Cablegate: Ubcv Leaders in Limbo: Inquiries Continue Concerning

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

REF: A) HCMC 978; B) HCMC 942

1. (SBU) ConGen has confirmed that UBCV leaders Thich Huyen
Quang, Thich Quang Do and Thich Tue Sy were detained by police on
October 9 in Khanh Hoa Province about 10 km north of the
provincial capital Nha Trang. They had left Thich Huyen Quang's
pagoda in Binh Dinh Province to travel to HCMC the morning of
October 8, but were surrounded by police and prevented from
continuing their journey until 4:00 p.m. (Ref A). They had then
spent the night in a pagoda in Khanh Hoa and resumed their trip
early on October 9, but were again stopped by police and taken
from their van about an hour later. ConGen understands that at
least Thich Huyen Quang and Thich Quang Do have since been
released and returned by the police on October 10 to their
respective pagodas in Binh Dinh Province and HCMC.

2. (SBU) ConGen received a report that Vien Dinh, a monk from
Giac Hoa Pagoda in HCMC who had been traveling with the UBCV
leaders, had been driven to HCMC from Khanh Hoa by police after
the monks were taken from their van. He was held at a police
station in Binh Thanh district of HCMC from 6 pm until midnight on
October 9. He was released and returned to his pagoda by the
police, but two other policemen came to get him about fifteen
minutes later and the pagoda has not heard from him since. Vien
Dinh had told monks at his pagoda he understood that the Khanh Hoa
police planned to return the various monks in the van with the
UBCV leaders back to their home districts (this could mean either
to their pagodas or to police stations in those districts).

3. (SBU) ConGen met with Deputy Director of the Office of
External Relations in HCMC Le Hung Quoc. He claimed that the
monks had originally been stopped on October 8 by local traffic
police in Binh Dinh for an unspecified traffic violation, and the
police had then "accidentally" discovered the monks were carrying
papers that appeared to contain "state secrets." Local
authorities detained the monks so that they could clarify the
situation. Quoc said he "thought" the monks had admitted that
they were carrying "state secrets." He further said "competent
authorities" were now assessing the situation. He said the
outcome of the assessment would depend largely on the attitude of
the monks.

4. (SBU) Deputy Director Quoc said that he could confirm Thich
Huyen Quang was in his pagoda in Binh Dinh Province and Thich
Quang Do was in HCMC. He thought that Thich Quang Do was at his
pagoda and not in police custody. (Note: ConGenOff visited Thich
Quang Do's pagoda mid-morning October 10 and was turned away by
what appeared to be a large plainclothes security contingent.
ConGenOff was told that the pagoda was closed for renovations and
that no one was inside. There was evidence of construction that
had clearly been underway for some time. Separately, the French
CG said ERO had told him not to try to visit Thich Quang Do, since
the CG "would be turned away and that would be embarrassing." End

5. (SBU) Quoc was not sure about the other monks, although as
far as he knew they had all been returned to their home pagodas
and none of them were in detention. Quoc said he would try to
clarify this with local authorities. He later noted that police
might call in the monks for questioning as part of their
investigation into the suspect documents. Responding to a
specific question, he said no one had been charged with a crime
yet, but they could still be charged depending on what "competent
authorities" finally decided about their documents.

6. (SBU) Asked what sort of "state secrets" the monks could be
carrying, Quoc said the UBCV was a banned group and it would be
illegal if they had papers that concerned efforts to (re)-
establish the UBCV. If they want to establish a new religion, he
said, they would need to go "step-by-step" according to the law.
Referring to the unfortunate timing of this incident given the
heavy schedule of upcoming bilateral visits between the U.S. and
Vietnam, Quoc noted a pattern of provocative acts prior to
important visits between the two countries, which he attributed to
people who "don't like the government and wait for opportunities
to create problems."

7. (SBU) Throughout the discussion, DPO stressed the seriousness
of the situation, the importance of protecting human rights and
religious freedom, and the need for timely, full and accurate
information. She called attention to the international interest
in the UBCV leaders and the harm that would be done to Vietnam's
reputation if it failed to meet its international commitments.
Answering a reference by Quoc to the "difficult" pre-1975 UBCV
role, she noted that the outside world would not find it credible
that the elderly UBCV leaders, one over eighty and the other over
seventy, posed a threat to state security because they held a
meeting to discuss the future of UBCV relations with the GVN.
Responding to another comment by Quoc, she cautioned that it was
not possible to separate Vietnam's interest in integrating into
the world marketplace from its record on human rights and
religious freedom.

8. (SBU) Quoc said he understood this was a serious issue and
that accurate information was essential. He said that both the
U.S. and Vietnam had a responsibility to give a full picture of
the situation in Vietnam. He added that Vietnam upholds the right
of individuals to practice their religion, but this had to be done
"within the law." He noted that Vietnam was a Buddhist country
and said there were thousands of monks practicing their religion
freely. He took the point, however, that failure to uphold
religious freedom could damage Vietnam's relationship with the
U.S. He also agreed that cutting off phones and making it
impossible for the UBCV monks to communicate with their followers
was not helpful.

9. (U) Hanoi septel reports on Charge's earlier discussion with
the MFA.


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