Cablegate: Mfa "Explains" Central Highlands Situation

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: State 86031

1. (U) The MFA invited diplomatic missions to an April 19
briefing by Vice Foreign Minister Le Cong Phung on the
situation in the Central Highlands (text of statement in
para 4). Ambassador and poloff attended and met afterwards
separately with VFM Phung to deliver reftel demarche and
discuss our again-delayed reporting trip to the Central
Highlands (septel).

2. (U) VFM Phung explicitly blamed the Montagnard
Foundation for "inducing" the demonstrations and described
"violent" acts by demonstrators. He denied that anyone had
been beaten to death, as had the MFA spokesman last week.
He denied repression of Protestants and cited as evidence
the 25 "Protestant Groups" in the area. In the Q&A, he said
that the GVN appreciated the activities of the UNHCR in the
past, but "vehemently" criticized its role regarding
Montagnards, and reiterated allegations that the UNHCR had
"incited" people to flee Vietnam and take refuge in

3. (U) Separately, in an interview with Vietnam Net,
Vietnam Fatherland Front head Pham The Duyet admitted two
deaths of demonstrators from "throwing stones at each other"
as well as "a few dozens" of injuries. VFM Phung also cited
the two deaths, attributing one to a car accident and the
other to injuries from stones. He mentioned possibly "60 to
70" injured, but said most were minor injuries requiring
little or no medical care.

4. (U) Text of VFM Phung's statement
Information on the recent situation in the Central Highland

Over the last several days, a number of foreign
organizations like the Montagnard Foundation, the
Transnational Radical Party have noisily exaggerated the so-
called "demonstrations of the ethnic minority people in the
Central Highland against religious repression and land
confiscation". They spread rumors that "the Vietnamese
government suppressed demonstrators", and even blatantly
fabricated a story of 400 people being cut throat and bodies
thrown into rivers, or more specifically said "demonstrators
were beaten to death in Phan Chu Trinh street and at the
outskirts of Buon Ma Thuot, etc". We vehemently reject this
distortion. It must be said that there is nothing new about
the sinister schemes by some hostile forces against Viet Nam
to spread provocative, fabricated, exaggerated, and
distorted rumours aimed at dividing the community of
Vietnamese nationalities, tarnishing Viet Nam's reputation
and image, hindering the development of friendship and
cooperation between Viet Nam and other countries and
international organizations.

The truth is that on the 10th and 11th April 2004, some
extremist elements in localities in Dak Lak and Gia Lai
provinces, with instigation and instructions from outside,
especially from the Montagnard Foundation led by Ksor Kok,
induced, deceived and forced the local people to carry out
demonstrations. On 9th April 2004, the so-called
"Montagnard Foundation" in the United States released an
announcement that there would be demonstrations in the
Central Highland on 10th April with the participation of
about 150,000 people. The Montagnard Foundation even dared
to admit its involvement with the demonstrations in the
Central Highland. The organizers of the demonstration
spread rumors that United Nations airplanes were available
to migrate local people abroad and, in various areas, they
used money to urge the people to demonstrate and threatened
to blacklist and punish those who would not follow them.

The extremists committed acts that caused public disorder.
They used dangerous weapons to beat on-duty officers,
causing serious injuries. They destroyed public works and
property in some communes. More seriously they even dared
to attack some commune headquarters, capture local officials
and hang out banners demanding to establish a "Dega state".
It was clear that these were acts aimed at causing public
disorder, dividing people of the Central Highlands, damaging
the national great unity and undermining Vietnam's
territorial integrity. In the face of such violent acts of
the extremists, law protection forces and people had to take
defensive acts, which inevitably led to clashes. A number
of people were injured and hospitalized.

It is clear that these extremists were incited and
instigated from outside. Such acts seriously violated the
laws and thus are intolerable in any country.

The local authorities have taken measures to stabilize the
situation. People who had been deceived to take part in the
demonstrations were explained by the local authorities about
the issue and provided with means of transportation to go
back home. The local governments just hold in custody the
instigators, leaders and those who committed acts against
public officers who were on duty. At present, the life in
these areas is normal. Foreign tourists continue to visit
the Central Highlands.

Besides, land dispute has also been mentioned by some
countries. Indeed, there have happened here and there land
disputes as a result of the economic restructuring in the
region. Recently, the National Assembly has amended the
Land Law, providing the local governments a legal basis to
address the issue and provide adequate land for cultivation
and housing of the people. This task is given special
attention in the Central Highlands provinces.
I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate the
consistent policy of the State of Vietnam to strengthen the
great national unity and pay attention to improving the
life, both physically and spiritually, for people from all
social strata. The Prime Minister has approved and
instructed the realization of the Socio-economic Development
Programme for extremely difficult communes, ethnic
minorities in mountainous, border and remote areas with a
view to improving the physical and spiritual life of ethnic
minority people in remote areas, helping these areas escape
poverty, backwardness and integrate into the common cause of
national development. The Programme has recorded fruitful
outcomes over the past years. Basic infrastructure in
mountainous areas has been built and improved significantly,
which helps promote the development of a multi-sector
economy. The economic structure in various areas has been
transformed in the direction of commodity production, which
gradually lays premises for socio-economic development along
the line of industrialization and modernization.
Especially, remarkable progress has been seen in the social
and economic development and the improvement of the people's
physical and spiritual conditions of Central Highland
provinces. The rights of the people from all ethnicities in
the Central Highlands area guaranteed. Socio-economic
programmes to meet the need for production and housing land
of ethnic minority people are actively implemented.

Vietnam's law ensures the right of freedom of religion and
belief and non-religion and belief of all citizens, which is
clearly inscribed in the Constitution and respected in the
reality. There is absolutely no question of the so-called
"repression of Protestants". On the contrary, Protestants
in the Central highland enjoy favourable conditions for
religious practices. There are about 25 grass-root
Protestant Groups in the Central Highland. Recently, on
13th April 2004, Pay Ro Ngol A Ma Ron Protestant Group was
inaugurated in A Ma Ron commune, Ia Pa district, Gia Lai
end text

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