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Cablegate: Buddhist Leaders Confirm Report of Mistreated Monks in Bac

DE RUEHHI #1864/01 2020910
R 210910Z JUL 06





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A) HCMC 993; B) HCMC 1000; C) HCMC 978; D) HCMC 1220

HANOI 00001864 001.2 OF 002

1. (SBU) Summary: The unrecognized Unified Buddhist Church of
Vietnam (UBCV) recently reported that a number of monks staged a
demonstration in Hanoi to protest the wrongful arrest and torture of
Buddhists in Bac Giang Province. While the State-sanctioned Vietnam
Buddhist Sangha (VBS) refutes the demonstration claim, VBS leaders
confirm that they received complaints about the mistreatment of
imprisoned monks and are waiting for the results of the GVN's
official investigation. End Summary.

Report of Tortured Buddhist Monks

2. (U) On July 10, the Paris-based International Buddhist
Information Bureau (IBIB), the mouthpiece of the unrecognized
Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), issued a press release
reporting that 50 monks of the State-sponsored Vietnam Buddhist
Sangha (VBS) demonstrated on July 6 in front of the GVN's Supreme
People's Procuracy in Hanoi to protest the mistreatment and wrongful
imprisonment of VBS monks in Bac Giang Province (Bac Giang is
located some 35 miles northeast of Hanoi). According to the IBIB,
nine members of the Bac Giang Buddhist clergy were falsely accused
of stealing precious statues from a local temple in 2004 and
"brutally tortured" during their 18-month detention. The senior
monk (Thich Duc Chinh) allegedly died as a result of his
mistreatment. After a court sentenced the abused monks to lengthy
prison terms in June 2005, followers of the congregation staged
"non-stop protests" and petitioned provincial authorities for their
release to no avail. On June 28, the Bac Giang Provincial People's
Court reportedly suspended the appeal case due to a "lack of
evidence" and ordered the "temporary release of the eight

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"No demonstrations occurred"

3. (SBU) On July 18, Pol intern met with Thich Thanh Tu, Permanent
Vice Chairman of the VBS' Executive Council, and Thich Minh Tien,
VBS Secretary. He opened by conveying the concerns of the USG over
the allegations contained in the IBIB report. Tu interjected that
"there was no demonstration of any sort" and challenged the
truthfulness of statements issued by the UBCV (which had not been
mentioned before this point). "The UBCV has no credibility and does
not have the best interests of Vietnam and Vietnamese Buddhists at
heart," he complained. Tien further argued that no demonstrations
could have taken place, since there are only 50 clergy members in
Bac Giang and "not all could have participated to the so-called
protest in Hanoi."

Two Separate Incidents

4. (SBU) Tu differentiated the monk's death from the Buddhists'
mistreatment in Bac Giang and explained that a congregation from
Thai Nguyen Province tasked a monk (NFI) from Ha Tay Province to
supervise the renovation of a local temple. After the restoration
was completed, "lay-followers did not want the monk to reap the
benefits of the new temple, because it is very attractive." Despite
requests for a clarification, Tu did not elaborate but simply added
that "ill-willed individuals claimed that he was not a genuine monk"
and turned him in to the police. While the monk was awaiting his
trial, "he got a cold and passed away very quickly," Tu stated,
without any explanations.

5. (SBU) Regarding the theft of the statues in Bac Giang, Tu
confirmed that eight monks, also from Ha Tay Province, had been
charged with stealing some statues. The local police had contacted
the VBS and requested the dismissal of the alleged instigator from
the executive board of Bac Giang Buddhist clergy. Citing lack of
evidence, the VBS refused to comply and local authorities arrested
the eight monks. Tu admitted that the police deliberately held them
longer to obtain confessions. Addressing the protests in Bac Giang
after the initial court ruling, Tu dismissed the claim and
reiterated that it was simply a "gathering of monks and sisters
attending the trials."

VBS is waiting for the official inquiry

6. (SBU) Asked about the treatment of monks during their detention,
Tien maintained that the VBS was not aware of any reports of
mistreatment before lay-followers submitted complaints and the
accused monks raised the issue during their first trial. "Nobody
informed us of anything prior to that," he asserted. Tien further
noted that, as a delegate of the National Assembly, Tu filed an
official request for inquiry to the Ministry of Public Security
(MPS), the Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuracy,

HANOI 00001864 002.2 OF 002

Bac Giang People's Provincial Committee and provincial police. The
MPS Investigation Office responded that the Supreme People's
Procuracy will conduct an official investigation; therefore, the VBS
is "waiting for a formal response."


7. (SBU) Despite the rather unclear and incomplete explanations of
VBS officials, their account supports the allegation that several
members of Bac Giang Buddhist clergy were mistreated during their
detention. We will follow up with the VBS to learn the results of
the official investigation. End Comment.


8. (SBU) Since 1975, the GVN requires all Buddhist monks to work
under the officially recognized VBS. Non-compliant members of the
UBCV, Vietnam's legacy Buddhist organization, have since been
persecuted and harassed for refusing to join the State-sponsored
umbrella structure. Many UBCV leading figures, including Thich
Quang Do, have been detained or have lived under State surveillance
(Refs A and B) since the GVN officially outlawed the organization in
1981. Despite signs indicating that the GVN might relax its policy
-- in 2003, the GVN ended Thich Quang Do's detention and several
high-profile UBCV leaders organized public gatherings after
then-Prime Minister Phan Van Khai suggested that the UBCV may
reorganize again -- the authorities resumed their interference in
UBCV-sponsored activities and have isolated senior monks, including
Thich Quang Do (Refs C and D).


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