Viewing cable 02HOCHIMINHCITY390
Title: CROSSES, CADRES, AND CONVERSATIONS IN THE

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
02HOCHIMINHCITY3902002-04-16 08:10:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Consulate Ho Chi Minh City
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

160810Z Apr 02

2002HOCHI00390 - UNCLASSIFIED
 
 
 
                           UNCLASSIFIED     PTQ9757

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ACTION EAP-00   

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FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 6237
INFO AMEMBASSY HANOI 
USMISSION GENEVA 
ASEAN COLLECTIVE
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
JICPAC HONOLULU HI
SECDEF WASHDC
DIA WASHDC
NSC WASHDC
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HO CHI MINH CITY 000390 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV AND EAP/PD/KFOSTER 
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR PRM 
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR DRL 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
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CINCPAC FOR FPA 
SECDEF FOR ISA/EA/ABLAGG 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KIRF PREF SOCI VM CB ETMIN HUMANR RELFREE
SUBJECT: CROSSES, CADRES, AND CONVERSATIONS IN THE 
CENTRAL HIGHLANDS 
 
 
¶1. (SBU) SUMMARY:  PLAIN WHITE CROSSES DREW THE 
ATTENTION OF CONGEN OFFICERS AS WE DROVE THROUGH THE 
CENTRAL HIGHLAND PROVINCE OF DAK LAK. A COFFEE BREAK IN 
NHAN CO COMMUNE IN DAK LAP DISTRICT ALLOWED FOR CASUAL 
CONVERSATION WITH SEVERAL OF THE VILLAGERS.  LOCAL 
SECURITY OFFICERS KEPT INSERTING THEMSELVES INTO OUR 
CONVERSATIONS, BUT THE VILLAGERS PAID THEM NO MIND. 
BACK ON THE ROAD, OUR "ESCORTS" KEPT PACE ALMOST UNTIL 
THE PROVINCIAL BORDER. END SUMMARY. 
 
¶2. (U) CG, CONOFF AND FSN POL/ECON ASSISTANT DROVE BACK 
TO HO CHI MINH CITY FROM DAK LAK'S CAPITAL CITY, BUON 
ME THUOT, ON THE NEW HIGHWAY 14.  LARGE, PLAIN WHITE 
CROSSES OVER THE DOORWAYS OF SEVERAL HOUSES ON THE NEW 
HIGHWAY DREW OUR ATTENTION. 
¶3. (SBU) CONGENOFFS STOPPED AT A COFFEE STALL NEXT TO A 
HOUSE WITH A WHITE CROSS OVER THE ENTRY, IN WHICH 
CATHOLIC RELIGIOUS ARTIFACTS WERE PLAINLY VISIBLE 
THROUGH THE WINDOWS AND DOORWAY.  THE OWNER OF THE 
COFFEE STALL GREETED US IN RUSTY ENGLISH, SAYING HE HAD 
LEARNED THE LANGUAGE FROM HIS "MANY AMERICAN FRIENDS IN 
THE PAST."  HE IDENTIFIED HIMSELF AS ALSO THE OWNER OF 
THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR. (NOTE: IN SUBSEQUENT CONVERSATION 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
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IN VIETNAMESE, THE MAN'S ACCENT SUGGESTED HE ORIGINALLY 
CAME FROM NORTHERN VIETNAM, AND MOVED SOUTH DURING THE 
1954 MASS INTERNAL MIGRATION. HIS REMARKS INDICATED 
THAT HE MIGHT HAVE WORKED FOR THE U.S. MILITARY OR AN 
AMERICAN BUSINESS BEFORE 1975.) 
 
¶4. (U) CONVERSATION WAS INTERRUPTED WHEN THREE MEN 
ARRIVED BY MOTORBIKE AND SAT DOWN AT THE CAFE'S OTHER 
TABLE.  THE CAFE OWNER IMMEDIATELY WENT TO WAIT ON THE 
NEWCOMERS, ASKING IF THEY "HAD COME ON BUSINESS."  THE 
MEN REPLIED THEY WERE JUST STOPPING FOR COFFEE, BUT IT 
WAS CLEAR THEY WERE PLAINCLOTHES SECURITY OFFICIALS 
MONITORING THE PRESENCE OF FOREIGNERS IN THEIR COMMUNE. 
THE CAFE OWNER JOINED THE MEN AT THEIR TABLE, BUT DID 
NOT SEEM CONCERNED ABOUT OUR PRESENCE.  HE DIRECTED 
OCCASIONAL COMMENTS TOWARD CG FROM THE OTHER TABLE.  HE 
WAS DELIGHTED WHEN CONOFF ASKED TO TAKE PHOTOS OF HIS 
HOUSE AND THE CROSS. 
 
¶5. (SBU) CONGEN GROUP PROCEEDED FURTHER UP THE ROAD AND 
WAS INVITED INTO AN EQUIPMENT AND VEHICLE REPAIR SHOP 
WITH A CROSS OVER ITS DOORWAY. THE OWNERS WERE A MIDDLE- 
AGED COUPLE WITH 10 GROWN CHILDREN. THEY OPENLY 
DISPLAYED LARGE POSTERS OF POPE JOHN PAUL II, AN ALTAR 
WITH THE VIRGIN MARY, AND STATUES OF SEVERAL SAINTS 
SURROUNDED BY CANDLES.  THE WIFE SAID THE FAMILY WAS 
CATHOLIC AND ATTENDED A CHURCH 80 KILOMETERS AWAY.  THE 
COUPLE SAID THAT THERE WAS A PROTESTANT CHURCH ABOUT 
NINE KILOMETERS AWAY, LOCATED OFF THE MAIN HIGHWAY. 
THE FAMILY MOVED TO NHAN CO COMMUNE SEVEN YEARS EARLIER 
WHEN THE AREA WAS MUCH MORE SPARSELY SETTLED.  FROM 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
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BUON ME THUOT SEVEN YEARS AGO BECAUSE OF TOUGH ECONOMIC 
CONDITIONS???, BUT THE WIFE NOTED LIFE IN NHAN CO 
COMMUNE WAS WORSE.  SHE CITING DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES, 
THE WIFE MADE AN OPEN PLEA FOR ASSISTANCE TO THE 
COMMUNE - CLOTHING, SCHOOL SUPPLIES, ETC.  ABOUT TEN 
MINUTES INTO THAT CONVERSATION, A MAN ENTERED THE SHOP- 
CUM-HOUSE AND SAT DOWN AT THE TABLE WITHOUT SAYING A 
WORD.  THE COUPLE DID NOT INTRODUCE THE NEWCOMER, NOR 
DID THE MAN GREET CONGENOFFS.  HE APPEARED TO BE 
ANOTHER NON-UNIFORMED SECURITY OFFICER, CHECKING UP ON 
OUR ACTIVITIES IN THE VILLAGE. 
 
¶6. (U) CONGENOFFS RETURNED TO THEIR VEHICLES AND 
CONTINUED DOWN HIGHWAY 14, FOLLOWED BY A CAR THAT HAD 
BEEN PARKED IN THE VILLAGE. ABOUT 40 MINUTES LATER, 
WHEN CONGENOFFS STOPPED FOR LUNCH, THE THREE MEN IN THE 
CAR FOLLOWED US INTO THE RESTAURANT AND MAINTAINED 
THEIR WATCH THROUGHOUT THE MEAL.  IT WAS OBVIOUS THEY 
WERE PLAINCLOTHES SECURITY OFFICERS WHEN THEY HEADED 
FOR THEIR CAR AFTER WATCHING US PAY THE BILL.  WHAT 
THEY DID NOT KNOW WAS THAT WE PLANNED TO EAT A 
WATERMELON WE HAD PURCHASED EARLIER FOR DESSERT.  WHEN 
THE SECURITY OFFICERS NOTICED WE HAD NOT LEFT THE 
RESTAURANT RIGHT AFTER THEM, THEY HAD TO SEND ONE MAN 
BACK ON THE PRETEXT OF NOT HAVING FINISHED DRINKING ALL 
HIS SODA.  BUT AFTER CONFIRMING CONGENOFFS HAD FINISHED 
DESSERT, GOTTEN INTO THEIR VAN, AND WERE DRIVING TOWARD 
THE BORDER (ONLY TWO MILES AWAY), THE OFFICIALS DID NOT 
FOLLOW. 
 
¶7. (SBU) COMMENT: A NOT-VERY-SUBTLE, BUT NOT-TOO- 
INTRUSIVE PRESENCE OF PLAINCLOTHES SECURITY IS A 
REGULAR PART OF CONGEN VISITS TO THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS. 
BY STOPPING ON THE SPUR OF THE MOMENT IN NHAN CO 
COMMUNE, CONGENOFFS WERE STRUCK BY THE OPENNESS OF 
CATHOLICISM (WHICH IS A RECOGNIZED RELIGION IN VIETNAM) 
AND THE VILLAGERS' NONCHALANCE TOWARD THE LOCAL 
SECURITY PRESENCE. 
 
¶8. (SBU) AT THE SAME TIME, WE WERE SURPRISED BY THE 
DEPTH OF SECURITY RESOURCES -- EVEN IN REMOTE NHAN CO 
COMMUNE.  THREE DIFFERENT THREE DIFFERENT VEHICLES 
FOLLOWED US AT DIFFERENT TIMES DURING THE THREE-HOUR 
DRIVE THROUGH DAK LAK PROVINCE.  SEVEN DIFFERENT 
PLAINCLOTHES OFFICERS (NOT COUNTING THE SOLDIERS WHO 
CRUISED UP AND DOWN HIGHWAY 14, DOING U-TURNS TO 
ALTERNATELY FOLLOW US OR PASS US GOING THE OPPOSITE 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HO CHI  00390  02 OF 02  160854Z 
WAY) MADE THEIR APPEARANCES AT THE COFFEE STALL, REPAIR 
SHOP, AND LUNCH RESTAURANT.  THE PLAINCLOTHES SECURITY 
DID NOT OVERTLY INTERFERE IN ANY WAY.  IN FACT A COUPLE 
OF THEM SEEMED DOWNRIGHT SHEEPISH AS THEY EAVESDROPPED 
ON SOME OF OUR CONVERSATIONS WITH VILLAGERS.  WHAT IS 
CLEAR, HOWEVER, IS THAT SOMEBODY - EITHER THE GVN OR 
THE PROVINCIAL AUTHORITIES - WILL SPARE NO EXPENSE OR 
MANPOWER IN KEEPING TABS ON CONGEN MOVEMENTS IN THE 
CENTRAL HIGHLANDS.   YAMAUCHI 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED