Cablegate: Communist Youth Organization Holds Peaceful Demonstration

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. Summary: The HCMC Youth Union organized a boisterous, but
peaceful demonstration by more than 5000 high school and college
students at the District One Youth Center on March 17. The rally
featured speakers and musical performances to appeal to the kind
of young audience which frequents the Youth Center for cultural
events. Part of an ongoing peaceful campaign of mass organization
demonstrations against going to war in Iraq, the two-hour
gathering was well planned and organized, and received extensive
national press coverage. End summary.

2. The Youth Center, located just two blocks from the U.S.
Consulate, was packed with young people carrying banners made of
red bunting lettered with anti-war slogans, as well as cut-out
letters spelling N-O-W-A-R, and hand-drawn posters with images and
slogans in English like, "Peace For Iraq", "No War", and "Stop
Bombing." The mood was boisterous, as protestors jumped up and
down and swayed their signs to the beat of the music, but under
control. The rally started at 6:00 pm and ended promptly at 8:00
pm, with participants collecting piles of white birds folded from
paper, symbolizing peace.

3. As with other demonstrations we have seen (reftel) --
demonstrations in Vietnam are almost always organized by Communist
Party mass organizations, like the Youth Union -- the speeches
outlined Vietnam's oft-repeated anti-war policy. The event was
filmed by the national television station and carried by the three
newspapers with the largest readership in Vietnam (Saigon Giai
Phong, Thanh Nien and Tuoi Tre).

4. On March 18, ConGen received a fax from the Fatherland Front
Committee of the province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau addressed to the
governments of the U.S. and the U.K. The letter said that the
people of Ba Ria-Vung Tau had suffered during the Vietnam War and
empathized with the people of Iraq. The Committee had organized a
meeting the day before and decided to send this letter advocating
the same points raised in reftel, as well as asking for an end to
the economic embargo against Iraq and more time for the UN weapons
inspections team to ensure that Iraq complies with UNSCR 1441.

5. Comment: This is not the first example of the Communist Party
of Vietnam organizing a demonstration to show public support for
its policy positions, but it seemed to be one of the more genuine
outpourings of peaceful concern. Nearly 70 percent of the
population of Ho Chi Minh City is under 30 years-old, and most
students can easily be mobilized to attend these events through
school networks and busing. In this case, many of the banners
were in English, though next day press reports noted only two
Westerners in attendance. In a country where opportunities for
public expression are extremely limited and orchestrated, this may
have been one occasion where GVN official policy actually
reflected sentiments close to the students' own.


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