Cablegate: Protestant S0urce Discusses Central Highlands Unrest And

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

1. (SBU) In a May 28 meeting with the Consul General, a reliable
Protestant source reported that the April 10-11 Easter weekend
unrest in the Central Highlands had resulted in the deaths of 10
ethnic minority persons in Gia Lai Province and another 190 in Dak
Lak Province -- contrary to GVN claims of just two dead in both
provinces. In addition, this Protestant source said 68 of the
alleged "masterminds and leaders" had been arrested in Gia Lai on
May 11 and 13. Because of these arrests, he had had to hurry back
to Gia Lai from Ho Chi Minh City ahead of schedule. This
prevented his meeting with EAP A/S James Kelly, who was visiting
HCMC at the time, for which he apologized profusely.

2. (SBU) This Protestant source said he was present in one village
in Gia Lai on April 10, when ethnic minority residents, who had
gathered to attend church services, were met by suspicious police
who thought a protest was underway. According to the source, the
crowds were a mixture of believers (Protestants), Catholics, and
non-believers. Despite his best efforts to persuade the
authorities that these were merely peaceful worshippers on their
way to Easter services, with no intention of participating in any
demonstrations, the police maintained their presence and continued
to monitor the crowd. When violence eventually erupted, our
contact claims to have witnessed personally the deaths of two
individuals -- one male teenager who was shot, and a 40-year-old
male who died en route to the hospital after being beaten by what
appeared to be plainclothes police officers. The Protestant
source said he went to the hospital where some of the injured were
treated and saw two large rooms filled with patients lying cheek-
to-jowl, but he could not give a numerical estimate. He returned
to the hospital on April 12 to check on those still injured. He
counted about 30 people still there.

3. (SBU) Asked for his views on the root causes of the unrest, the
source mentioned all of the longstanding ethnic minority
frustrations over land, jobs, education, and discrimination
(majority Vietnamese Kinh vs. ethnic minority peoples). He
described at length the discrimination that ethnic minorities
endured: arable land and good jobs went to the Vietnamese Kinh --
particularly those migrating down from the North -- not them;
funds from UNICEF and other NGOs for hunger eradication programs,
micro-loans, and building water wells focused on the poverty-
stricken Vietnamese Kinh rather than ethnic minority peoples; and
laws were enforced disproportionately against ethnic minority
peoples (i.e. when ethnic minority peoples slashed and burned
forested lanQor cultivation, they were arrested; when
Vietnamese Kinh slashed and burned forested lands to create large
coffee plantations, they got off scott-free).

4. (SBU) This Protestant source also confirmed that some persons
in the U.S. had told ethnic minorities that the U.S. would come to
their aid if they protested. In fact, the U.S. "would rescue and
resettle" them. He himself had been called by someone named "Ksor
Tan," (phonetic) who had tried to enlist his support (which he did
not give). According to the source, many ethnic minority
individuals are still in contact with U.S.-based groups, and he
worries that something could happen at any time. While religion
was a factoQhis Protestant source noted that the government
response to the protests did not appear aimed at any particular
religious group. He believes that intercepted communications
between the U.S. and the Central Highlands had tipped police off
to the possibility of a demonstration. He also asserted that many
ethnic minority persons had fled to the forest or hidden literally
underground to avoid arrest or punishment by police. He could not
give total numbers for the arrested or missing, saying that strict
police surveillance made it difficult to corroborate these claims
with family members of those believed to be in custody.

5. (SBU) The source also discussed his reluctance to travel to the
U.S. during early June as part of a GVN-organized delegation on
religious freedom in Vietnam. He did not want to damage his
credibility or violate his Christian values by participating in a
whitewash, but did not believe he would be allowed to refuse the

6. (SBU) COMMENT: After more than 15 meetings with ConGen
officers over the course of 30 months, this was the most voluble
and stressed-out that we have seen this reliable Protestant
contact. He was clearly worried about his impending trip to the
U.S. The GVN had taken possession of his recently-issued
passport, and he had been given an airline ticket to Hanoi and
told to present himself there for the visa interview.


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