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Cablegate: Status of Central Highlands Ethinic Minorities: Debriefing

VZCZCXRO6331
PP RUEHDT RUEHPB
DE RUEHHM #0732 1900822
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 090822Z JUL 07
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2857
INFO RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 2036
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 3059

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 000732

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM PREF KIRF SOCI VM
SUBJECT: STATUS OF CENTRAL HIGHLANDS ETHINIC MINORITIES: DEBRIEFING
VISAS-93 BENEFICIARIES

REF: A) HCMC 155; B) 06 HCMC 1185 AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) In late May and June, we interviewed five VISAS-93
(family reunification) ethnic minority beneficiaries and their
families from the Central Highlands provinces of Gia Lai and Dak
Lak. The meetings were conducted in private, in the offices of
post's Humanitarian Resettlement Section (HRS) in HCMC. Four
families were ethnic Jarai and one was ethnic Ede. Four of the
five families identified themselves as Protestant, while the
fifth declared no religion. The four Protestant families
indicated that religious freedom conditions had improved in the
last two years. For example, a family from Duc Co District in
Gia Lai province belonged to a large church that had no problem
gathering for services. Another belonged to a registered house
church with over 30 people gathering to worship weekly. One
family from Chu Se district, Gia Lai province, stated that, in
contrast, in 2004 police "only allowed us to pray at home
because they are afraid we will hear bad things". Another
applicant told us she has not participated in any organized
religion since 2004 and worships at home with her children.

2. (SBU) All of the Visas-93 beneficiaries were farmers or day
laborers. Four of five applicants interviewed had received no
formal education. One had graduated from ninth grade. None of
the families reported receiving government assistance; two
stated they are not considered poor enough to receive assistance
due to their husband's remittances from the United States.
Remittances ranged from USD 100-200 a month in one case to USD
200 dollars per year in another. All the applicants reported
having water and electricity in their homes. One applicant has
a telephone and another indoor plumbing. One applicant
complained that the government would not give her land to grow
rice because she is Protestant. However, she acknowledged that
her 5,000 square meters (1.2 acres) of coffee already makes her
relatively well off in her village.

3. (SBU) Four of the five families reported a constant police
presence in their villages but no harassment. One applicant
from Gia Lai province reported that she is still forced to
register at the provincial police headquarters every December
and that police come to her home monthly to question her. She
stated that the police are "afraid she will cause trouble" and
"afraid her husband sends too much money." However, police have
never seized her remittances or harassed her in any other way.
In three villages the police were both ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh)
and Jarai. In another village in Chu Se District in Gia Lai,
the police reportedly were all ethnic Vietnamese.

4. (SBU) Three of the applicants reported no trouble acquiring
passports; one had yet to apply. One applicant from Dha Prong
village, Dak Lak Province, said that she was forced to pay a
"bribe" of 1-2 million VND (62-124 USD) to receive the four
passports and other civil documents for her family. (Note: the
official fee is VND 200,000 (USD 12) per passport application.
Birth certificates and other civil documents normally cost VND
20,000 each to process. End note.)

5. (SBU) A number of the statements the families gave were
inconsistent with the claims their husbands had made about
departing Vietnam out of fear of arrest and religious
persecution. For example, one applicant told us during her
prescreening interview that her husband left because he "wanted
a better life for his family." However, when we spoke with her
the following day, she claimed he had left because he feared he
"would be arrested". Two out of the four families whose anchor
in the U.S. claimed during refugee processing that they were
members of the ethnic minority separatist "Dega" movement told
us that they did not believe their husbands were affiliated with
any anti-GVN movement or organization. One applicant admitted
that her sister had instructed her to lie and to claim that she
didn't speak Vietnamese so that her 16-year-old daughter could
speak for her. The applicant would not state the purpose of
this.

6. (SBU) Comment: These interviews tend to indicate that
religious freedom and economic conditions for ethnic minorities
in the Central Highlands continue to improve gradually and
incrementally. While we have no reason to doubt applicants'
claims of religious harassment before 2004/5, contradictions in
the statements of some applicants suggest that some of their
spouses may have exaggerated the level of persecution or their
involvement in anti-GVN activities in order to qualify for
resettlement. End comment.

SCHWENK

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