US embassy cable - 01HOCHIMINHCITY699

BUDDHIST TENSIONS CONTINUE

Identifier: 01HOCHIMINHCITY699
Wikileaks: View 01HOCHIMINHCITY699 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Ho Chi Minh City
Created: 2001-06-11 03:20:00
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.

110320Z Jun 01

2001HOCHI00699 - UNCLASSIFIED
 
 
 
                           UNCLASSIFIED     PTQ4413

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ACTION EAP-00   

INFO  LOG-00   MFA-01   AID-00   AMAD-00  CIAE-00  INL-00   SRPP-00  
      EB-00    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  PRM-01   DRL-02   G-00     NFAT-00  SAS-00     /008W
                  ------------------F6B390  110320Z /38    
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5151
INFO AMEMBASSY HANOI IMMEDIATE 
USMISSION GENEVA 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
NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HO CHI MINH CITY 000699 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV AND EAP/PD/JMARTIN 
STATE ALSO FOR DRL/IRF AND S/S-O 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 02        HO CHI  00699  01 OF 03  110320Z 
CINCPAC FOR FPA 
SECDEF FOR ISA/EA/LSTERN 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PHUM, KIRF, VM, HUMANR, RELFREE 
SUBJECT: BUDDHIST TENSIONS CONTINUE 
 
REF: A. HCMC 0684  B.HANOI 1340  C. HCMC 0632 AND PREVIOUS 
 
1. SBU) SUMMARY: REFTELS REPORTED THE HOUSE ARREST OF UBCV 
BUDDHIST THICH QUANG DO AFTER HE CALLED FOR UBCV BUDDHISTS 
TO TRAVEL UNAUTHORIZED TO QUANG NGAI PROVINCE ON JUNE 7 
WITH THE PURPOSE OF RETURNING UBCV PATRIARCH THICH HUYEN 
QUANG FROM CONFINEMENT IN QUANG NGAI TO HCMC.  AS MANY AS 
100 BUDDHIST MONKS FROM HUE ATTEMPTED TO GO TO QUANG NGAI 
ON JUNE 7.  POLICE TURNED MOST OF THEM BACK BEFORE THEY 
COULD REACH THE BORDER OF THUA THIEN HUE PROVINCE.  POLICE 
REPORTEDLY DETAINED APPROXIMATELY 20 MONKS AND NUNS FROM 
HUE AFTER REACHING QUANG NGAI.  ANOTHER 25 MONKS AND NUNS 
FROM HUE WERE TURNED BACK AFTER REACHING THICH HUYEN 
QUANG'S PAGODA AND ARE CURRENTLY PRESENT IN QUANG NGAI 
TOWN.  ONE UBCV BUDDHIST MONK FROM HCMC WAS TURNED BACK 
AFTER ATTEMPTING TO ENTER THICH HUYEN QUANG'S PAGODA ON 
JUNE 2.  HE DESCRIBED THE SECURITY AROUND HUYEN QUANG'S 
PAGODA AS EXTREMELY TIGHT.  THE HCMC-BASED MONK AND OTHER 
UBCV MONKS IN HUE SAY THE SITUATION IN HUE AND QUANG NGAI 
REMAIN VERY TENSE.  END SUMMARY. 
 
BUDDHISTS FROM HUE ATTEMPT TO TRAVEL TO QUANG NGAI 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HO CHI  00699  01 OF 03  110320Z 
2. (SBU) ON JUNE 8, POLOFF MET WITH A UBCV MONK IN HCMC 
WHO HAD TRAVELED TO QUANG NGAI ON JUNE 2 AHEAD OF THE 
PLANNED JUNE 7 CONGREGATION.  HE AND UBCV MONKS IN HUE 
WHOM POLOFF SPOKE TO BY TELEPHONE SAID THAT AT ABOUT 1:00 
A.M. ON JUNE 7 POLICE IN HUE SUMMONED THICH TRAN CHI (WHO 
WAS ONE OF THE LEADERS OF THE PLANNED HUE DELEGATION TO 
QUANG NGAI).  WHILE HE WAS STILL AT THE POLICE STATION, 
MONKS BEGAN ARRIVING AT HIS PAGODA, THE TU PHONG PAGODA, 
AT ABOUT 4:00 A.M.  BY 6:00 A.M. TRAN CHI HAD NOT YET 
RETURNED, SO THE 60 OR SO MONKS, NUNS, AND LAYPERSONS WHO 
HAD GATHERED SET OFF WITHOUT HIM.  THEY DEPARTED BY 
MOTORCYCLE BECAUSE PERSONS WHO HAD PROMISED TO SUPPLY CARS 
AND TAXIS REFUSED, EXPLAINING THAT POLICE HAD WARNED THEM 
THEIR VEHICLES WOULD BE CONFISCATED AND THEY WOULD BE 
SUBJECT TO ARREST.  SECURITY FORCES WERE PRESENT ON THE 
STREETS IN HUE, AND 10 POLICE CARS AND SEVERAL POLICE ON 
MOTORCYCLES FOLLOWED THE GROUP.  WHEN THE CONVOY REACHED 
THE LA NGA PASS IN THE MOUNTAINS ABOUT TWO HOURS OUTSIDE 
OF HUE CITY, THEY MET A ROADBLOCK CONSISTING OF A LARGE 
POLICE VAN AND ABOUT THIRTY SECURITY FORCES.  POLICE TOLD 
THEM THAT THOSE WHO HAD PROPER REGISTRATION FOR THEIR 
MOTORCYCLES AND A DRIVER'S LICENSE WOULD BE ALLOWED TO 
PROCEED.  THOSE WHO DID NOT WOULD HAVE TO RETURN HOME OR 
BE TAKEN INTO CUSTODY FOR BREAKING THE LAW.  VERY FEW OF 
THE MONKS HAD THE NECESSARY DOCUMENTATION.  AFTER A LONG 
DISCUSSION, THEY DECIDED TO RETURN HOME.  THE POLICE CARS 
AND MOTORCYCLES ESCORTED THEM ALL THE WAY BACK TO THEIR 
SEVERAL PAGODAS. 
 
3. (SBU) ANOTHER GROUP OF ABOUT 20 UBCV BUDDHISTS DEPARTED 
HUE IN TWO VANS.  THEY REACHED QUANG NGAI IN THE AFTERNOON 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        HO CHI  00699  01 OF 03  110320Z 
OF JUNE 7, BUT STOPPED AT A POLICE ROADBLOCK ABOUT TWO 
KILOMETERS FROM THICH HUYEN QUANG'S PAGODA.  POLICE 
REPORTEDLY DETAINED THIS GROUP AND THEY REMAINED IN 
DETENTION ON JUNE 8.  (POST WAS UNABLE TO OBTAIN THE NAMES 
OF ANY OF THE DETAINED BUDDHISTS OR ANY FURTHER DETAILS OF 
THEIR REPORTED DETENTION.) 
 
4. (SBU) AT LEAST ANOTHER 25 OTHER UBCV MONKS, NUNS AND 
SUPPORTERS FROM HUE TRAVELED TO QUANG NGAI AND WERE TURNED 
AWAY AT THE ROADBLOCK TO THICH HUYEN QUANG'S PAGODA.  THEY 
CURRENTLY REMAIN IN QUANG NGAI TOWN AND ARE IN CONTACT 
WITH SUPPORTERS IN HCMC AND HUE BY MOBILE PHONE.  THEY 
REPORTED THAT A TWELVE-YEAR-OLD MALE BUDDHIST NOVICE WAS 
TAKEN INTO POLICE CUSTODY IN QUANG NGAI TOWN ON THE 
MORNING OF JUNE 7.  POLICE FOUND HIM PASSING OUT LEAFLETS 
CRITICIZING THE GOVERNMENT FOR INTERFERING IN RELIGIOUS 
AFFAIRS.  THE BOY IS A RESIDENT OF QUANG NGAI. 
 
5. (SBU) UBCV BUDDHISTS IN HUE AND IN QUANG NGAI SAY THAT 
TENSIONS ARE VERY HIGH IN BOTH PLACES, AND THAT SECURITY 
PRESENCE IS HEAVY IN THE TOWNS AND AROUND ALL THE PAGODAS. 
THEY SAY POLICE ARE ASKING FOR IDENTIFICATION DOCUMENTS 
FROM ANY MONK OR NUN THEY SEE ON THE STREET.  THE UBCV 
BUDDHISTS ARE CURRENTLY CONSIDERING WHAT THEY SHOULD DO 
NEXT AND REPORTEDLY HAVE NOT RULED OUT THE IDEA OF PUBLIC 
DEMONSTRATIONS. 
 
AN HCMC-BASED MONK TURNED BACK IN QUANG NGAI 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
6. (SBU) POLOFF MET JUNE 8 WITH A UBCV MONK WHO DEPARTED 
HCMC AT 6:00 P.M. ON JUNE 1, DROVE THROUGH THE NIGHT, AND 
REACHED QUANG NGAI LATE IN THE AFTERNOON OF JUNE 2.  THE 
MONK HAD VISITED THICH HUYEN QUANG ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS IN 
THE PAST FEW YEARS WITHOUT INCIDENT AND IS KNOWN BY THE 
LOCAL POLICE.  THIS TIME HE AND HIS DRIVER WERE STOPPED AT 
A ROADBLOCK ABOUT ONE KILOMETER FROM HUYEN QUANG'S PAGODA. 
HE SAID THERE WERE ABOUT 40 POLICEMEN AND TEN SOLDIERS 
MANNING THE ROADBLOCK.  HE COULD SEE ANOTHER 40 OR 50 
SECURITY FORCES IN SMALL GROUPS FARTHER DOWN THE ROAD. 
 
7. (SBU) HE CAME OUT OF HIS VEHICLE AND SAT WITH THE 
POLICEMAN IN CHARGE IN A TENT SET UP NEARBY.  THE 
POLICEMAN READ A WRITTEN STATEMENT FROM THE PROVINCIAL 
PEOPLE'S COMMITTEE THAT STATED THE AREA WAS UNDER A PUBLIC 
HEALTH QUARANTINE BECAUSE OF AN OUTBREAK OF VIRAL DISEASE, 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HO CHI  00699  02 OF 03  110320Z 
AND NO ONE WAS ALLOWED TO ENTER.  AFTER THIS FORMALITY, 
THE POLICE QUESTIONED HIM FOR TWO HOURS.  THEY ASKED HIM 
ABOUT HIS RECENT VISITS TO THE UNITED STATES AND TO 
THAILAND.  (HE HAD VISITED THE U.S., THAILAND AND CHINA 
EARLIER THIS YEAR.)  THEY WANTED TO KNOW WHAT THE 
BUDDHISTS IN THESE COUNTRIES WERE SAYING ABOUT THE 
SITUATION REGARDING THICH HUYEN QUANG AND IF THEY WERE 
INVOLVED IN PLANNING PROVOCATIVE ACTIONS AGAINST THE 
GOVERNMENT OF VIETNAM.  THEY ALSO ASKED HIM ABOUT RECENT 
PROGRAMMING ON RADIO FREE ASIA.  THEY TOLD HIM THAT THICH 
QUANG DO WAS CAUSING SOCIAL INSTABILITY, AND THAT THEY 
WERE SIMPLY DOING THEIR JOBS IN MAINTAINING SOCIAL ORDER. 
THEN THEY LET HIM GO.  WHEN HE LEFT, IT WAS AFTER DARK. 
HE NOTICED THAT THE ELECTRICAL POWER IN THE AREA (THE ROAD 
TO THE PAGODA GOES THROUGH A SMALL VILLAGE) WAS CUT, BUT 
THE POLICE HAD A GENERATOR. 
 
8. (SBU) HE RETURNED TO THE HOUSE IN QUANG NGAI TOWN WHERE 
HE HAD PLANNED TO SPEND THE NIGHT, BUT DECIDED INSTEAD TO 
RETURN IMMEDIATELY TO HCMC.  THE NEXT DAY, HE HEARD THAT 
POLICE WERE LOOKING FOR HIM AT THE HOUSE AND AT SEVERAL 
PAGODAS IN THE AREA. 
 
CONFLICTING REPORTS OF RESTRICTIONS IN HCMC 
------------------------------------------- 
 
9. (SBU) THE HCMC-BASED UBCV MONK SAID THAT OVER A FIVE- 
DAY PERIOD BEGINNING JUNE 1, POLICE IN HCMC SEARCHED ALL 
OR NEARLY ALL THE PAGODAS IN HCMC.  POLICE SUMMONED MANY 
PERSONS FOR QUESTIONING, AND FINED SOME OF THEM CERTAIN 
AMOUNTS OF MONEY FOR VARIOUS OFFENSES.  AT HIS PAGODA, 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        HO CHI  00699  02 OF 03  110320Z 
FIVE NUNS AND LAY PERSONS WERE QUESTIONED.  HE KNEW 
PERSONALLY OF PEOPLE AT SEVERAL OTHER PAGODAS IN THE CITY 
WHO HAD SIMILAR ENCOUNTERS WITH THE POLICE. 
 
10. (SBU) HE ALSO SAID THAT ON JUNE 1, THE HCMC DEPARTMENT 
OF PUBLIC SECURITY, THE COMMITTEE FOR RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS, 
AND THE OFFICIAL BUDDHIST ASSOCIATION HELD A MEETING AT 
THE AN QUANG PAGODA IN HCMC.  OFFICIAL BUDDHIST 
REPRESENTATIVES FROM EACH OF THE CITY'S DISTRICTS ATTENDED 
THE MEETING.  THEY LATER PASSED WORD VERBALLY TO THE 
CITY'S PAGODAS OF TWO DECISIONS MADE AT THE MEETING: 1) 
THAT NO LAY PERSONS WOULD BE ALLOWED TO STAY OVERNIGHT AT 
ANY PAGODAS IN THE CITY FOR THREE MONTHS, AND 2) THAT FOR 
THREE MONTHS, ANY BUDDHIST MONK OR NUN GOING OUTSIDE A 
PAGODA SHOULD TRAVEL BY CAR OR TAXI, AND WOULD NOT BE 
ALLOWED TO TRAVEL BY MOTORCYCLE, BICYCLE, OR BY FOOT.  THE 
UBCV MONK SURMISED THAT THE PURPOSE OF THIS RATHER ODD 
DECISION WAS TO DISCOURAGE BUDDHIST MONKS AND NUNS FROM 
TRAVELING AND ALSO TO KEEP THEM FROM BEING SEEN IN PUBLIC, 
DURING THIS SENSITIVE TIME. 
 
11. (SBU) CONGEN CALLED THE OFFICIAL HCMC BUDDHIST 
ASSOCIATION ON JUNE 8 TO INQUIRE ABOUT THE DECISIONS MADE 
AT THE JUNE 1ST MEETING.  THICH HIEN PHAP, THE SECRETARY 
GENERAL OF THE ASSOCIATION, SAID THERE HAD BEEN A MEETING, 
BUT ONLY AMONG BUDDHISTS.  HE SAID THE MEETING HAD BEEN TO 
ENCOURAGE MONKS AND NUNS TO OBSERVE MORE CLOSELY THIS YEAR 
THE TRADITIONAL BUDDHIST "PERIOD OF MEDITATION," WHICH 
OCCURS IN THE SUMMER.  FOR THE NEXT THREE MONTHS, THE 
ASSOCIATION IS ENCOURAGING MONKS AND NUNS TO REMAIN IN 
THEIR PAGODAS TO MEDITATE.  HE SAID THAT IF A MONK OR NUN 
FOUND IT NECESSARY TO GO OUTSIDE THEIR PAGODAS, THEY COULD 
GO BY ANY MEANS OF TRANSPORT THEY CHOSE. 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
12. (SBU) POST WILL CONTINUE TO MONITOR THE SITUATION AND 
REPORT ON SIGNIFICANT EVENTS AS THEY UNFOLD.  POST 
BELIEVES THAT THE WELL-COORDINATED PUBLIC SECURITY 
RESPONSE TO THE PLANNED UBCV PROVOCATION (INTIMIDATING 
INDIVIDUALS BY SEARCHING PAGODAS, QUESTIONING THEM AT 
POLICE STATIONS, CUTTING PHONE LINES, ROADBLOCKS, 
ENCOURAGING OBSERVANCE OF THE "PERIOD OF MEDITATION," 
PLACING THICH HUYEN QUANG'S PAGODA UNDER "QUARANTINE") AND 
THE INTEREST POLICE SHOWED IN ASKING ABOUT OVERSEAS 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HO CHI  00699  03 OF 03  110320Z 
SUPPORT OF THE UBCV ALL UNDERSCORE THE INSECURITY OF THE 
AUTHORITIES IN THEIR DEALINGS WITH THE UBCV BUDDHISTS. 
EVENTS OVER THE PAST FEW DAYS AND THE GOVERNMENT'S 
RESPONSE PROVE THAT THE ORGANIZATION IT OUTLAWED 20 YEARS 
AGO, REMAINS A RELIGIOUS (AS WELL AS A POLITICAL) FORCE TO 
BE RECKONED WITH. 
 
RAY 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 


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