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Cablegate: Gvn Opens Parks and Library On Disputed Catholic Land And

VZCZCXRO3087
OO RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #1165 2840953
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 100953Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8597
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 5206

UNCLAS HANOI 001165

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL KIRF VM

SUBJECT: GVN OPENS PARKS AND LIBRARY ON DISPUTED CATHOLIC LAND AND
AUTHORITIES RELEASE CATHOLIC DETAINEES

REF: A) HANOI 1122; B) HANOI 1120; C) HANOI 1093; D) HANOI 1086

1. (SBU) Hanoi city authorities held ribbon cutting ceremonies
opening two new parks on land disputed by the Catholic Church on
October 3 and 8. The parks were built very quickly using hundreds
of public employees at both the Papal Nuncio's residence on Nha
Chung Street and at the site adjacent to the Thai Ha parish. The
French colonial building that was once home to the Papal Nuncio has
been transformed into a public library. Public prayer
demonstrations at the two sites have ceased for now and the roads
accessing both areas have been repaved and are again open to the
public. A notable police presence remains at both parks, both plain
clothes and uniform.

2. (SBU) Poloff visited both new parks on October 10 and observed a
dozen security forces at each location. The sprawling Thai Ha park
was christened "June 1st Park" after International Children's Day.
During construction a number of buildings on the site that were
owned by a state-owned enterprise were torn down. The back exit to
the Thai Ha parish, previously used by parishioners to gain access
to a road adjacent to the disputed property, has been sealed by
authorities and police are stationed nearby. The park on Nha Chung
Street has been named "Hang Trong Park" after the city district
where it is located. Sources tell us each precinct in the city
district has been asked to provide police to patrol the Hang Trong
Park to ensure that Catholic prayer vigils do not resume.

3. (SBU) State-controlled media have recently highlighted the
release of two Thai Ha parishioners previously arrested for
destroying a small retaining wall around the disputed property.
Poloff spoke with priests at the Thai Ha parish who confirmed that
only two parishioners remain in detention, charged with destruction
of public property and disturbing public order.

4. (SBU) After weeks of large-scale prayer vigils, the once tense
standoff seems to have quieted due to quick GVN action to turn the
properties into public parks after months of inaction. Catholics
were particularly incensed by plans to use the properties for
commercial ventures so turning them into public parks and a library
may have taken some of the wind out of their sails.

PALMER

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