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Cablegate: Unhcr Claims "Big Step Forward;" Plan of Action with Gvn On

VZCZCXRO7497
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHHI #1651/01 2571604
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 141604Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6354
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 3699
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1209

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HANOI 001651

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, DRL/AWH, AND PRM, BANGKOK FOR REFUGEE
COORDINATOR, GENEVA FOR RMA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM PREF CB VM
SUBJECT: UNHCR CLAIMS "BIG STEP FORWARD;" PLAN OF ACTION WITH GVN ON
STATELESS KHMERS

REFS: A) HANOI 1463 B) HANOI 301

HANOI 00001651 001.2 OF 003

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) In a new development, the United Nations High Commission on
Refugees (UNHCR) has claimed a "big step forward" toward resolution
of the 30-year old cases of more than 9,000 stateless Khmer persons
in Southern Vietnam. According to UNHCR, in August, the Cambodian
Government (GOC) informed the Government of Vietnam (GVN) that it is
unable to provide any records or information about the citizenship
of said individuals. With this development, the GVN has changed
these individuals' legal status from "foreign nationals" to
"stateless persons," providing them a path to naturalization under
the GVN's Nationality Law. The GVN Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(MFA) and UNHCR have drafted a proposed Plan of Action for the
naturalization process and submitted it to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan
Dzung for final approval. In a meeting with Ambassador Michalak,
the MFA Consular Department confirmed the new cooperation and plan.
With the GOC out of the picture and the GVN now recognizing these
individuals as "stateless," resolution of the cases looks promising.
UNHCR has asked Post to "encourage" the process, including the use
of its public diplomacy resources. UNHCR would welcome a
congressional visit focused on this issue if it could occur before a
proposed November launch date for the Plan of Action.

BACKGROUND
----------

2. (SBU) In the mid to late 1970s, thousands of Cambodian residents
fled Cambodia as and after the Khmer Rouge came to power. The
majority of those individuals who arrived in Vietnam were granted
refuge by the GVN. Some of these refugees were later resettled in
third countries, and most of the remainder were able to return to
Cambodia once the situation in Cambodia had stabilized. However,
approximately 9,500 Cambodian residents who had sought refuge in
Vietnam were not accepted for resettlement and were denied the right
to return to Cambodia by the GOC. The GOC asserted at the time and
continues to assert that, following a check of the country's civil
records, no proof existed to confirm that these individuals ever
possessed Cambodian citizenship. Almost all of these individuals
are ethnic Chinese or ethnic Vietnamese.

3. (SBU) Denied the chance to resettle in a third country and the
right to return to their country of origin, thousands of Cambodian
refugees remained in Vietnam in a situation of statelessness. While
this group was initially settled in a number of refugee camps in and
around Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), humanitarian assistance in these
camps ceased in 1994. Since then, approximately 7,000 refugees have
left the camps in search of work and opportunities in and around
HCMC. A further 2,200 remain in four villages in which the camps
once operated. These individuals have now lived in Vietnam over 30
years and many have children and grandchildren born in Vietnam; yet,
they do not enjoy the same rights as Vietnamese citizens; including
the right to own property, comparable access to education, and
public healthcare benefits. Most of these individuals continue to
live in adverse conditions as stateless persons.

UNHCR HAS TAKEN LEAD ON RESOLUTION
----------------------------------

4. (SBU) For the last several years, UNHCR has been trying to
resolve these cases, working with the GVN and GOC, and pushing for a
solution involving Vietnamese naturalization. The GVN Prime
Minister's Directive of 2000 and its amendment on December 15, 2006
called for a naturalization process. However, this process
initially required the GOC to officially classify the individuals as
non-Cambodian citizens and required each individual to obtain a
Cambodian certification of citizenship renunciation before the GVN
would consider naturalization. UNHCR conducted surveys and
identified all such individuals, creating name lists that both
governments have now shared. However, the situation between the GVN
and GOC reached a stalemate on technical immigration issues and the
issue of Cambodian citizenship renunciation.

UNHCR: AFTER AUGUST MEETING, GOC NOW "OUT OF PICTURE"
--------------------------------------------- ---------

5. (SBU) UNHCR Deputy Regional Representative Giuseppe De Vincentis
told PolOff that, following a meeting in Phnom Penh on August 20-21,
2007 between GVN DPM/FM Pham Gia Khiem and GOC DPM/FM Hor Namhong,
the situation has completely changed and the GOC is now "out of the
picture." In this meeting, the GVN reportedly presented the GOC
with a list of Khmer individuals and requested GOC certification of
renunciation of citizenship for the group. The GOC's official

HANOI 00001651 002.2 OF 003


response was, according to UNHCR documentation, "since these people
cannot present any proof that they were Cambodian citizens...[and
since] the government has no archive about these people...they are
not peoples of concern to Cambodia."

GVN SAYS THEY ARE NOW OFFICIALLY "STATELESS PERSONS"
--------------------------------------------- -------

6. (SBU) According to De Vincentis, this statement from the GOC
allowed the GVN to make the decision to completely change the legal
status of these people from "foreign nationals" to "stateless
persons". The result is that the GVN may now apply its present
Nationality Law and naturalize these persons without any further
action by the GOC.

PLAN OF ACTION FOR NATURALIZATION
---------------------------------

7. (SBU) Subsequent to the late August Phnom Penh meeting, UNHCR and
the MFA Consular Department drafted a proposed Plan of Action for
moving towards a naturalization solution. Under this Plan of
Action, the UNHCR and the GVN, will (per UNHCR documentation, text
follows):

- Organize a training workshop on the basic statelessness issues and
international standards for senior GVN officials (key players) of
the concerned provinces/city (where the stateless persons reside);

- Carry out a census and categorize all Cambodian refugees in Binh
Duong and Binh Phuoc provinces;

- Carry out a separate census and categorize all 7,000 Cambodians
living in HCMC;

- Organize training workshops for local authorities at
communal/district levels including refugee committee people on the
naturalization procedures;

- Organize an information campaign in the areas where the refugees
living, i.e. printing leaflets, TV, radio, etc.; and,

- Start to receive applications for naturalization.

8. (SBU) According to UNHCR, the MFA is now working with relevant
government bodies to amend present and/or issue new legal documents
to these stateless persons and to further facilitate the process,
such as implementing a waiver of certain GVN naturalization fees and
a waiver of required Vietnamese language certificates for older
people (most of the children all speak Vietnamese). In addition,
the GVN will undertake an initial inter-agency mission to the South,
according to De Vincentis. This proposed Plan of Action has been
submitted to PM Dzung for final approval, and UNCHR is awaiting a
Note Verbale from MFA confirming the Plan. UNHCR is "hopeful" that
the operational phase could commence in November.

UNHCR: GVN HAS NOW ACKNOWLEDGED "BALL IN ITS COURT"
--------------------------------------------- -----

9. (SBU) According to De Vincentis, this revised application of the
law can be applied to other Khmer refugees not on the list given to
the GOC, but included on UNHCR lists or identified by the planned
census. Based on these negotiations, the MFA is now eager to
resolve these cases and fully understands the requirements of
UNHCR's role in the naturalization process. De Vincentis said the
MFA has acknowledged that "the ball is fully in its court." Under
the Plan, UNHCR will provide much of the technical and financial
support including subsidizing certain naturalization-related fees
that may not be waived, producing required documentation and
advertising. This may require additional minor negotiations.

UNHCR ASKS FOR EMBASSY SUPPORT; OPEN TO CODEL
---------------------------------------------

10. (SBU) De Vincentis said the best way the USG can now support
this process is for Post to "actively encourage" the MFA - UNCHR
Plan of Action through its high-level GVN meetings and through "its
public diplomacy," and to push for a November start date. He said
UNHCR HQ's Statelessness Unit in Geneva has previously supported a
proposed visit to Vietnam by U.S. Congresswoman Diane Watson
(California) and that UNHCR would still support this visit if it
took place before the Plan of Action went into operation and served
to "encourage" the GVN.

DISCREPANCIES IN ACTUAL NUMBER OF STATELESS KHMERS
--------------------------------------------- -----


HANOI 00001651 003.2 OF 003


11. (SBU) Ambassador Michalak met on September 7 with Truong Xuan
Thanh, Deputy Director General of the MFA Consular Department, who
confirmed that the GVN was working with UNHCR on a path to
citizenship for these cases. However, according to Thanh, 8,000 of
the reported 10,000 stateless Khmer people have "already been
granted Vietnamese citizenship." This contradicts the UNHCR
assessment that only a "small number has regularized." There could
be some confusion as the GVN has granted a form of legal residency
status to many of these persons but not citizenship. Other
individuals were pursuing the earlier naturalization process that
required a Cambodian certificate of citizenship renunciation.
Clearly the initial joint GVN - UNHCR census, called for in the Plan
of Action, will be key to the overall successful resolution of these
cases as this should establish the legal status of each individual
and the requirements for a permanent solution.

COMMENT
-------

12. (SBU) After years of stalemate in resolution of these stateless
cases, this is clearly a positive step forward and a solid
commitment to resolving the problem by the GVN. With action by the
Cambodian Government no longer required, resolution of these cases
should be much simpler. Possible obstacles remain. Inter-agency
cooperation will be needed between the MFA and the Ministry of
Justice, which has responsibility for naturalization and has failed
to lead in the past on this issue. In addition, there could be
inconsistencies between the lists of individuals that have already
been identified as "stateless" and the new lists that will be
developed from the proposed census and criteria called for in the
Plan of Action. A strong commitment from the Prime Minister's
office will likely be needed. We will follow developments closely
in the weeks to come and report on progress toward implementation of
the UNHCR-GVN Plan of Action.

MICHALAK

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