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Cablegate: Release of Activist Bui Kim Thanh

VZCZCXRO0469
PP RUEHDT RUEHPB
DE RUEHHM #0746 1931045
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 121045Z JUL 07
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2874
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 2047
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 3076

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 000746

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM SOCI PREL PGOV KIRF PREF VM
SUBJECT: RELEASE OF ACTIVIST BUI KIM THANH

REF: A) HCMC 333; B) HCMC 232 AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) Summary: Land rights activist Bui Kim Thanh was
released from a Dong Nai mental hospital on July 11 after
receiving a clean bill of mental health. Thanh had been held
for ten months for her involvement in the land rights movement
and for her links with the dissident Democratic Party of Vietnam
(reftels). We have been in direct contact with her and she
reports that she is well and was not physically mistreated;
however, while there are no restrictions on her activities, she
will have to have monthly "check-ups." The decision to release
Thanh appeared to come from the Communist Party, despite an
initial threat to extend her hospitalization. End summary.

2. (SBU) As reported in reftels, HCMC land rights activist Bui
Kim Thanh had been confined to Central Mental Hospital Number 2
in Bien Hoa City, Dong Nai Province, since November 2006,
despite having no history or indication of mental illness. On
July 11, she was finally released from the hospital and was
escorted out by HCMC police, representatives from the city's
Communist Party Committee and her husband. Thanh told Poloff on
July 12 that, when leaving the hospital, she was handed an
official discharge document concluding that her mental health is
"stable," but also requiring that she undergo monthly checkups.

3. (SBU) Thanh said that her release came as a surprise, as she
had recently received information from sympathetic hospital
staff indicating that the police and the HCMC Party Committee
planned to send her to another institution in Hanoi for a
further three months of treatment. Thanh stated that although
the hospital's Diagnosis Council had concluded in late June that
she was "mentally normal," she believed that the Party's
involvement had delayed her release.

4. (SBU) Dr. Nguyen Van Tho, Director of the Central Mental
Hospital, confirmed that Thanh had completed her treatment but
refused to comment on her current mental health status. Dr. Tho
said that he was not part of the Diagnosis Council and would not
comment further on the case.

5. (SBU) According to Thanh, she survived her confinement thanks
to assistance from supportive hospital doctors and nurses who
provided updates on information related to her case. Thanh
pointed out that the hospital's Deputy Director was especially
sympathetic and played a key role in the Diagnosis Council's
findings. Thanh told us that apart from initial compulsory
medication, she was not physically harmed. She noted, however,
that she had lost approximately 30 pounds during her
confinement, and attributed the weight loss to the stress
associated with living with mental patients in a confined space.

6. (SBU) While at the mental facility, Thanh wrote at least two
letters saying that she would stop her role as pro bono legal
aid provider for the land rights movement and sever all links
with the Democratic Party of Vietnam. She told us that she
intends to "keep silent" for a few months in order to protect
her family members, who have been under tremendous pressure from
the police since her admittance to the hospital. Although Thanh
is not under administrative detention, she reported that police
pressured one of her sons to quit his job to monitor her
activities after her release.

7. (SBU) Comment: The fact that Party Committee personnel
escorted Thanh from the hospital shows that there was direct
Party involvement in this case. During his June 27 farewell
call on HCMC Party Secretary and Politburo member Le Thanh Hai,
the outgoing Consul General had asked Hai to "use influence" to
resolve this case. The unexpected discharge, apparently heavily
influenced by the Party, is a positive development, but the
reasoning behind the decision to release her at this time
remains unclear. End comment.

FAIRFAX

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