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Cablegate: Uscirf in Hcmc: Meeting the Cao Dai

VZCZCXRO1488
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHNH
DE RUEHHM #1231 3480333
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 140333Z DEC 07
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3439
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 2359
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 3658

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 001231

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, DRL/IRF, DRL/AWH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KIRF VM
SUBJECT: USCIRF IN HCMC: MEETING THE CAO DAI

Cao Dai Affirm Freedoms under the Law
-------------------------------------
1. (SBU) Commissioners Cromartie, Bansal, Argue, Gaer and Eid
met with Cao Dai Bishop Thuong Minh Thanh, Bishop & Deputy
Director Thuong Be Thanh and Archivist Le Quang Tan on October
25, 2007. Bishop Minh presented a positive view of Cao Dai-GVN
relations, citing several examples of improving conditions for
worship and assembly. Minh said the GVN had readily approved
nominations for Cao Dai leaders, noting that he had been
appointed head of the HCMC Cao Dai in 2004. In addition, the
Committee for Religious Affairs (CRA) has held twelve training
sessions on registration and recognition procedures under the
new legal framework. While Minh said registration was not a
priority for their congregations, they often worked with CRA on
getting approval for large public conferences and celebrations.
Minh said they had recently received CRA permission to hold a
national Cao Dai Conference and expected more than 3000
delegates representing 23 provinces to attend. In August 2008,
they are planning to hold a large celebration and expect 650,000
followers to participate.

Not Our Cao Dai
---------------
2. (SBU) Commissioner Gaer asked whether the HCMC Cao Dai
leadership considered the eight practitioners who are currently
in prison to be 'prisoners of conscience.' (Note: three of the
imprisoned Cao Dai were released as part of the GVN General
Amnesty in October 2007. End note) Minh said he didn't know
much about their activities and didn't consider them to be
representatives of the Cao Dai. When the delegation inquired
about a Cao Dai follower who had submitted a letter of complaint
to GVN citing official interference in the funeral of a Cao Dai
leader, Minh again said the individual who sent the letter does
not represent the Cao Dai, and the leader in question was not an
official member of the Cao Dai hierarchy.

3. The HCMC Cao Dai also did not raise the request for
assistance from a Cao Dai temple in Binh Duong province slated
for destruction in favor of a GVN-sponsored economic development
project. According to the Binh Duong Cao Dai representative,
local authorities offered compensation money and land for
building a new temple, but the land is too small for building a
new temple (the new lot is 62 square meters; the old lot is over
2000 square meters). Though other residents were also offered
similar compensation packages, the Cao Dai representative in
Binh Duong said the case amounts to "repression from the
government against religion."

Comment
-------
4. (SBU) The positive Cao Dai responses to USCIRF's
questions were not unexpected. When the USCIRF asked HCMC
Council Chairwoman Thao about registration issues for Cao Dai,
she responded that there are eleven separate Cao Dai sects in
HCMC, two of which received local registration over the past
year. (Note: There are actually twelve sects across the
country, some of which have representative offices in Ho Chi
Minh City. The group USCIRF met with is based in HCMC. End
note). At the USCIRF reception hosted by CG, the hostility
between rival Cao Dai groups was palpable. While Cao Dai
leaders got along fine with all other religious leaders present,
they were very cool to each other, even complaining to the CG
about rival sects. End comment.

FAIRFAX

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