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Cablegate: Police Disrupt Travel of Ubcv Leaders to Hcmc

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 HO CHI MINH CITY 000978

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV (Jess), DRL

E. O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM KIRF SOCI PGOV PREL VM HUMANR RELFREE
SUBJECT: POLICE DISRUPT TRAVEL OF UBCV LEADERS TO HCMC

REF: HCMC 942

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Police apparently stopped United Buddhist
Church of Vietnam (UBCV) leaders Thich Huyen Quang, Thich Quang Do
and Thich Tue Sy from leaving Binh Dinh Province to drive to Ho
Chi Minh City on October 8 (local time). Although various reports
differed on details, there was general agreement that a crowd of
40-60 police and others surrounded the monks in their van shortly
after they left the pagoda where Thich Huyen Quang resides. The
incident occurred in the context of reports of increased tension
following a meeting of leaders of the banned UBCV (Reftel).
Charge raised the issue with the MFA in Hanoi and stressed the
importance of immediately allowing the monks to continue their
travel unimpeded. ConGen also contacted the HCMC External
Relations Office and later reached the Chairman of Binh Dinh
Province. The Chairman said when he learned of the situation he
had said to just let them go. He said the monks had already been
allowed to leave, and as of 5:00 p.m. local time, ConGen was able
to confirm with Thich Tue Sy that the monks had been allowed to
depart around 4:00 p.m. Thich Tue Sy said everybody -- including
"the elders" -- were "fine." End summary.

2. (SBU) According to a press release from the Paris-based
International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB), UBCV leaders
Thich Huyen Quang, Thich Quang Do and Thich Tue Sy were prevented
from leaving Binh Dinh Province to drive to Ho Chi Minh City on
October 8 local time. Thich Quang Do and Thich Tue Sy had
traveled to Binh Dinh to attend a UBCV meeting September 18-20,
where UBCV leaders discussed personnel issues and strategies for
seeking government recognition for their banned religious
organization. Local UBCV contacts confirmed to ConGen that the
three religious leaders were among a group of UBCV monks that left
Nguyen Thieu Pagoda together in a van early in the morning on
October 8. Shortly after leaving the pagoda, where Thich Huyen
Quang currently resides, the van was surrounded by a large group
of police, reported as 40 by one source and 60 by another. (Post
Note: We have no way of verifying these numbers.)

3. (SBU) At about 3:30 pm, ConGen reached the Chairman of the
Binh Dinh People's Committee on his mobile phone. The Chairman
blamed Thich Huyen Quang's own followers for the situation, saying
they wanted him to stay in Binh Dinh to translate Buddhist books
and train more nuns and monks --assistance he had offered at the
opening ceremony of his home pagoda's Basic Buddhism School. The
Chairman claimed the followers were only trying to prevent Thich
Huyen Quang from leaving, not the other two monks. The Chairman
said when he learned of the incident, he stated that "if he (Thich
Huyen Quang) wants to go, just let him go" and that the monks had
already been allowed to continue their journey to HCMC. At 5:00
pm, ConGen confirmed directly with the monks that they had been
allowed to leave around 4:00 pm. (Note: The Chairman's claim
that the van had been delayed by UBCV followers contradicts press
reports and IBIB press releases describing a large crowd of police
and others throwing stones and puncturing the tires of the monks'
van. The details of what happened in Binh Dinh are not yet fully
clear and these reports are still unconfirmed. In the past, Thich
Quang Do and Thich Huyen Quang have recounted stories of large
adoring crowds surrounding them, but the Chairman's interpretation
seems to take this one step too far. End note.)

4. (SBU) UBCV contacts reported that police had originally told
Thich Quang Do and Thich Tue Sy their "registration" for visiting
Binh Dinh had expired and they should return to HCMC. Thich Huyen
Quang decided to travel with them in order to consult a doctor. A
UBCV contact in Hue told us separately that the situation has been
very tense since UBCV religious leaders returned from the
September 18-20 UBCV meeting at the Nguyen Thieu Pagoda. One
contact indicated that even as he and ConGenoff were speaking,
there were two policemen at his pagoda waiting for him to
accompany them for more "educatio." oks who had attended the
meeting and later returned to six different pagodas in Hue had
been called in by the police for "education" for the past several
days, and their pagodas were being closely watched. (Post Note:
We have come across this practice in other situations. Even our
local Foreign Ministry counterparts who have traveled or studied
overseas can be required to attend re-conditioning classes for up
to a year.)

5. (SBU) ConGen had contacted Deputy Director of the External
Relations Office, Mr. Le Hung Quoc, early in the afternoon. He
said he had not heard anything about the situation, but would
inform the ConGen if he were able to get any additional
information. While he had no specific knowledge about why the
police would prevent the monks from going to HCMC, Mr. Quoc noted
that the UBCV was a banned organization and their September
meeting had been illegal. ConGen stressed the importance of
providing accurate information and resolving the issue quickly, as
there could be no justification for holding UBCV leaders for
attending a peaceful meeting.

6. (SBU) Separately on October 8, the Charge in Hanoi raised the
issue with Acting Director of the Americas Department Mr. Nguyen
Van Que. The Charge drew Mr. Que's attention to Thich Huyen
Quang's meeting with the Prime Minister and the right of the UBCV
monks to travel freely. He pointed out that an incident like
this, if true, would inevitably further damage the GVN's
reputation on human rights and religious freedoms, was an
unwelcome development at any time - but particularly now when
senior GVN leaders were in the U.S. - and could harm the bilateral
relationship. He also urged Mr. Que to investigate this
information quickly and, if true, immediately allow the monks to
continue their travel unimpeded. He asked Mr. Que to let him know
the results of the investigation as soon as possible. Mr. Que
thanked the Charge for the information (which he had not heard)
and said he would look into it.

7. (SBU) Around 5:00 pm, Thich Tue Sy contacted the ConGen and
confirmed that the monks had been allowed to depart about an hour
earlier. Thich Tue Sy said everybody -- including "the elders" --
were "fine." The Mission made representations at several
different levels of government. It is not clear who made the
decisions either to stop the monks or eventually allow them to
proceed. It was evident in the phone call with the Chairman of
Binh Dinh that he quickly made the connection between public
image, international reputation and letting the monks go on their
way.
YAMAUCHI

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