Cablegate: Pro-Peace Rally at Embassy

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


1. (U) During the afternoon of March 19, a group of
approximately 30 school-age children (apparently in their
early teens at the oldest) suddenly appeared at the front of
the Chancery chanting -- in English -- "peace for Iraq" and
"no war," and holding up a few pro-peace posters (also in
English). One student presented one poster subsequently to
RSO, and expressed Vietnam's wish for peace in light of its
own experiences with war. According to some in the crowd,
the demonstrators were all students at Ngo Si Lien School.

2. (U) Within a few minutes of the beginning of the
demonstration, several dozen additional local police arrived
on the scene and moved the protesters to the sidewalk across
the street from the Embassy. They did not otherwise try to
break up the demonstration and instead stood facing them,
and helping to direct traffic. Crowds of onlookers quickly
outnumbered the students but did not join in the chanting.
A few passers-by on motorcycle raised their fists when they
saw the demonstrators, apparently in support.

3. (U) One older man, apparently not connected with the
students and apparently drunk or on drugs, took off his
shirt, cut himself, and tried to spread his blood on shrubs
and the ground. Police restrained him and eventually took
him into custody.

4. (U) The student protesters remained on the scene for
about one hour. As far as Embassy knows, none were detained
or taken into custody. Several photographers, both still
and videocam, covered the protest. Embassy expects press
coverage on the evening television news March 19 and in
newspapers on March 20.

5. (U) Comment: Unlike the well-staged "mass" rallies and
demonstrations (ref), this event appears to have been
slightly more spontaneous (even if still orchestrated by
school teachers and authorities) than the norm for Vietnam.
We expect the number and intensity of these protests to grow
as military action against Iraq grows more imminent and
after the offset of any hostilities. We continue to expect
that Vietnamese security officials will keep these
demonstrations well under control, however.

© Scoop Media

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