Cablegate: Central Committee On Minorities, Religious, Land

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





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Central Committee on minorities, religious, land

Ref: A. FBIS SEP20030122000013 B. Hanoi 0155

1. (SBU) Summary. The second session of the 7th plenum of
the Communist Party of Vietnam's (CPV) 9th Central Committee
(CC) apparently focused on key human rights issues of
national solidarity, treatment of ethnic minorities,
implementation of religious policy, and land use. The CC as
well as CPV General Secretary Nong Duc Manh explicitly
admitted failures in implementation of official policies and
incompetent or ill-trained cadres, especially at the
grassroots level and notably in mountainous areas. The
plenum's solutions for these problems appear mainly to
include strengthening CPV and State control and
institutions, with an emphasis on heightening "patriotic"
activities and guarding against "enemy" plots.
Unfortunately, the CPV's new efforts may exacerbate rather
than alleviate long-standing problems, and non-recognized
religious activities and activists may face even tougher
treatment and scrutiny. End Summary.

2. (U) During an unusual "second phase" meeting of the 9th
CC 7th plenum January 13-21, the main themes included
strengthening national solidarity, improving work related to
ethnic minorities, handling religious affairs better, and
dealing more successfully with land issues, according to
media reports (ref a). (Note: Embassy requested a post-
plenum read-out from the CPV on January 15, but is unlikely
to get an appointment until after the Tet holidays. Nodel
Pitts is scheduled to meet with the Government Committee on
Religious Affairs on January 24 and may learn more about any
updated religious policy; Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan
reportedly briefed the CRA about the CC's resolution on
religion on January 21, which the press described as the
CPV's "first-ever." Embassy has also requested a meeting
with the CRA to discuss its January 22-23 national
conference covering its work in 2002/2003. End note)

3. (U) In concluding remarks, CPV GS Manh admitted serious
problems, including discrimination, lack of mutual trust,
and the low quality of cadres. The Plenum's communiqu
spoke at even greater length about such issues, noting that
"in some places" -- especially minority and mountainous
areas -- cadres and party members lacked "solidarity" and,
in some cases, "took advantage of their positions or were
corrupt" in the management and use of land. Manh warned
that the twin issues of minorities and religion were
"strategic" and that it was time to "pay attention with all
our efforts" to these issues.

4. (U) While reaffirming the right of religious belief or
non-belief, both Manh and the communiqu emphasized "legal
activities" and denounced use of "ethnic nationality, belief
[or] religion" for "illegal activities" aimed at "dividing
the people" or hurting "national security." The communiqu
noted that "in some places, especially in areas of ethnic
minorities, some believers had used religious belief to
conduct activities of opposition." The communiqu called
for the development of a "spirit of patriotism" among
religious believers to "defeat the plots of enemy forces
using religion and ethnic nationality to destroy solidarity
or oppose the system." "Foreign relations" related to
religion should be "coordinated with the foreign policy of
the Party and State."

5. (U) The plenum's solution for ethnic minority problems
included "improving the quality of the political system" at
the grassroots level and ensuring that "hot spots" did not
emerge in minority and mountainous areas, as well as
increased and improved use of radio and television programs.

6. (U) Manh noted that the plenum's deliberations on land
policy and use will be an "important base" when the National
Assembly looks at a new Law on Land sometime in 2003. The
plenum admitted that land issues were "very complicated" in
some places, often for historical reasons, and called for
"strengthening the leadership of the Party" and promoting
the role of the CPV and Vietnam Fatherland Front to bring
order to the land problem, along with clarifications
regarding the "responsibilities . . . and management of the
State" regarding land.

7. (U) The plenum agreed to remove Minister of Public
Security Le Hong Anh as head of the CC's Inspection
Commission, to be replaced by CC member and chairman of the
CC's Commission for Internal Security Nguyen Van Chi, who
simultaneously entered the CC's Secretariat. (Note: this
probably was not indicative of any censure against Anh, who
retains his Politburo seat. This re-allocation allows him
to concentrate on the MPS portfolio he assumed last summer.
End note) In a probable indication of the severity of
upcoming "Nam Cam mafia" case, the plenum formally
"disciplined" Politburo member (and chief of the CC's
Economic Commission) Truong Tan Sang for "failing to meet
his responsibilities in investigating and preventing the
criminal activities of Truong Van Cam," as well as problems
in "work with cadres," while serving as Ho Chi Minh City
Party secretary. Sang apparently did not lose either his
Politburo seat or his committee chairmanship, however.

8. (SBU) Comment: Embassy will continue to press for a
fuller read-out in the weeks ahead regarding what must have
been lively discussions among CC members on these admittedly
sensitive and often inter-related issues. The CC's focus
was, at least, squarely on some of the key human rights
challenges facing the CPV and GVN nowadays, notably in the
Central Highlands but also in other areas. Calls to improve
the quality and education of cadres at the grassroots levels
are welcome, if not new. However, the bottom-line CPV
determination, in line with earlier plenum resolutions on
strengthening party leadership at all levels under the
rubric of "grassroots democracy," likely is to continue to
reassert greater CPV control and oversight. At the same
time, the CPV explicitly encouraged well-meaning (if not
always well implemented) programs to reduce poverty, improve
educational opportunities, promote economic development, and
accept religious activities by recognized religious groups.
The sharp references to "enemy forces" using religion and
ethnic nationality for nefarious purposes is a distinct
reminder that the CPV and GVN likely have diminishing
patience toward activities by locals or foreigners that even
hint at separatism or promotion of non-recognized religious
groupings, however. House churches, evangelists, and Dega
nationalists may face even more vigilant scrutiny and
perhaps harsher treatment by local CPV and GVN authorities
in the wake of this plenum. Embassy and ConGen will watch
for any indications of any such campaign, which could easily
exacerbate instead of alleviate tensions in minority areas.

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