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Cablegate: Conviction of Pham Van Tuong Aka Thich Tri Luc

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

UNCLAS HANOI 000752

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR PRM AND EAP/BCLTV

BANGKOK FOR REFCOORD

GENEVA FOR RMA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PHUM PREL CB VM
SUBJECT: CONVICTION OF PHAM VAN TUONG AKA THICH TRI LUC

REF: 03 HANOI 2858

1. (U) In a brief trial on March 12, former Unified
Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) monk Pham Van Tuong
(better known by his earlier religious name of Thich Tri
Luc) was sentenced by the Ho Chi Minh City People's Court to
twenty months' imprisonment for "fleeing abroad with a view
to opposing the people's administration" (Article 91 of the
Penal Code). ConGen HCMC's Buddhist contacts have confirmed
the sentence but believe he will be released in about 15
days for time served, since he has already been in custody
since July 26, 2002. The English-language "Vietnam News"
reported -- somewhat inaccurately -- on March 13 that he had
been sentenced for "distorting the Government's national
unity policies" and had "contacted hostile groups to
undermine the Government's internal security and foreign
affairs." Media reports further claimed that he had
"confessed his crime and sincerely expressed remorse."

2. (SBU) Tuong's case attracted international attention
since he had been granted refugee status by the UNHCR office
in Phnom Penh after fleeing Vietnam in 2002, but was
mysteriously arrested at the Vietnam-Cambodian border four
months later. UNHCR's officer-in-charge in Hanoi Vu Anh Son
(please protect) confirmed on March 15 that the GVN had
never provided any explanation of this discrepancy. He said
that UNHCR Hanoi sent a diplomatic note to the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs on March 15 requesting to meet with Tuong to
determine if he still wishes to pursue resettlement as a
refugee and, if so, seeking the GVN's cooperation in
processing him, an option promised by Vice Minister of
Public Security Nguyen Van Huong in October 2003 (reftel).
Son said that he was "optimistic" the GVN would indeed
cooperate and predicted action "soon." UNHCR Bangkok --
rather than the office in Hanoi -- would likely pursue the
case with interested Embassies, he added.

3. (U) Suggested press guidance:
Question 1: What is your reaction to the sentencing of Pham
Van Tuong, formerly known as the monk Trich Tri Luc of the
Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam?

Answer 1: We regret that the closed nature of the
Vietnamese legal and court system makes it difficult to
determine the facts of individual cases. This casts doubt
on the fairness of the criminal proceedings against Mr.
Tuong and on the Vietnamese Government's commitment to
transparency elsewhere in its legal system.

We urge the GVN to grant access to Mr. Tuong by UNHCR
officials and to permit him to be resettled as a refugee, if
he desires.

Question 2: Can you please comment on Mr. Tuong's
disappearance from Phnom Penh in 2002 and subsequent arrest
on the Vietnam-Cambodian border?

Answer 2: We refer you to the Governments of Cambodia and
Vietnam as well as representatives of UNHCR for further
details about this case.
BURGHARDT

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