US embassy cable - 01HOCHIMINHCITY684

TENSIONS REMAIN HIGH IN STANDOFF WITH BUDDHISTS

Identifier: 01HOCHIMINHCITY684
Wikileaks: View 01HOCHIMINHCITY684 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Ho Chi Minh City
Created: 2001-06-07 09:28:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: PHUM KIRF VM HUMANR RELFREE
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

070928Z Jun 01

2001HOCHI00684 - UNCLASSIFIED
 
 
 
                           UNCLASSIFIED     PTQ6509

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      EUR-00   UTED-00  H-01     TEDE-00  INR-00   IO-00    L-00     
      NSAE-00  OIC-02   OPIC-01  PRS-00   P-00     SP-00    SSO-00   
      SS-00    STR-00   TEST-00  TRSE-00  USIE-00  SNIS-00  NISC-00  
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FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5140
INFO AMEMBASSY HANOI IMMEDIATE 
USMISSION GENEVA IMMEDIATE 
NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
AMCONSUL HONG KONG PRIORITY 
ASEAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
JICPAC HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HO CHI MINH CITY 000684 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV AND EAP/PD/JMARTIN 
STATE ALSO FOR DRL/IRF AND S/S-O 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
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CINCPAC FOR FPA 
SECDEF FOR ISA/EA/LSTERN 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PHUM, KIRF, VM, HUMANR, RELFREE 
SUBJECT: TENSIONS REMAIN HIGH IN STANDOFF WITH BUDDHISTS 
 
REF: A. HANOI 1340  B. HCMC 0632 AND PREVIOUS 
 
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: TENSIONS REMAIN HIGH IN HCMC AND HUE AS 
POLICE MAINTAINED TIGHT SURVEILLANCE OVER SEVERAL PAGODAS 
WHOSE RESIDENTS INCLUDE MONKS LOYAL TO THE BANNED UNIFIED 
BUDDHIST CHURCH OF VIETNAM (UBCV).  UBCV MONKS FROM 
VARIOUS LOCATIONS IN SOUTHERN VIETNAM HAD PLANNED TO 
CONGREGATE IN CENTRAL QUANG NGAI PROVINCE ON JUNE 7 IN 
DEFIANCE OF GOVERNMENT PROHIBITIONS (SEE REF B AND 
PREVIOUS).  THICH QUANG DO, WHO HAD PLANNED TO LEAD THE 
DELEGATION, WAS PLACED UNDER HOUSE ARREST ON JUNE 1 AND 
REMAINS CONFINED TO HIS LIVING QUARTERS INSIDE THE THANH 
MINH ZEN PAGODA IN HCMC (SEE REF A).  POLICE ON JUNE 7 
EXPELLED FROM THE COUNTRY A MEMBER OF THE EUROPEAN 
PARLIAMENT, WHO DEMONSTRATED IN FRONT OF QUANG DO'S 
PAGODA.  PHONE LINES TO MANY PAGODAS HAVE BEEN CUT, AND 
CONTACTS WHOM CONGEN HAVE BEEN ABLE TO REACH BY PHONE 
EXPRESS FEAR AND ANGER.  ONE MONK IN HUE SAID THE 
SITUATION THERE IS "EXTREMELY TENSE."  END SUMMARY. 
 
THICH QUANG DO UNDER HOUSE ARREST 
--------------------------------- 
 
2. (U) THICH QUANG DO, THE SECOND-RANKING MONK IN THE 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HO CHI  00684  01 OF 03  070943Z 
OUTLAWED UBCV, HAD NOTIFIED GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES THAT HE 
WOULD LEAD A DELEGATION OF MONKS TO QUANG NGAI PROVINCE ON 
JUNE 7 WITH THE PURPOSE OF TAKING UBCV PATRIARCH THICH 
HUYEN QUANG BACK TO HIS HOME PAGODA IN HCMC.  HUYEN QUANG 
HAS BEEN CONFINED TO AN ISOLATED PAGODA IN CENTRAL VIETNAM 
SINCE 1982.  MONKS, INCLUDING THICH QUANG DO, WHO HAVE 
VISITED THE 83-YEAR-OLD HUYEN QUANG, HAVE NOTED A MARKED 
DETERIORATION IN THE PATRIARCH'S HEALTH OVER THE PAST 
TWELVE MONTHS.  THEY ARE CONCERNED OVER THE LACK OF 
MEDICAL FACILITIES IN QUANG NGAI PROVINCE, AND NOTING THAT 
HIS TERM OF DETENTION WAS OFFICIALLY CONCLUDED IN 1997, 
HAVE URGED OFFICIALS TO ALLOW QUANG TO RETURN TO HCMC. 
(NOTE: IN DECEMBER 1999, OFFICIALS REPORTEDLY OFFERED TO 
ALLOW HUYEN QUANG TO BE RELOCATED TO HANOI WHERE QUALITY 
MEDICAL FACILITIES ARE AVAILABLE.  QUANG REPORTEDLY TOLD 
THEM HE WOULD NEVER GO TO HANOI.  END NOTE.) 
 
3. (SBU) IN AN EFFORT TO PREVENT THE UNAUTHORIZED 
DELEGATION OF UBCV MONKS TO TRAVEL TO QUANG NGAI PROVINCE, 
POLICE ENTERED THICH QUANG DO'S THANH MINH ZEN PAGODA IN 
HCMC ON JUNE 1 AND READ A GOVERNMENT DECISION TO PLACE HIM 
UNDER A TWO-YEAR ADMINISTRATIVE DETENTION (HOUSE ARREST) 
ORDER.  POLICE ALSO CUT THE PHONE LINES TO THE PAGODA. 
POLOFF SPOKE WITH PENELOPE FAULKNER, OF THE UBCV'S 
INFORMATION OFFICE IN PARIS ON JUNE 3.  SHE SAID THAT HER 
CONTACTS IN HCMC REPORT THAT QUANG DO IS CONFINED TO HIS 
LIVING QUARTERS ON THE THIRD FLOOR OF THE PAGODA.  NO ONE 
EXCEPT POLICE OFFICERS HAS HAD DIRECT ACCESS TO HIM SINCE 
JUNE 1.  SEVERAL NON-UNIFORMED POLICE MAINTAIN A PRESENCE 
OUTSIDE HIS ROOM IN THE PAGODA.  WHENEVER POLICE ENTER HIS 
ROOM, ACCORDING TO FAULKNER'S CONTACTS, THEY DO SO TWO AT 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        HO CHI  00684  01 OF 03  070943Z 
A TIME IN ORDER TO ENSURE THAT NEITHER OF THEM COOPERATES 
WITH HIM TO SMUGGLE OUT MESSAGES. 
 
4. (SBU) THE SCHEDULED TIME FOR DEPARTURE OF THE 
DELEGATION TO QUANG NGAI PROVINCE WAS 10:00 A.M. ON JUNE 
7.  POLOFF DROVE DIRECTLY BY THE PAGODA AT 9:55 A.M.  AT 
THAT TIME, THE GATES TO THE PAGODA WERE OPEN, BUT THE AREA 
BEHIND THE GATES LEADING TO THE ENTRANCEWAY TO THE PAGODA 
AND THE LIVING QUARTERS WAS EMPTY.  TWO PERSONS WHO MAY 
HAVE BEEN PLAINCLOTHES POLICEMEN SAT AT A COFFEE SHOP 
ACROSS THE STREET.  THERE WAS NO UNUSUAL ACTIVITY. 
 
EUROPEAN MP ARRESTED AND DEPORTED 
--------------------------------- 
 
5. (SBU) OLIVIER DUPUIS, A BELGIAN MEMBER OF THE EUROPEAN 
PARLIAMENT, ENTERED THE PAGODA ON THE MORNING OF JUNE 7. 
HE REPORTEDLY PLANNED TO STAGE A SIT-IN DEMONSTRATION IN 
SYMPATHY WITH QUANG DO.  PLAINCLOTHES POLICE ALLOWED HIM 
TO STAY IN THE PAGODA FOR MORE THAN AN HOUR, BUT THEN TOOK 
HIM BACK TO HIS HOTEL IN A "MILITARY VAN," ACCORDING TO 
ONE WITNESS. 
 
 
6. (SBU) BUT DUPUIS, WHO IS ALSO SECRETARY OF THE ITALIAN- 
BASED TRANSNATIONAL RADICAL PARTY, WAS NOT DISSUADED.  HE 
REPORTEDLY RETURNED TO THE PAGODA IN THE LATE AFTERNOON 
WITH AN ASSISTANT, MARTIN SCHULTES, AND UNFURLED A BANNER 
THAT SAID "RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FOR VIETNAM" IN BOTH ENGLISH 
AND VIETNAMESE.  POLICE THEN DETAINED BOTH DUPUIS AND 
SCHULTES AND EXPELLED THEM FROM THE COUNTRY.  THE BELGIAN 
EMBASSY WAS NOT ABLE TO SAY IF EITHER DUPUIS OR SCHULTES 
WERE EVER OFFICIALLY "ARRESTED" OR "DEPORTED," BUT AN 
OFFICER AT THE EMBASSY DID CONFIRM TO POLOFF THAT 
IMMIGRATION POLICE ESCORTED DUPUIS FROM HIS HOTEL TO 
HCMC'S TAN SON NHUT AIRPORT, AND HE LEFT THE COUNTRY AT 
ABOUT 9:00 P.M. ON JUNE 7. 
 
ANXIETY AT HCMC PAGODAS 
----------------------- 
 
7. (SBU) IN THE AFTERNOON OF JUNE 7, CONGEN CALLED THE AN 
QUANG PAGODA IN HCMC, THE HOME PAGODA OF THICH HUYEN 
QUANG, AND ASKED FOR THICH TAM AN, A MONK WHO REPORTEDLY 
HAD BEEN DETAINED BY POLICE THE DAY BEFORE.  THE PERSON 
WHO ANSWERED THE PHONE SAID THAT IF WE WISHED TO TALK WITH 
TAM AN, WE SHOULD GO THERE IN PERSON AND THEN ABRUPTLY 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HO CHI  00684  02 OF 03  070944Z 
HUNG UP THE PHONE.  WE THEN CALLED THE RESIDENTIAL NUMBER 
OF THICH TRI QUANG, WHO ALSO LIVES AT AN QUANG PAGODA AND 
IS ONE OF THE THREE RANKING MONKS OF THE OFFICIAL BUDDHIST 
ASSOCIATION IN HCMC.  TRI QUANG SAID HE WAS NOT AWARE OF 
ANY ATTEMPTS BY MONKS TO GO TO QUANG NGAI PROVINCE THAT 
MORNING.  HE SAID THAT THICH TAM AN WAS PRESENT AT THE 
PAGODA BUT, AS OF JUNE 4, HE WAS UNAVAILABLE TO COME TO 
THE PHONE AT THE MOMENT (REF A).  CONGEN ALSO CALLED THICH 
HIEN PHAP, ANOTHER OF THE THREE RANKING MONKS OF THE 
OFFICIAL BUDDHIST ASSOCIATION WITH WHOM WE HAVE MET 
SEVERAL TIMES BEFORE.  PHAP, WHO HAS IN THE PAST BEEN 
WILLING TO TALK ABOUT THE UBCV, SEEMED ANNOYED BY OUR 
INQUIRIES AND SAID HE KNEW NOTHING MORE ABOUT THICH QUANG 
DO AND THE UBCV PROBLEMS THAN WHAT WAS REPORTED ON 
TELEVISION. 
 
8. (SBU) CONGEN CALLED THE XA LOI PAGODA IN HCMC.  AT ONE 
NUMBER, THE PERSON WHO ANSWERED THE PHONE SUGGESTED WE 
CALL BACK LATER.  WHEN WE CALLED AN HOUR LATER, NO ONE 
ANSWERED THE PHONE.  AT ANOTHER NUMBER, THE PERSON WHO 
ANSWERED THE PHONE BECAME ANGRY AT OUR INQUIRIES.  HE SAID 
NOTHING UNUSUAL WAS HAPPENING AT THE PAGODA AND SUGGESTED 
WE SHOULD PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE MATTER. 
 
9. (SBU) CONGEN ALSO CALLED CAO DAI AND CATHOLIC CONTACTS 
WHO LIKELY WOULD BE AWARE OF THE UBCV SITUATION.  THESE 
CONTACTS, WHO HAVE NEVER HESITATED TO TALK OVER THE 
TELEPHONE BEFORE, SAID THEY WOULD BE WILLING TO MEET 
POLOFF, BUT DID NOT WANT TO SPEAK OVER THE PHONE. 
LIKEWISE, POLOFF WAS ABLE TO REACH THE HCMC-BASED UBCV 
MONK WHO DEPARTED HCMC ON JUNE 1 FOR QUANG NGAI.  HE IS 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        HO CHI  00684  02 OF 03  070944Z 
BACK IN HCMC, BUT SAID IT WAS "TOO DANGEROUS" TO SPEAK 
OVER THE TELEPHONE.  (NOTE: POLOFF PLANS TO MEET WITH THIS 
CONTACT AS SOON AS TIME PERMITS.  HE RESIDES IN ONE OF THE 
RURAL DISTRICTS, LOCATED AT SOME DISTANCE FROM THE CITY. 
END NOTE.) 
 
TENSIONS IN HUE 
--------------- 
 
10. (SBU) CONGEN WAS UNABLE TO REACH THICH THAI HOA AT THE 
TU HIEU PAGODA IN HUE CITY.  ALL PHONE LINES TO THE PAGODA 
HAVE NOW BEEN CUT. (REF A REPORTED THAT THAI HOA'S 
RESIDENTIAL NUMBER WAS OUT OF SERVICE, BUT THE TWO LINES 
TO THE MAIN PAGODA WERE STILL WORKING.)  THE LINES TO 
PHUOC THANH PAGODA AND THIEN LAM PAGODA ARE SIMILARLY OUT 
OF SERVICE.  THE LINE TO BAO QUOC PAGODA WAS OUT OF 
SERVICE, BUT CONGEN WAS ABLE TO GET THROUGH ON ANOTHER 
NUMBER.  POLOFF ASKED TO SPEAK WITH THICH THIEN HANH, WHO 
REPORTEDLY HAD BEEN CALLED IN FOR QUESTIONING BY POLICE A 
FEW DAYS EARLIER.  THE PERSON WHO ANSWERED THE PHONE ASKED 
US TO CALL BACK AGAIN IN TEN MINUTES.  WE CALLED 
REPEATEDLY FOR THE REST OF THE DAY, BUT NO ONE PICKED UP 
THE RECEIVER AT THE OTHER END. 
 
11. (SBU) CONGEN ALSO CALLED THE CHAU LAM PAGODA IN HUE, 
THE RESIDENCE OF THICH PHUOC VIEN, ONE OF THOSE WHO 
REPORTEDLY PLANNED TO TRAVEL TO QUANG NGAI.  WHEN WE ASKED 
TO SPEAK WITH PHUOC VIEN, THE PERSON WHO ANSWERED THE 
PHONE ENGAGED IN A LONG CONVERSATION WITH SOMEONE ELSE 
PRESENT AT THE PAGODA BEFORE ANSWERING.  HE THEN TOLD US 
TO CALL BACK IN TEN MINUTES.  TEN MINUTES LATER, AND 
SEVERAL TIMES AFTER THAT, THE PHONE WENT UNANSWERED.  WHEN 
SOMEONE FINALLY ANSWERED THE PHONE, WE WERE TOLD THAT 
THICH PHUOC VIEN WAS BUSY AND UNABLE TO TALK WITH US. 
 
12. (SBU) AT LONG QUAN PAGODA IN HUE, THE PERSON WHO 
ANSWERED THE TELEPHONE ENGAGED IN A CURIOUS CONVERSATION. 
WHEN WE ASKED A QUESTION, HE HESITATED FOR A LONG TIME, 
THEN ASKED WHY WE WERE ASKING ABOUT THE UBCV, THEN 
HESITATED SOME MORE.  AFTER HE TALKED WITH SOMEONE ELSE 
WHO APPARENTLY WAS PRESENT IN THE ROOM WITH HIM, HE 
SHOUTED SOMETHING UNINTELLIGIBLE AND THEN HUNG UP THE 
PHONE. 
 
13. (SBU) A MONK AT PHUOC DUYEN PAGODA IN HUE SAID POLICE 
HAD BEEN PRESENT ON THE PAGODA'S GROUNDS UNTIL 11:30 P.M. 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HO CHI  00684  03 OF 03  070944Z 
THE NIGHT BEFORE.  HE SAID HE HAD BEEN CALLED IN FOR 
QUESTIONING AT THE POLICE STATION IN THE MORNING.  HE SAID 
THAT POLICE HAD ALSO CALLED IN THICH CHI THANH (FROM THE 
PHUOC THANH PAGODA), THICH THIEN HANH (FROM THE BAO QUOC 
PAGODA), AND THICH CHI MAU.  THE MONK AT PHUOC DUYEN 
PAGODA SAID HE AND 30 TO 40 OTHER MONKS FROM HUE STILL 
PLANNED TO GO TO QUANG NGAI, BUT THAT CAR AND TAXI OWNERS 
WERE TOO AFRAID TO PROVIDE VEHICLES FOR THEM.  SEVERAL 
TIMES DURING THE CONVERSATION, HE SAID THE SITUATION IN 
HUE WAS "EXTREMELY TENSE" AND THE MONKS WERE "ANGRY." 
 
14. (U) MEANWHILE, A UBCV PRESS RELEASE FROM PARIS SAID 
THAT POLICE HAVE SURROUNDED THICH HUYEN QUANG'S RESIDENCE 
IN QUANG NGAI PROVINCE, AND "UBCV MEMBERS TRYING TO VISIT 
HIM HAVE BEEN TURNED AWAY." 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
15. (SBU) CLOSE POLICE SURVEILLANCE OF UBCV MONKS LIKELY 
WILL PREVENT ANY OF THEM FROM MEETING WITH THICH HUYEN 
QUANG FOR THE TIME BEING.  THEIR SUCCESS IN SEALING OFF 
HUYEN QUANG, HOWEVER, MAY ONLY ADD TO THE FRUSTRATION AND 
RESENTMENT OF HIS SUPPORTERS (WHO ARE SIZABLE IN NUMBER). 
FURTHERMORE, VIETNAM IS STILL LEFT WITH THE PROBLEM OF AN 
AGING UBCV PATRIARCH IN AN ISOLATED PAGODA IN QUANG NGAI 
PROVINCE.  SHOULD HIS HEALTH EVENTUALLY FAIL HIM WHILE 
STILL IN DETENTION IN THIS REMOTE PROVINCE, THE TENSIONS 
OF RECENT DAYS MAY SEEM MILD IN COMPARISON. 
 
RAY 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        HO CHI  00684  03 OF 03  070944Z 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 


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