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Cablegate: Land Rights Protest in Front of Congen

VZCZCXRO7748
PP RUEHDT RUEHPB
DE RUEHHM #0738 1910824
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 100824Z JUL 07
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2865
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 2043
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 3067

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 000738

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL SOCI PHUM ECON VM
SUBJECT: LAND RIGHTS PROTEST IN FRONT OF CONGEN

REF: HCMC 706

1. (SBU) On July 10 at 0845, 30 elderly men and women carrying
placards protesting various land rights issues marched past the
Consulate. Local police officials quickly but peacefully
dispersed the group. In accordance with standard post security
procedures, a Consulate local guard photographed the protesters
from inside the guard booth. A plainclothes police supervisor
who was monitoring the activities of the group demanded that we
provide the name of the guard who took the photos, saying that
police did not want pictures taken of the protesters because
they do not want the protests publicized. RSO responded that
the pictures were taken for internal ConGen security purposes
only and would not be released to the media, and stated that we
would not provide copies of the pictures or the names of the
guards involved in taking them.

2. (SBU) A contact in the HCMC media told us that GVN censors
have instructed the press not to report on the land
demonstrations, which continue daily in front of the HCMC
National Assembly offices. According to our media contact,
there were perhaps 300 persons in front of the National Assembly
Office at the height of the protest. Over the course of the
past few weeks, that number has dwindled to a maximum of 150.
Most of these protesters are from Tien Giang province, although
some are from other provinces in the Mekong Delta as well as
Binh Phuoc and Tay Ninh provinces. Post observed roughly 60
persons -- an undetermined mix of protesters and plainclothes
police -- in front of the National Assembly office building on
the morning of July 7. Contacts in the land rights movement
report that police are watching the protesters carefully, and
have sought to bring in a key leader for questioning. Thus far,
that individual has refused the police summons and is being
"protected" by the other protestors.

3. (SBU) Comment: A solid core of the protesters have rejected
government overtures to return home and find a "mediated
solution." These protesters are relatively organized and appear
to be focused on drumming up attention and support from the
overseas Vietnamese community. The authorities are being
careful. With the exception of the clash between protesters and
police on July 1 (reftel), HCMC authorities have thus far taken
a relatively hands-off approach, not preventing protesters from
assembling daily in front of the National Assembly building and
not moving forcefully to arrest a key protest leader. End
Comment.

SCHWENK

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