Cablegate: Das Dugan Visits Ubcv Buddhist Leader in Hcmc

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

240947Z Nov 04




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: 2003 HCMC 1010 and Previous

1. (SBU) Summary: Thich Quang Do, Secretary General of the
outlawed United Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) told DRL DAS
Elizabeth Dugan that he strongly opposes the GVN communist
government. In his first meeting with USG officials since he was
placed under de facto "pagoda arrest" in October 2003, Thich Quang
Do welcomed international pressure on Vietnam, lauded the USG
decision to designate Vietnam a Country of Particular Concern
(CPC), but opposed sanctions. He said there were no religious
differences between the UBCV and the GVN-recognized Vietnam
Buddhist Sangha; his struggle was against authoritarian, one-party
rule. Thich Quang Do reported that he would attempt to visit
ailing UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang in Central Vietnam the
following day. Despite our request to HCMC authorities, Thich
Quang Do's visit was blocked on November 22 and reportedly was
summoned to meet GVN officials as early as November 24. End

Foe of the Party

2. (SBU) A strong and energetic UBCV Secretary General Thich Quang
Do struck a defiant posture as an implacable foe of the Communist
Party and the GVN in a meeting with visiting DRL DAS Dugan and the
Consul General on November 21. Meeting with USG officials for the
first time since October 2003 when he was placed under unofficial
"pagoda arrest," (reftel) Thich Quang Do said that he will carry
on his struggle to have the Vietnamese people live in dignity
under a government that respects human rights. (Note: We had
informed the authorities that we planned to visit the monk at the
Thanh Minh Zen Monastery Pagoda and met with no interference.
There was noticeable police presence around the Pagoda. Thich
Quang Do said that he had been encouraged by the police not to
meet with us. He fully expected to suffer some consequences as a
result of our visit, but made clear that he was neither afraid nor
concerned. End Note)

3. (SBU) The 77-year old monk said that the GVN was more heartless
than pre-1975 Saigon regimes, telling DAS Dugan that it took the
self-immolation of six UBCV monks to bring down the regime of
South Vietnamese President Diem in 1963. In contrast, at least 12
Buddhist monks have immolated themselves after 1975 (NFI), but the
Communists haven't flinched. Thich Quang Do acknowledged that
Vietnam had made economic progress since 1975. He argued,
however, that this did not translate into greater human rights or
personal freedom. Rather, Vietnam's leadership was using the
country's prosperity to strengthen its hold on society. He
criticized the lack of a free press in Vietnam, the export of
labor and the rise of marriages of Vietnamese women to foreigners,
saying that these policies led to both groups' exploitation.

4. (SBU) Thich Quang Do said that there were no religious or
doctrinal differences between the banned UBCV and the GVN-
recognized Vietnam Buddhist Sangha (VBS). Prior to 1975, 75
percent of all Buddhists in South Vietnam belonged to the UBCV.
Many of these now are leaders in the VBS; Quang Do considers them
all "brothers." He said that the creation of the VBS reflected
GVN efforts to neutralize Buddhist strength. Communist Party
leaders recognize that a unified, independent Buddhist
organization would grow "beyond their control" and would be
dangerous to the regime. The GVN would never allow this to
happen, the UBCV leader told us.

Yes CPC; No Sanctions

5. (SBU) Thich Quang Do welcomed USG and Congressional pressure on
human rights and religious freedom issues. He applauded the
designation of Vietnam as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC).
He urged continued diplomatic pressure but said that he did not
favor sanctions against Vietnam, as sanctions would only punish
the people, and not the regime.

Thich Quang Do's travel prevented

6. (SBU) The UBCV General Secretary told us that he would attempt
to visit the ailing UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang in Binh Dinh
Province the following day. He did not know if the GVN would
allow him to travel as he remained under unofficial pagoda arrest.
(Per ref, Thich Quang Do's was placed under pagoda arrest for
allegedly possessing state secrets after he participated in an
"illegal" UBCV organizational meeting in Binh Dinh province in
October 2003.)

7. (SBU) Early November 22, assistants to Thich Quang Do contacted
ConGen to inform us that HCMC police were preventing the UBCV
leader from leaving the city. In response, DPO contacted the
Deputy Chief of the HCMC External Relations Office Le Hung Quoc to
encourage the authorities to allow Thich Quang Do to proceed.
Quoc did not respond. (Septel reports on Ambassador Marine's
November 22 call on UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang in hospital
in Quy Nhon.)

8. (SBU) We were later informed that in the afternoon of November
22, Thich Quang Do was allowed to depart HCMC only to be stopped
once again in neighboring Dong Nai province some 30 kilometers
north of HCMC. Thich Quang Do and his accompanying monks were
escorted back to HCMC under police escort, and Do was returned to
his pagoda. The monk is in good condition, according to his
staff. We understand that Thich Quang Do has been instructed
report to the People's Committee Office as early as November 24.


9. (SBU) Thich Quang Do made it clear that he is a political
rather than a religious opponent of the Government. Strong-willed
and energetic, he will not compromise with Hanoi, at least so long
as the Communist Party maintains a monopoly on power. Other
dissident and religious leaders described to DAS Dugan a much more
nuanced view of the GVN and individual rights in Vietnam (septel).
10. (SBU) From his references to the dramatic role the UBCV played
in toppling the Diem regime in 1963, the UBCV leader clearly
believes that he holds latent power in Buddhist-majority Vietnam.
He also made it clear that he would use that power to rally monks
to oppose the Communists were he given the chance. The Communist
Party, which exploited the agitation of the UBCV and other
religious-groups to further its goals pre-1975, also knows its
history well. In this context, its response is no surprise.

11. (SBU) We will continue to monitor closely the GVN's handling
of Thich Quang Do. We also will attempt to intercede as
appropriate to ensure that the UBCV leaders receive the best
possible treatment from local authorities.


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