOO-
INTRUSIVE PRESENCE OF PLAINCLOTHES SECURITY IS A
REGULAR PART OF CONGEN VISITS TO THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS.
BY STOPPING ON THE SPUR OF THE MOMENT IN NHAN CO
COMMUNE, CONGENOFFS WERE STRUCK BY THE OPENNESS OF
CATHOLICISM (WHICH IS A RECOGNIZED RELIGION IN VIETNAM)
AND THE VILLAGERS' NONCHALANCE TOWARD THE LOCAL
SECURITY PRESENCE.

8. (SBU) AT THE SAME TIME, WE WERE SURPRISED BY THE
DEPTH OF SECURITY RESOURCES -- EVEN IN REMOTE NHAN CO
COMMUNE. THREE DIFFERENT THREE DIFFERENT VEHICLES
FOLLOWED US AT DIFFERENT TIMES DURING THE THREE-HOUR
DRIVE THROUGH DAK LAK PROVINCE. SEVEN DIFFERENT
PLAINCLOTHES OFFICERS (NOT COUNTING THE SOLDIERS WHO
CRUISED UP AND DOWN HIGHWAY 14, DOING U-TURNS TO
ALTERNATELY FOLLOW US OR PASS US GOING THE OPPOSITE
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HO CHI 00390 02 OF 02 160854Z
WAY) MADE THEIR APPEARANCES AT THE COFFEE STALL, REPAIR
SHOP, AND LUNCH RESTAURANT. THE PLAINCLOTHES SECURITY
DID NOT OVERTLY INTERFERE IN ANY WAY. IN FACT A COUPLE
OF THEM SEEMED DOWNRIGHT SHEEPISH AS THEY EAVESDROPPED
ON SOME OF OUR CONVERSATIONS WITH VILLAGERS. WHAT IS
CLEAR, HOWEVER, IS THAT SOMEBODY - EITHER THE GVN OR
THE PROVINCIAL AUTHORITIES - WILL SPARE NO EXPENSE OR
MANPOWER IN KEEPING TABS ON CONGEN MOVEMENTS IN THE
CENTRAL HIGHLANDS. YAMAUCHI

UNCLASSIFIED

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