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Cablegate: Protestants Claim More Harassment

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 001687

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV AND DRL/IRF

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PINS SOCI VM RELFREE HUMANR ETMIN
SUBJECT: PROTESTANTS CLAIM MORE HARASSMENT

REF: A. HANOI 0551 B. Hanoi 0349
- C. HCMC 941

1. (U) Summary. Unconfirmed reports continue to indicate
efforts by local authorities to pressure ethnic minority
Protestants in some locations to renounce their faith.
These reports claim at least one recent murder and more
detentions. Some ethnic minority Protestants have
reportedly also had to pay fines for illegal gatherings.
While the religious life of most believers in Vietnam,
including Protestants, appears to be unaffected by any new
efforts, authorities at least in the two sensitive Highland
areas appear to have focused attention on what appear to
them purely illegal actions outside the recognized
Protestant structure. Interestingly, these efforts to not
appear to be very successful. Septel will report on some
refutations of such claims by Party officials in Hanoi and
provincial officials in Lai Chau and Son La provinces. End
Summary.

2. (SBU) Foreign correspondents recently provided Embassy
with copies of letters and other accounts from Vietnamese
Protestants detailing recent cases of harassment,
detentions, and even murder among some ethnic minority
Protestants. The journalists originally received these
documents from Vietnamese Protestant sources, who could
often not provide a firm indication whether they had any
personal knowledge of the events detailed in these accounts
or exactly how directly they had obtained the information.
Neither the Embassy nor the journalists themselves can
confirm the accuracy of these accounts, which are in
Vietnamese.

Murders?
--------

3. (U) "Chong," the ten year old son of Protestant leader
Trang Phia of Hoi Cha hamlet, Muong Nhe village, Muong Nhe
District, Lai Chau province, disappeared three days after
Trang Phia and other church leaders had been told to leave
the hamlet and go into the forest (no date given).
Authorities initially refused requests by Trang Phia's wife
to search for her son, but later took her to a site (which
she had already searched) and produced Chong's body.
According to this account, he had been murdered -- church
members believe by a 35-year old Hmong at the behest of
local authorities seeking to punish the father -- at another
site and his body later moved by authorities. Appeals by
church members to Hanoi authorities to investigate the case
have not produced any results. Local authorities continue
to pressure church members to leave the hamlet, although
unsuccessfully.

4. (U) Another account related the already familiar case
of Mua Bua Sinh (aka Mua Bua Senh) of Tin Toc hamlet, Phin
Giang, Dien Bien Dong district, Lai Chau province. Mua Bua
Sinh died on August 7, 2002; his family believes he had been
beaten because of his Protestant faith.

Detentions
----------

5. (U) Following the death of Mua Bua Sinh, his brother Mua
Say So went to Hanoi to try to convince central authorities
to investigate. According to this account, he was detained
in May 2003, although it is not clear whether in Hanoi or
Lai Chau.

6. (U) Mua A Chau and Thao A Tong, of Sin Ho district, Lai
Chau, were reportedly detained on March 5 in Binh Lu, Lai
Chau. Mua A Chau was accused of having "resisted a person
performing an official act" in October 2002 when he had been
detained for three days, after authorities found in his
possession a number of appeals about religious freedom. The
two were held in a detention center in Sin Ho district.
Tong was released after 15 days, but was supposed to report
to police on a daily basis. Chau apparently remains in
detention (the date of the report was not given but was
clearly sometime after May 31) and other prisoners "allowed"
into his cell to beat him occasionally.

7. (U) Sung Van Dung, a Hmong Christian from Hoi Dac
hamlet, Pa Ham village, Muong Lay district, Lai Chau, was
detained on March 8 after officials found Christian
materials in his sack. He reportedly remains under
detention in Muong Lay.

Renunciations
-------------

8. (U) On March 3, about 100 police and soldiers came to
Xa Cat Village, Sin Ho District, Lai Chau province, to force
Hmong Protestants to sign a statement renouncing their
faith, claiming all evangelists were "false hands of the
U.S." The report does not indicate whether the Protestants
complied.

9. (U) On March 2, police came to Che La village, Xin Man
district, Ha Giang province to force families to sign a
"commitment" not to listen to, believe, or spread illegal
religions; not to organize illegal gatherings; and not to
abandon ancestor shrines. According to the report, anyone
who did not sign was arrested, but the report does not
indicate how many, if any, complied. Whoever signed was
supposed to be given some financial and other assistance by
authorities, the report claimed, without indicating how many
benefited from this offer.
10. (U) A Yen, an ethnic Coi-dong from from Dak Ring
village, Cam Long district, Kontum province, was beaten by
police who were trying to force him to renounce his faith on
May 8.

Fines
-----

11. (U) The materials also include copies of two receipts
for fines (of 100,000 VND -- USD7 -- and 200,000 VND -- USD
14) paid by individuals in Dak Lak province for having
organized "illegal Protestant gatherings."

Comment
-------

12. (SBU) The religious life of most Vietnamese believers,
including Protestants, appears to be free from any official
pressure to recant; as long as they confine their religious
activities to their own homes or within one of the
recognized religious structures, they can practice their
faith without noticeable interference. (The leadership
structure and even the composition of the clergy remain
under the supervision of the State and Party, however.)
Even many house churches usually also operate with virtual
impunity at most times. Authorities nonetheless view all
other religious activities, especially evangelism, as
illegal. At least in the sensitive Central and Northwest
Highland areas, officials have tried to convince ethnic
minorities to abandon such "illegal" practices; it appears
increasingly likely that they were not doing so at their own
initiative but rather as part of a larger drive to ensure
that all religious activities fit into one of the CPV/GVN's
boxes. With a few very regrettable exceptions, these
efforts appear to have been non-violent, if still often
coercive. Interestingly, however, it does not yet appear
that these efforts have been on the whole successful. Most
knowledgeable observers would confirm the continued spread
of Protestantism among ethnic minorities in these areas
despite pressures to conform and even occasional harassment,
another sign of the dwindling power of the Party and State
over individual lives. Septel will provide comments from
Party officials in Hanoi and refutation of these allegations
by provincial authorities in Lai Chau and Son La provinces.
BURGHARDT

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