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Cablegate: Hoa Hao Monk Defies Government Order and Climbs A

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

110315Z Nov 02

2002HOCHI01140 - UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED PTO4849

PAGE 01 HO CHI 01140 110628Z
ACTION DRL-02

INFO LOG-00 AID-00 CIAE-00 DODE-00 SRPP-00 EAP-00 EB-00
UTED-00 VC-00 H-01 TEDE-00 INR-00 IO-00 L-00
VCE-00 AC-01 NSAE-00 NSCE-00 OIC-02 OMB-01 PA-00
PM-00 PRS-00 ACE-00 P-00 SP-00 SS-00 STR-00
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------------------0657CB 110629Z /40
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7059
INFO AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY
ASEAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 001140

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR EAP/BCLTV, DRL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV SOCI KIRF VM HUMANR RELFREE
SUBJECT: HOA HAO MONK DEFIES GOVERNMENT ORDER AND CLIMBS A
TREE (AGAIN)

REF: HO CHI MINH CITY 0719

1. (SBU) ON NOVEMBER 7, CONTROVERSIAL HOA HAO MONK NAM
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 02 HO CHI 01140 110628Z
LIEM (VO THANH LIEM) CLIMBED A TREE INSIDE THE COMPOUND OF
HIS PRIVATE PAGODA FOR THE THIRD TIME IN EIGHT YEARS (SEE
REFTEL), AFTER LOCAL AUTHORITIES GAVE HIM THREE DAYS TO
TEAR DOWN A GATE ON HIS PROPERTY. HE HAS THREATENED TO
THROW HIMSELF FROM THE TREE, IF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT TAKES
ANY ACTION AGAINST HIS PROPERTY. ACCORDING TO CONTACTS,
POLICE HAVE SURROUNDED AND BARRICADED HIS PAGODA. HOA HAO
BELIEVERS, A SIZABLE NUMBER OF WHOM WORSHIP AT LIEM'S
PRIVATE PAGODA ON A REGULAR BASIS, HAVE GATHERED OUTSIDE TO
MONITOR THE SITUATION.

2. (SBU) ON NOVEMBER 6, A HOA HAO ORGANIZATION IN THE U.S.
NOTIFIED POST THAT GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS HAD ORDERED NAM
LIEM TO REMOVE THE GATE TO HIS PROPERTY IN AN GIANG
PROVINCE'S CHO MOI DISTRICT. HOA HAO BELIEVERS HEAVILY
POPULATE THIS DISTRICT. TWO RESPECTED HOA HAO ELDERS IN HO
CHI MINH CITY VERIFIED THE U.S.-ORIGINATED INFORMATION BY
COMMUNICATING WITH SOURCES ON THE GROUND NEAR NAM LIEM'S
HOME. SURPRISINGLY, NEITHER OF THE HCMC ELDERS HAD HEARD
ABOUT THE INCIDENT UNTIL POST CONTACTED THEM. ONE OF THE
ELDERS REPORTED THAT LOCAL POLICE HAD VISITED HIM ON
NOVEMBER 6 - A MOVE HE NOW INTERPRETED AS INTENDED TO
INTIMIDATE HIM FROM TRAVELING TO AN GIANG. THIS ELDER
STATED THAT HE WOULD CONSIDER TAKING ACTION IF OFFICIALS
DID ANYTHING TO HARM NAM LIEM OR REMOVE THE GATE. HE ADDED
THAT HOA HAO BELIEVERS IN AN GIANG WERE PREPARED TO DO THE
SAME.

3. (SBU) NAM LIEM FIRST CLIMBED UP A TREE AND STAYED THERE
FOR FOUR DAYS IN 1994, AFTER POLICE CAME TO ARREST HIM FOR
CONSTRUCTING PARTS OF HIS PRIVATE PAGODA, INCLUDING THE
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HO CHI 01140 110628Z
GATE, WITHOUT A BUILDING LICENSE. HE SERVED A FOUR-YEAR
PRISON SENTENCE FOLLOWING THAT INCIDENT, BUT NEVER REMOVED
THE GATE. UPON HIS RELEASE FROM PRISON, HE WELCOMED THE
GOVERNMENT'S RECOGNITION OF THE HOA HAO, ALTHOUGH HE LATER
BECAME DISILLUSIONED WITH THE GVN-SANCTIONED HOA HAO
ORGANIZATION. IN NOVEMBER 2001, NAM LIEM WENT UP THE SAME
TREE WITH GASOLINE AND A KNIFE IN RESPONSE TO GOVERNMENT
ATTEMPTS TO REMOVE HOA HAO FLAGS AND OTHER INSIGNIA FROM
HIS GATE. HE WAS NOT ARRESTED THE SECOND TIME, BUT
MUTILATED HIS OWN LEG, BEFORE EVENTUALLY COMING DOWN FROM
THE TREE VOLUNTARILY.

4. (SBU) THIS TIME, IT IS UNCLEAR WHAT PROMPTED THE LOCAL
AUTHORITIES TO ACT -- NAM LIEM'S DISPLAY OF CONTROVERSIAL
HOA HAO INSIGNIA ON HIS GATE, OR PREVIOUS CONCERNS OVER THE
UNLICENSED CONSTRUCTION, THOUGH THE ONE CERTAINLY
EXACERBATES THE OTHER. (POST NOTE: PER REFTEL, PREVIOUS
POLOFF WAS PREVENTED FROM VISITING NAM LIEM IN JUNE 2002,
BY A GANG OF YOUNG MEN BLOCKING THE PATH TO HIS PAGODA IN A
THREATENING MANNER.) ALTHOUGH THE HOA HAO ELDERS IN HCMC
ARE SOMEWHAT CONCERNED ABOUT THE SITUATION, THEY HAVE NOT
ASKED FOR ASSISTANCE OR INQUIRIES ON OUR PART. POST WILL
DO ITS BEST TO CONTINUE TO MONITOR THE SITUATION
YAMAUCHI

UNCLASSIFIED

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