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Cablegate: Discussing Religious Freedom with Fm Nien

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

290935Z Nov 02

2002HANOI02862 - UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED PTQ1118

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------------------1025F5 291001Z /38
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8214
INFO AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
AMEMBASSY VIENTIANE
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 002862

SIPDIS

STATE FOR DRL/IRF AND EAP/BCLTV

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KIRF PHUM PREL VM ETMIN HUMANR RELFREE
SUBJECT: DISCUSSING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM WITH FM NIEN

REF: A. STATE 235694 (NOTAL) B. STATE 241039

- C. HANFORD/BURGHARDT E-MAIL D. HANOI 2694

1. (U) SUMMARY. AMBASSADOR EXPRESSED CONCERN TO FM NIEN
ABOUT RECENT REPORTS OVER ABUSES OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOMS IN
THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS IN PARTICULAR, AND WARNED ABOUT A
UNCLASSIFIED

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POSSIBLE DESIGNATION OF VIETNAM AS A "COUNTRY OF PARTICULAR
CONCERN" UNDER THE INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ACT. FM
NIEN CLAIMED SUCH REPORTS WERE "WRONG" BUT PROMISED TO TRY
TO FIND OUT MORE. THE GVN PERSPECTIVE ON THIS ISSUE IS SO
DIFFERENT FROM THAT OF THE USG THAT GVN OFFICIALS MAY
LITERALLY NOT UNDERSTAND THE SOURCE OF USG CONCERN, AND MAY
BE INCLINED TO INFER SINISTER MOTIVES. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) AMBASSADOR STRESSED TO FOREIGN MINISTER NGUYEN DY
NIEN IN A MEETING ON NOVEMBER 27 (SEPTELS) THE NEED FOR
IMPROVEMENTS IN THE CONDITIONS FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN
VIETNAM, AS DESCRIBED MOST RECENTLY BY AMBASSADOR-AT-LARGE
FOR INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM JOHN HANFORD AND OTHER
USG OFFICIALS DURING THE NOVEMBER 8 HUMAN RIGHTS DIALOGUE IN
WASHINGTON (REFS A AND B). HE NOTED THAT HE PLANNED TO
DISCUSS THIS ISSUE IN MORE DEPTH WITH DEPUTY FOREIGN
MINISTER LE VAN BANG AND GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE ON RELIGION LE
QUANG VINH IN THE NEAR FUTURE.

3. (U) AMBASSADOR HIGHLIGHTED RECENT REPORTS OF REPRESSION
OF PROTESTANTS IN THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS. HE NOTED THAT MANY
OFFICIALS IN DAK LAK AND GIA LAI PROVINCES IN PARTICULAR
APPEARED TO ASSOCIATE ALL PROTESTANTS WITH THE DEGA
SEPARATISTS, ALTHOUGH THE LATTER COMPOSE PERHAPS ONLY ONE
PERCENT OF PROTESTANTS IN THIS AREA. HE EXPRESSED CONCERN
THAT AT LEAST SOME OFFICIALS TREATED ALL PROTESTANTS AS
SUBVERSIVES AND TRIED TO CLAMP DOWN ON THEM. HE REITERATED
THE IMPORTANCE WITH WHICH THE U.S. VIEWED THE ISSUE OF
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, AND PLEDGED THAT WE WOULD CONTINUE TO
MONITOR THE SITUATION CAREFULLY, INCLUDING FREQUENT VISITS
BY OUR CONSULATE GENERAL AND EMBASSY STAFFS. HE NOTED
UNCLASSIFIED

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AMBASSADOR HANFORD'S WARNING THAT, ABSENT POSITIVE
DEVELOPMENTS SOON, VIETNAM WOULD LIKELY BE DESIGNATED A
"COUNTRY OF PARTICULAR CONCERN" UNDER THE INTERNATIONAL
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ACT, WHICH COULD HAVE SERIOUS NEGATIVE
REPERCUSSIONS ON US ASSISTANCE AND INVESTMENT.

4. (U) FM NIEN CLAIMED THAT US CONCERNS APPEARED TO BE
BASED ON "WRONG INFORMATION" BUT PROMISED TO "FIND OUT." HE
ADMITTED THAT HE DID NOT KNOW EXACTLY HOW TO GO ABOUT
"PROVING" THAT THE INFORMATION WAS WRONG, HOWEVER. HE
DESCRIBED OVERALL CONDITIONS IN THE CENTRAL HIGHLAND AS
"MUCH IMPROVED," NOTING THAT HE HAD CONFIRMED THIS
IMPRESSION WITH MANY RECENT VISITORS TO THE CENTRAL
HIGHLANDS AS WELL AS WITH FELLOW NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DELEGATES
FROM THAT REGION. HE EMPHASIZED THAT SOME IN THE CENTRAL
HIGHLANDS, HOWEVER, CONTINUED TO FOLLOW THE DEGA
SEPARATISTS, AND THAT "MANY" IN VIETNAM DID "NOT UNDERSTAND
THE US POSITION" ON THE DEGAS.

5. (U) AMBASSADOR REITERATED WHAT HE HAD TOLD MINISTER FOR
ETHNIC MINORITIES KSOR PHUOC (REF D): THE U.S. HAD NO
INTEREST IN THE SEPARATION OF A DEGA STATE AND INSTEAD
SUPPORTED -- AND RECOGNIZED -- A UNIFIED VIETNAM. HE
STRESSED THAT THERE WAS "NO TRUTH" IN REPORTS OF ANY USG
SUPPORT IN ANY WAY TO OVERTHROW THE GVN OR TO SET UP A
SEPARATE STATE FOR THE DEGAS. HE NOTED THAT EAP DAS DALEY
HAD ALSO MADE THIS POINT DIRECTLY TO DEGA LEADER KOK KSOR.
HE EXPRESSED CONCERN, HOWEVER, OVER REPORTS THAT SOME HOUSE
CHURCHES IN THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS HAD NOT BEEN ALLOWED TO
JOIN THE SOUTHERN EVANGELICAL CHURCH OF VIETNAM (SECV),
DESPITE PENDING APPLICATIONS, AND THAT MANY CHURCHES,
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HANOI 02862 01 OF 02 291001Z
PASTORS, AND BELIEVERS WERE SUBJECT TO UNDUE PRESSURES DUE
TO THEIR "ILLEGAL" STATUS.

6. (U) FM NIEN POINTED TO THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO
FREEDOM OF WORSHIP IN VIETNAM, BUT ADMITTED THAT CHURCHES
LINKED WITH THE DEGA MOVEMENT WOULD INDEED NOT BE "ALLOWED."
HE CLAIMED THAT ALL VIETNAMESE CITIZENS WERE FREE TO CHOOSE
THEIR RELIGION AND SHOULD FACE "NO PROBLEM AT ALL." HE SAID
THAT THOSE CHURCHES THAT WISHED FORMAL TIES WITH THE SECV
SHOULD APPLY THROUGH LOCAL OFFICIALS AND GET APPROPRIATE
PERMISSION.

7. (U) COMMENT: THE FOREIGN MINISTER SEEMED TO HAVE A
POOR GRASP OF THE ISSUE. AT ONE POINT, HE DISCUSSED THE
MATTER OF REGISTRATION OF A CHURCH AS IF IT WERE THE SAME AS
OBTAINING A BUILDING PERMIT. MOST GVN OFFICIALS, UNLESS
THEY WORK DIRECTLY ON RELIGION POLICY, PROBABLY NEVER THINK
ABOUT THE SUBJECT. IN GENERAL, THE GVN AND CPV CONTINUE TO
VIEW ALL FREEDOMS WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF THE NEED FOR
"NATIONAL SOLIDARITY" AND FOR STATE CONTROL (OR AT LEAST
SUPERVISION) OVER ALL ASPECTS OF SOCIETY. THEY CANNOT
COMPREHEND WHY "HOUSE CHURCHES" OUTSIDE OF THE OFFICIAL

UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED PTQ1119

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ACTION DRL-02

INFO LOG-00 NP-00 CIAE-00 DODE-00 DS-00 EAP-00 FBIE-00
UTED-00 VC-00 TEDE-00 INR-00 LAB-01 VCE-00 NSAE-00
SSO-00 SS-00 TEST-00 USIE-00 IIP-00 DSCC-00 PRM-00
NFAT-00 SAS-00 /003W
------------------1025F8 291001Z /38
O 290935Z NOV 02
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8215
INFO AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
AMEMBASSY VIENTIANE
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS SECTION 02 OF 02 HANOI 002862

SIPDIS

STATE FOR DRL/IRF AND EAP/BCLTV

FRAMEWORK SHOULD EXIST OR WHY THE USG SHOULD CARE ABOUT WHAT
THEY SEE AS CLEARLY "ILLEGAL" AND POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS ANTI-
STATE ORGANIZATIONS. CONVINCED, AS ALWAYS, THAT THE PARTY
AND STATE "KNOW BEST," THEY LIKELY CANNOT GENUINELY FATHOM
THE TRUE NATURE OF US AND INTERNATIONAL CONCERN OVER THE
HIGHLANDS AND ELSEWHERE. FURTHERMORE, MANY OFFICIALS BOTH
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 02 HANOI 02862 02 OF 02 291001Z
AT THE CENTRAL AND LOCAL LEVELS ARE PROBABLY INCLINED TO
INFER SINISTER MOTIVES FOR SUCH EXPRESSIONS OF CONCERN.
BURGHARDT

UNCLASSIFIED

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