Cablegate: Gvn's Recent Engagement On Human Rights, Religion

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





REF: A. HANOI 2860, B. HANOI 2897, C. HANOI 2093

E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: The Government of Vietnam is making some
effort to engage the USG and other foreign governments more
actively on human rights and religious freedom issues.
European Union member diplomats spoke positively of the
GVN's interaction in their human rights dialogue, and said
it had produced a GVN commitment to hold two such dialogues
per year in the future. The GVN has also tried to come up
with a response to the questions and concerns Ambassador
Hanford raised in his November visit, including religious
prisoner lists. Two long-imprisoned Redemptrix priests may
receive amnesties at the Vietnamese New Year in January
2004. End summary.

2. (SBU) Representatives of the Italian Embassy and
European Commission in Hanoi told poloff that they were
"pleased" with the GVN's interaction in the November 26
bilateral human rights dialogue. They said that a broad
range of ministries attended the dialogue, all seemed well
prepared, and that the tone of the meeting was "open and not
defensive." The GVN gave the EU information on a list of
prisoners of concern previously presented. (Note: The
information was similar to that the GVN already provided to
the USG. End note.) Though the EU could not point to
concrete results attributable to the dialog, EU
interlocutors were positive and said they saw it as a good
base for successful interaction in the future. One tangible
outcome is that the GVN agreed to hold dialogues twice per
year with the EU - one involving the MFA alone, and one
multi-ministry "plenary session." (Reftel A)

3. (SBU) The GVN also responded to Ambassador Hanford's
suggestion that the GVN clearly reiterate to all levels of
government its declared policy of respecting religious
freedom. Le Hoai Trung, Deputy Director General of the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs International Relations
Department informed visiting DRL officer Jean Geran on
December 4 that the GVN "is seeking a way to do this, but it
may not be in a specific, written memo due to political
considerations." Trung also stated "we have taken measures
to remind government officials of these laws," but provided
no specifics.

4. (SBU) During a meeting with Ambassadors Hanford and
Burghardt in Washington on December 5, Deputy Foreign
Minister Le Van Bang provided a response to the list of
religious prisoners and detainees Ambassador Hanford
presented in November (Reftel B). In the response, the GVN
states 20 of the 37 ethnic Ede detainees have been released,
6 are in prison, and 11 cannot be accounted for. (Note:
Five of the 20 that have been released do not appear to be
on the list Ambassador Hanford provided, though this may be
due to confusion between birth names and patronymics. End
note.) Of the 23 Hmong detainees on the original list, 8
have been released, and 2 are still being detained. The GVN
provided no information on the other 13. Regarding the
UBCV, the GVN claims Thich Huyen Quang, Thich Quang Do, and
Thich Vien Dinh are "normally practicing religion in their
pagodas," without reference to their house arrest-like
conditions. Regarding the Catholic detainees from
Ambassador Hanford's list, the GVN suggests that Pham Minh
Tri and Nguyen Thien Phung (two Redemptrix priests serving
20 sentences since 1987) may receive amnesties at the Tet
New Year holiday in January.

5. (SBU) Comment: It is likely that the ethnic minority
prisoners were released (or perhaps never even formally
charged) for reasons unrelated to our inquiries. The
information on other detainees is similarly mixed: the
statements about UBCV leaders are disingenuous, and the
amnesties for the two Catholic priests - while welcome -
would only shave the end off long prison terms. In this
respect the GVN response is similar to the response it gave
in August 2003 to the concerns we raised in connection with
the U.S. Human Rights Dialogue (reftel C). There, too, the
GVN took swift superficial action (including minor reduction
in sentences for some prisoners) in response to our
inquiries. Nonetheless, the quick and thorough response to
Ambassador Hanford's inquiry can be taken as a further sign
that the GVN is wants to be perceived as addressing
criticism on religious freedom issues and engaging the USG
on the subject.

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