Viewing cable 01HANOI1878
Title: VIETNAM DENIES UNHCR ACCESS TO HIGHLANDS

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
01HANOI18782001-08-06 09:22:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Hanoi
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

060922Z Aug 01

2001HANOI01878 - UNCLASSIFIED
 
 
 
                           UNCLASSIFIED     PTQ2946

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FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 3571
INFO AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 
ASEAN COLLECTIVE
SECDEF WASHDC
USMISSION GENEVA
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HANOI 001878 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV AND PRM 
GENEVA FOR RMA 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREF PGOV PREL PHUM VM UNHCR ETMIN HUMANR
SUBJECT: VIETNAM DENIES UNHCR ACCESS TO HIGHLANDS 
 
REF: PHNOM PENH 1267 AND PREVIOUS 
 
SUMMARY 
------- 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
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¶1. VIETNAM HAS DENIED UNHCR ACCESS TO CENTRAL HIGHLAND 
PROVINCES, PREVENTING UNHCR FROM LAUNCHING VOLUNTARY 
REPATRIATION OF HIGHLANDS RESIDENTS WHO HAVE FLED TO 
CAMBODIA.  UNHCR WILL NOW CONSIDER LONGER-TERM MEASURES FOR 
THE DISPLACED POPULATIONS IN RATTANAKIRI AND MONDOLAKIRI. 
END SUMMARY. 
 
¶2. ON JULY 27, UN HIGH COMMISSION FOR REFUGEES (UNHCR) 
REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE JAHANSHAH ASSADI TOLD FOREIGN 
EMBASSY REPRESENTATIVES IN HANOI THAT VIETNAM HAD REFUSED 
UNHCR EVEN LIMITED ACCESS TO VIETNAM'S CENTRAL HIGHLANDS IN 
ADVANCE OF PROPOSED VOLUNTARY REPATRIATION OF VIETNAMESE WHO 
HAVE FLED TO CAMBODIA SINCE DISTURBANCES EARLIER IN THE 
YEAR.  DURING JUST-COMPLETED TRIPARTITE TALKS WITH VIETNAM 
AND CAMBODIA, IN A DRAFT AGREEMENT VIETNAM AGREED TO ALLOW 
UNHCR ACCESS TO RETURNEES AFTER THEIR RETURN, BUT UNHCR 
WOULD REQUIRE ACCESS TO FIRST SURVEY THE HOME AREAS OF THOSE 
WHO FLED, THEN TO MONITOR THEIR TREATMENT UPON THEIR RETURN, 
BEFORE LAUNCHING A VOLUNTARY REPATRIATION PROGRAM.  IT WAS 
UNCLEAR WHETHER VIETNAM WOULD ALLOW UNCHR TO ACCOMPANY 
RETURNEES FROM CAMBODIA TO VIETNAM.  UNHCR HAD BEEN 
"FLEXIBLE", SUGGESTING VISITS TO CERTAIN, "EASIER" AREAS 
FIRST, AT A TIME TO BE CHOSEN BY THE VIETNAMESE, BUT STILL 
HAD NO SUCCESS IN GETTING HANOI'S APPROVAL FOR THESE STEPS. 
 
¶3. AS A RESULT, UNHCR MAY NOW HAVE TO REVISE ITS PLANNING IN 
CAMBODIA, SHIFTING FROM SHORT-TERM MEASURES TO PROVIDE FOOD 
AND SHELTER TO THE DISPLACED PERSONS, TO LONGER-TERM 
MEASURES. 
 
¶4. ASKED TO SPECULATE WHY VIETNAM DENIED ACCESS, ASSADI SAID 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HANOI  01878  01 OF 03  061044Z 
HE GUESSED THERE WERE REAL PROBLEMS IN SOME AREAS, AND THAT 
ALLOWING UNHCR IN COULD BE SEEN AS INTERNATIONALIZING A 
LOCAL SITUATION.  HE OBSERVED THAT THE INTERAGENCY 
VIETNAMESE DELEGATION TO THE TRIPARTITE TALKS HAD 
DEMONSTRATED SOME DIVISION OF OPINION; HE FELT THE 
OBJECTIONS HAD COME FROM THE MINISTRY OF PUBLIC SECURITY, 
WHILE THE MFA DID NOT APPEAR TO POSE PROBLEMS WITH THE UNHCR 
PROPOSALS.  ASSADI SAID HE HAD NOT OBSERVED THE CAMBODIANS 
PRESSING THE VIETNAMESE TO BE FLEXIBLE ON THE QUESTION OF 
ACCESS FOR THE UNHCR.  HE CHARACTERIZED THE CAMBODIANS AS 
BEING LARGELY QUIESCENT IN THE DISCUSSIONS BUT FELT THAT ALL 
PARTICIPANTS HAD BEEN FRANK IN THEIR COMMENTS. 
 
¶5. ASSADI SAID UNHCR WAS CONCERNED THAT THIS OUTCOME OF THE 
TRIPARTITE TALKS COULD STIMULATE NEW DEPARTURES FROM 
VIETNAM, AS INDIVIDUALS IN VIETNAM CAME TO UNDERSTAND THAT 
THEY WOULD NOT IMMEDIATELY BE RETURNED HOME IF THEY MADE IT 
TO CAMBODIA.  UNTIL THIS POINT, ASSADI BELIEVES, THE FACT 
THERE WERE TALKS ABOUT A POTENTIAL VOLUNTARY REPATRIATION 
PROGRAM MAY HAVE DISCOURAGED SOME DEPARTURES FOR CAMBODIA. 
 
¶6. DESPITE THE DENIAL OF ACCESS, ASSADI SAID POSITIVE 
OUTCOMES OF THE TRIPARTITE TALKS INCLUDED THE FACT THAT THEY 
TOOK PLACE AT ALL; THAT THE TWO GOVERNMENTS ACKNOWLEDGED A 
UNHCR ROLE; THAT ALL PARTICIPANTS AGREED TO REMAIN IN 
COMMUNICATION ON THE ISSUES; AND THAT VIETNAM ALLOWED THE 
MEETING TO TAKE PLACE IN VIETNAM.  ASSADI FELT UNCHR MAY 
HAVE ENHANCED ITS CREDIBILITY WITH THE TWO GOVERNMENTS BY 
DEMONSTRATING COMMITMENT TO SOLUTIONS AND NOT ONLY TO 
PROTECTION OF DISPLACED PERSONS. 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        HANOI  01878  01 OF 03  061044Z 
¶7. ASSADI REPORTED THAT THE PREVIOUS ROUND OF TRIPARTITE 
TALKS HAD RESULTED IN A NON-PAPER OUTLINING AN AGREED 
FRAMEWORK FOR REPATRIATION.  THE FRAMEWORK WOULD ALLOW UNHCR 
TO PROVIDE LOGISTICAL SUPPORT, REINTEGRATION ASSISTANCE FOR 
RETURNEES AND ASSISTANCE TO AFFECTED COMMUNITIES, TO SUPPORT 
THE REPATRIATION.  BASED ON THE NON-PAPER, UNHCR HAD THOUGHT 
IT WAS NEAR SECURING AGREEMENT ON ACCESS. 
 
¶8. ASSADI ACKNOWLEDGED CRITICISM OF UNHCR'S APPROACH TO THE 
CURRENT POPULATION OF DISPLACED VIETNAMESE IN CAMBODIA. 
(CRITICS ARGUED THE UNHCR WAS NOT LIKELY TO BE GRANTED 
ACCESS TO THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS, AND SO SHOULD NOT HAVE 
PROCEEDED WITH SCREENING OF THESE PEOPLE FOR REFUGEE 
STATUS.)  THERE ARE 315 "PERSONS OF CONCERN" PRESENTLY IN 
CAMBODIA, ASSADI REPORTED, OF WHICH 60 ARE IN RATTANAKIRI 
AND THE REST IN MONDOLKIRI.  SOME 70-80 HAVE BEEN SCREENED 
OUT, DESPITE UNHCR'S HAVING APPLIED LIBERAL CRITERIA AND 
GIVEN APPLICANTS FOR REFUGEE STATUS BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT. 
HE STATED UNHCR IS NEITHER TRYING TO KEEP NUMBERS OF PERSONS 
GRANTED REFUGEE STATUS LOW, NOR APPLYING POLITICAL CRITERIA 
TO THE CASELOAD.  THAT SAID, HE ACKNOWLEDGED THAT CRITICS 
ARGUE UNHCR CANNOT KNOW THE SITUATION IN THE HOME REGIONS OF 
THE APPLICANTS AND SO CANNOT REALISTICALLY ADJUDICATE 
APPLICATIONS.  (AS RECENT REFTELS FROM PHNOM PENH INDICATE, 
THE UNHCR HAS APPARENTLY AGREED TO RE-EXAMINE THE CASES AND 
NOT SIMPLY ASSUME THESE PEOPLE WILL OR SHOULD GO BACK TO 
VIETNAM NOW.) 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 02        HANOI  01878  02 OF 03  061044Z 
 
¶9. ASSADI SAID THAT APPLICANTS ARE SCREENED ON A ROLLING 
BASIS.  MOST OF THESE SCREENED-OUT IMMEDIATELY LEFT THE 
CAMPS IN CAMBODIA ON THEIR OWN.  UNHCR NEITHER COUNSELS THEM 
ABOUT RETURNING TO VIETNAM NOR ASKS THEM WHERE THEY PLAN TO 
GO, DUE TO THE PRESENCE OF CAMBODIAN OFFICIALS AT 
INTERVIEWS.  AND, AS FAR AS THE UNHCR KNEW, NONE WERE 
IMMEDIATELY ROUNDED UP BY THE LOCAL AUTHORITIES.  ASSADI 
SPECULATED MOST WOULD SIMPLY FADE INTO THE HOUSES OF FRIENDS 
AND/OR THE JUNGLES. 
 
¶10. ASSADI REPORTED THAT THE PROFILE OF NEW ARRIVALS FROM 
VIETNAM CONTINUES TO INCLUDE BOTH MORE POLITICIZED 
INDIVIDUALS AND PEASANTS.  SEVENTY PERCENT ARE MALE. 
RATTANAKIRI HAS 55 MEN AND SEVEN WOMEN, ALL BUT SIX FROM GIA 
LAI, ESPECIALLY CHU PA DISTRICT; THE OTHER SIX ARE FROM DAK 
LAK.  MONDOLKIRI HAS 179 MEN, 72 WOMEN, ALL FROM DAK LAK, 
ESPECIALLY BAN ME THUOT, DAK MIL AND DAK MONG DISTRICTS, 
EXCEPT FOUR PEOPLE FROM GIA LAI AND TWO FROM LAM DONG.  BOTH 
CAMPS HAVE A MIX OF FAMILIES AND SINGLE MALES. 
 
¶11. ASKED WHAT THE ATTITUDE OF THE DISPLACED PERSONS WAS 
TOWARDS VOLUNTARY REPATRIATION, ASSADI'S FIELD STAFF FROM 
CAMBODIA REPORTED THAT NO ONE AT EITHER RATTANAKIRI NOR 
MONDOLKIRI WAS INTERESTED IN BEING RESETTLED IN A THIRD 
COUNTRY.  MORE RECENTLY, CAMP RESIDENTS HAVE BEGUN TO 
MENTION HAVING RELATIVES ABROAD, BUT NONE APPEARS FOCUSED ON 
LEAVING TO JOIN THEM.  THE OTHER STAFFER CONCURRED WITH THAT 
FINDING, ON THE BASIS OF HAVING MET ALL THE CAMP RESIDENTS 
DURING MORE THAN TWO WEEKS IN BOTH FACILITIES.  RESIDENTS DO 
NOT SEEK RESETTLEMENT, HE SAID, FOR IT WOULD MEAN NEVER 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HANOI  01878  02 OF 03  061044Z 
AGAIN HAVING CONTACT WITH FAMILY LEFT BEHIND, AND LOSING 
THEIR IDENTITY.  HE SAID HE BELIEVED MOST RESIDENTS WOULD 
CONSIDER VOLUNTARY REPATRIATION IF UNHCR WERE FIRST ABLE TO 
VISIT THEIR HOME AREAS.  THE RESIDENTS HE MET HAD LEFT 
VIETNAM TO LET THE WORLD KNOW ABOUT THE SITUATION IN THE 
CENTRAL HIGHLANDS, HE SAID, BUT WANTED TO RETURN TO THEIR 
HOMES. 
 
¶12. ASKED WHAT UNHCR'S NEXT STEPS WOULD BE, ASSADI REPORTED 
THAT THE AGENCY WOULD ADJUST ITS CAMBODIA SCOPE OF WORK 
TOWARDS A LONGER-TERM FOCUS.  CONCERNS WOULD ARISE ABOUT 
THIS APPROACH RESULTING IN "INSTITUTIONALIZATION" OF THE 
SITUATION, AND THE CREATION OF QUASI-PERMANENT CAMPS, 
SOMETHING BOTH THE CAMBODIANS AND VIETNAMESE APPEARED AT THE 
TRIPARTITE TALKS TO WANT TO AVOID. 
 
¶13. CHARGE ASKED FOR ASSADI'S COMMENT ON REPORTS THAT THERE 
ARE MORE INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS AS WELL AS DISPLACED 
PERSON IN CAMBODIA BEYOND THE ONES WHO HAD SOUGHT UNHCR'S 
HELP.  ASSADI'S STAFF ANSWERED THAT, WHILE CITING ANY SET 
NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN THAT SITUATION WOULD BE SPECULATION, THE 
NUMBER WHO HAVE LEFT HOME IN VIETNAM CERTAINLY IS LARGER 
THAN THE NUMBER WHO HAVE APPROACHED UNHCR.  WHILE PERSONS OF 
CONCERN TO UNHCR HAVE MENTIONED OTHER SMALL GROUPS THAT HAVE 
LEFT VIETNAM, UNHCR HAS NO REPORTS OF LARGER NUMBERS. 
GENERALLY, UNHCR HEARS OF NEW DEPARTURES WITHIN A WEEK OF 
THEIR ARRIVAL IN CAMBODIA, THEY SAID. 
 
¶14. CHARGE INFORMED THE GROUP ABOUT AMBASSADOR PETERSON'S 
EARLY-JULY VISIT TO THE HIGHLANDS, DURING WHICH AUTHORITIES 
BLOCKED HIM FROM VISITING GIA LAI.  THE AMBASSADOR HAD 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        HANOI  01878  02 OF 03  061044Z 
CONCLUDED THAT RELIGION WAS NOT A FUNDAMENTAL CAUSE OF THE 
DISTURBANCES, THAT THE GOVERNMENT OF VIETNAM APPEARED TO 
RECOGNIZE THE REAL PROBLEMS AND LONG NEGLECT OF THE AREA IN 
BOTH DAK LAK AND LAM DONG PROVINCES BUT NOT IN GIA LAI. 
 
¶15. ASSADI REPORTED THAT THE VIETNAMESE DELEGATION TO THE 
TRIPARTITE TALKS HAD GONE TO LENGTHS TO ENSURE THE DRAFT 
TEXT OF THE AGREEMENT REFLECTED THEIR GOVERNMENT'S EFFORTS 
TO IMPROVE THE SITUATION IN THE HIGHLANDS.  THEY ALSO 
EXPRESSED GRATITUDE FOR UNHCR'S WILLINGNESS TO HELP.  CHARGE 
NOTED THAT, DURING THE NINTH PARTY CONGRESS, THE COMMUNIST 
PARTY OF VIETNAM HAD REMOVED OFFICIALS WHO HAD NOT DEALT 
EFFECTIVELY WITH PROBLEMS IN MINORITY AREAS AND THAT A 
RECENTLY HELD REGIONAL SESSION IN THE HIGHLANDS HAD BEEN 
FOCUSED ON THE DEVELOPMENT NEEDS. 
 
¶16. ASKED TO COMMENT ON A RECENT HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH PRESS 
RELEASE ON THE SITUATION IN THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS, ASSADI 
SAID THE ONE NEW ELEMENT IN THE STATEMENT WAS A CALL ON 
UNHCR TO END SCREENING OUT APPLICANTS.  ASSADI REPEATED THAT 
UNHCR WAS EMPLOYING A VERY LOW THRESHOLD IN SCREENING FOR 
PERSONS OF CONCERN AND FOR REFUGEES.  THAT SAID, HE 
EMPHASIZED THAT THE CREDIBILITY OF THE SCREENING PROCESS 
REQUIRED THAT THE PROCESS NOT BE WIDE OPEN.  UNHCR HAS NO 
INFORMATION THAT SCREENED-OUT INDIVIDUALS FACE PROBLEMS UPON 
RETURN TO VIETNAM.  THE AGENCY WOULD CONSIDER CAREFULLY ANY 
SUCH EVIDENCE AND QUICKLY ADJUST ITS PROCEDURES IF 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
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WARRANTED, ASSADI CONCLUDED.  BASED ON REFTEL HE APPEARS TO 
HAVE OPTED TO STOP THE SCREENING PROCESS UNTIL THE OPTIONS 
ARE MORE CLEAR ON WHAT RETURN TO VIETNAM IS LIKELY TO MEAN. 
 
HARTER 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED