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Cablegate: Hue Police Run Interference in Meetings With

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

UNCLAS HANOI 000916

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV AND DRL/IRF

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM SOCI PREL PGOV KIRF VM RELFREE HUMANR
SUBJECT: HUE POLICE RUN INTERFERENCE IN MEETINGS WITH
RELIGIOUS LEADERS

Ref: HCMC 76

1. (SBU) Summary: A political reporting trip to Hue by
Embassy poloff and congenoff was marred by police
obstruction of attempted meetings with non-recognized
religious figures. These unfortunately successful attempts
at blocking access are more damaging to GVN credibility on
religious freedom issues than anything the activists likely
would have said. End Summary

2. (U) During a joint Embassy-ConGen trip to Hue March 29-
31 to assess the political environment and situation for
religious believers in Hue (septels), poloff and congenoff
attempted impromptu encounters with the Venerable Thich Tien
Hanh of the technically illegal Unified Buddhist Church of
Vietnam (whom a congenoff had visited in January - reftel)
and Father Nguyen Huu Giai, a Catholic priest who has
criticized the GVN and previously been affiliated with
imprisoned cleric Father Nguyen Van Ly. Neither Thich Tien
Hanh nor Father Giai is under any type of official
detention.

3. (U) On March 29, when asked to drive to Thich Tien
Hanh's pagoda, the rental car driver became visibly nervous,
drove a long route out of town, feigned an engine breakdown,
and then got out to make some phone calls. After much
delay, he restarted the car and drove to an intersection
near the pagoda in central Hue. There the road was blocked
by what seemed clearly to be a carefully staged "traffic
accident" -- an otherwise undamaged motorcycle lying on the
road next to an otherwise undamaged car, with no sign of
injured drivers or passengers. Several police on the scene
insisted that the missionoffs leave the area immediately,
and would not allow them to proceed around the "accident" on
foot. A number of what appeared to be plainclothes police
were also on the scene, including one who photographed the
encounter. Missionoffs then called Thich Tien Hanh, who
reported that police had also blocked the entrance to his
pagoda.

4. (U) On March 30, missionoffs told the hired driver to go
to a location close to the church of Father Giai, about 14km
from Hue. The driver drove slowly through Hue, turning his
hazard lights on at several occasions. After the vehicle
was a short distance away from the town, traffic police
drove up, pulled the car over, and - after a long, slow
check - declared that the driver lacked "foreigner
insurance." (Note: according to our GSO Motorpool staff,
there is no such thing. End note) Only after an hour's
delay did police allow the car and missionoffs to return to
Hue, while insisting that the driver would have to return to
the station immediately after dropping missionoffs at their
hotel.

5. (SBU) Hue police also called a friend of the Embassy
political assistant/trip translator in for questioning,
after he met the Embassy FSN for dinner on March 29. He was
not, however, detained or fined.

6. (SBU) Comment: The police actions in Hue, while almost
comic in their efforts to be creative and not overtly heavy-
handed, underscore the suspicion with which diplomats
(especially U.S. political officers) are often seen, as well
as the continuing sensitivity to non-orthodox religious
figures who have been known to be critical of GVN policies.
Our experience is that this tends to be notably more true
outside Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Thich Tien Hanh's and
Father Giai's criticisms are well known, and the visits
would not likely have elicited any surprise new material.
These successful attempts to restrict our access are instead
more damaging to GVN credibility on religious freedom issues
than any information the two probably would have provided.
Next time, however, we will take an Embassy car and driver.
PORTER

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