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Cablegate: As Lang Mai Followers Hunker Down in Lam Dong, Another Group

VZCZCXRO6236
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHNH
DE RUEHHM #0669/01 3371007
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 031007Z DEC 09
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6147
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 4042
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY PRIORITY 6390

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HO CHI MINH CITY 000669

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM KIRF PGOV PREL VM
SUBJECT: AS LANG MAI FOLLOWERS HUNKER DOWN IN LAM DONG, ANOTHER GROUP
IS EVICTED IN KHANH HOA

REF: HANOI 873 AND PREVIOUS

HO CHI MIN 00000669 001.2 OF 002


Subject: As Lang Mai Followers Hunker Down in Lam Dong, Another
Group Is Evicted in Khanh Hoa

1. (SBU) Summary: More than 200 Lang Mai monks and nuns remain
at the Phuoc Hue pagoda in Lam Dong province. Reliable contacts
report that police continue to monitor their activities and
attempt to mobilize members of the community to sign a petition
to evict them. Twenty-one Lang Mai monks and nuns were forcibly
evicted from a pagoda in Khanh Hoa province on November 29; an
additional eleven nuns have taken sanctuary in Hue. There have
been no reports of violence since the earlier violence and
forced evictions in June and September (Ref A). Sympathetic
provincial Vietnamese Buddhist Sangha leaders continue to press
the Central VBS and Committee for Religious Affairs (CRA) to
allow Lang Mai followers to practice their faith freely, and
there are signs the Central VBS has approved sponsorship
requests from pagodas in Dong Nai and Dalat. Our Lang Mai
contacts are pessimistic the CRA will approve the sponsorships,
however, because they do not believe the GVN wants large groups
of non-VBS monks congregating and promoting alternative Buddhist
teachings outside of the legal framework on religion. ConGenOff
has requested permission to visit Lam Dong from December 15 - 17
to meet with all parties involved. Three resident EU diplomats
will visit the Phuoc Hue pagoda during the week of December 7.
Post has reiterated our calls that the situation be resolved
peacefully and in accordance with the law during November
meetings with MFA, MPS and CRA officials. End summary.

Campaign Against Lang Mai Continues

-----------------------------------

2. (SBU) 212 of the 291 Lang Mai monks and nuns forcefully
evicted from Bat Nha pagoda on September 27 continue to reside
at Phuoc Hue pagoda in Bao Loc, Lam Dong. However, HCMC
contacts report their situation remains tenuous and that some
local authorities continue to pressure pagoda leaders to evict
the followers. One reliable contact who recently visited her
sister, a Lang Mai nun currently residing at Phuoc Hue pagoda,
said that police maintain a constant watch on the pagoda from a
hotel across the street. They frequently visit Phuoc Hue to
check the residency permits of pagoda residents to determine if
they have permission from the local government to reside there.
This contact said police are also lobbying townspeople in Bao
Loc to sign a petition asking Phuoc Hue's head monk, Thich Thai
Thuan, to evict the Lang Mai group.

3. (SBU) VBS leaders in Lam Dong confirmed Internet reports that
provincial leaders asked Thich Thai Thuan to evict the Lang Mai
group on November 2. Thich Thai Thuan told ConGenOff the lunch
meeting was "friendly," as officials tried to use persuasion
rather than threats to convince him that harboring Lang Mai
followers was not in his best interests. Thuan confirmed
reports of frequent police checks, as well as attempts by
visiting delegations from the monks' and nuns' home provinces to
persuade them to leave and return to their place of residence.
Several Lang Mai monks and nuns told ConGenOff that local
authorities have also tried to pressure their relatives to
persuade them to return home by making life difficult for family
members, including discouraging employers from hiring them or
threatening to withhold promotions for those in government
positions. One Lang Mai leader said his brother, who is a
schoolteacher, was forced to attend a meeting where school
officials denounced the Lang Mai community and the VBS leaders
who offered them refuge as "instigators of unrest engaged in
anti-government activities."

Lang Mai Followers in Khanh Hoa Evicted

---------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Followers also reported to us that local police
forcibly evicted 21 Lang Mai monks and nuns seeking refuge at Tu
Duc pagoda in Khanh Hoa province on November 29. The eviction
occurred even though Tu Duc's leader, the Venerable Thich Giac
Vien, agreed to sponsor and register temporary residence permits
for two monks and 19 nuns. Eleven other Lang Mai followers from
the province were allowed to remain at the pagoda. Senior Lang
Mai monk Phap Sy, who was escorted by police to Khanh Hoa

HO CHI MIN 00000669 002.2 OF 002


province after being evicted from Bat Nha, said he is living at
home and routinely asked by local police to report his
movements. Another leader, Phap Tu, remains in contact with
ConGen but declined to reveal his current location. In addition
to the groups in Lam Dong and Khanh Hoa, eleven Lang Mai nuns
are currently residing at Tu Hieu pagoda in Hue province. The
Lang Mai contingent in Lam Dong participated in disaster relief
efforts in Hue led by Phuoc Hue leader Thich Thai Thuan, but
were reportedly escorted by Lam Dong authorities throughout
their visit.

Provincial VBS Leaders Offer Support

------------------------------------

5. (SBU) The Executive Committee of the VBS initially issued an
ultimatum that gave Lang Mai followers until November 30 to end
their "illegal gathering" at Phuoc Hue pagoda in Lam Dong.
However, the date has come and gone without official action.
Our contacts report that the Central VBS has approved
sponsorship offers by the Venerable Thich Minh Nghia of Toan
Giac pagoda in Dong Nai and the Venerable Thich Vien Thanh of
Van Hanh pagoda in Dalat. The sponsorships have been forwarded
to the National CRA for review. Lang Mai contacts doubt the CRA
will approve the sponsorship requests, however, because they
believe authorities are not comfortable with the idea of having
large groups of non-resident and non-VBS Buddhists promulgating
alternative teachings outside of the legal framework on
religion. Another monk also pointed out that Thich Minh Nghia
does not have permanent residency in Dong Nai and Toan Giac
pagoda is not recognized as an official VBS property.

6. (SBU) Comment: The situation in Lam Dong province has been
violence-free since September 28, but some of the remaining Lang
Mai followers continue to be subjected to less overt forms of
harassment. The legal situation of the remaining followers, and
the local government's plans for them, remain unclear. In
November, Embassy officers met with MFA, MPS and CRA officials
to reiterate the concerns expressed in September and during the
Human Rights Dialogue that the situation be resolved peacefully
and in accordance with the law. Post has requested a meeting
with CRA Vice Chairman Xuan during the week of December 7, and
ConGenOff has requested permission (since Lam Dong is not part
of the GVN-recognized consular district) to visit Lam Dong to
meet with provincial officials, VBS leaders, and the Lang Mai
practitioners themselves on December 15. Three resident EU
diplomats will travel to the province next week and will brief
us upon their return to Hanoi.

7. (SBU) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Hanoi.
FAIRFAX

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