Viewing cable 05HOCHIMINHCITY524
Title: (SBU) HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH MISLEADING ON CENTRAL HIGHLANDS

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05HOCHIMINHCITY5242005-05-20 06:37:00 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.


ACTION EAP-00   

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FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1490
INFO AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 
ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
UNCLAS  HO CHI MINH CITY 000524 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PHUM SOCI PREL KIRF ECON PGOV VM RELFREE HUMANR ETMIN
SUBJECT: (SBU) HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH MISLEADING ON CENTRAL HIGHLANDS 
 
REF:  A) HCMC 307 and previous; B) HCMC 248 and previous; C) HCMC 
324; D) HCMC 364 
 
¶1. (SBU) Summary:  Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a briefing 
paper in May 2005 entitled "Persecution of the Montagnards 
Continues:  Dega Christians targeted in latest crackdown."  We 
have reached out to our contacts in the Protestant and Catholic 
communities in the Central Highlands.  They can confirm only a few 
of the allegations raised in the May report.  Other allegations 
exaggerate and/or shade actual events in a way that conceals the 
possible involvement of ethnic minority individuals in anti-GVN, 
secessionist activities.  From our perspective, some Montagnard 
activists in the United States appear to be encouraging 
provocations that mix religious overtones with separatist 
activities.  The degree of witting involvement in these 
provocations by the individuals in the Central Highlands who end 
up as victims is not always clear.  Unfortunately, security 
officials in the Highlands are still far to prone to crack down 
first and ask questions later, making the results of such 
provocations as predictable as Lucy with the football. End 
Summary. 
 
¶2. (SBU) Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a briefing paper in May 
2005 entitled "Persecution of the Montagnards Continues: Dega 
Christians targeted in latest crackdown."  This is the latest in a 
series of HRW reports discussing the plight of the Central 
Highland's ethnic minority population.  We have discussed these 
allegations with a number of trusted contacts in the Protestant 
and Catholic communities in the Central Highlands, as well as with 
HCMC-based house church organizers active in the Central 
Highlands.  Vetting every HRW allegation ourselves is virtually 
impossible.  Logistical issues and oversight by local officials 
often make travel to the sites of alleged abuses and open 
discussion between ConGen officers and locals impractical.  We 
nonetheless will seek to travel to some of the areas mentioned in 
the HRW report during our next visit to the Central Highlands. 
 
Arrests and Detentions 
---------------------- 
 
¶3. (SBU) Of the 10 incidents of arrests and detention of ethnic 
minorities alleged in the HRW report, a reliable contact in the 
Southern Evangelical Church of Vietnam (SECV) operating in the 
Central Highlands can confirm three incidents involving 9 
individuals.  In the first incident, seven relatives of a 
prominent SECV pastor in Dak Lak were detained last month and 
accused of being members of FULRO as HRW reported.  (Note:  FULRO 
was an ethnic minority secessionist organization that conducted an 
armed rebellion in the Central Highlands from 1975 to 1992.) 
According to our contact, the pastor is the head of the SECV in 
Dak Lak.  Five of the individuals arrested were released.  The 
pastor's son and nephew remain in police custody, according to our 
contact.  The son was accused of acting as a liaison between "anti- 
GVN forces" based in North Carolina and the pro-secessionist, 
"Dega" movement in the province.  The pastor himself was held for 
two or three days.  The police accused him of sheltering his son 
and not preventing his apparent anti-GVN activities.  According to 
our contact, the pastor's son previously was a member of FULRO. 
 
¶4. (SBU) Our contact also confirmed an incident in which, 
according to HRW, "police detained and beat a man," and, 
"confiscated his cell phone."  Our contact says that HRW report 
omits that the person was arrested upon his return to Gia Lai from 
HCMC and Dalat, where he had purchased cell phones to distribute 
to members of the ethnic minority community to contact the 
Montagnard Foundation in North Carolina.  Our contact added that 
the HRW report colors another incident.  On April 3 Gia Lai police 
reportedly beat a member of the ethnic minority community and 
"told him to stop believing in Jesus."  The person involved, had 
been detained for suspicion of being involved in separatist 
activity and falsely claimed to be a member of the SECV.  He was 
not beaten, although police did "urge" the individual not to 
participate further in the Dega movement, including severing his 
affiliation with the "Dega Church." 
 
Mistreatment of Returnees from Cambodia 
--------------------------------------- 
 
¶5. (SBU) Our contact said that over the past month he has met 
several of the ethnic minority returnees from Cambodia.  All had 
local police interviews upon return.  He heard that several of the 
individuals were slapped during interrogation, although the 
persons he spoke with were not.  He could not confirm the HRW 
allegation that one returnee had his fingers lacerated during an 
interrogation.  (He commented that this allegation sounded 
suspiciously similar to an actual incident involving one of his 
SECV followers in 2002.)  He has heard that some of the returnees 
from Cambodia are restricted via administrative order from 
traveling outside their villages and fields without police 
permission.  He added that "Dega" activists continue to attempt to 
convince members of the Central Highlands' ethnic minority 
community to cross to Cambodia so that they can "get their land 
 
back." 
 
Impact of the new legal framework on religion 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
¶6. (SBU) HRW's statement that Vietnam's new legal framework on 
religion "effectively eliminates Montagnard house churches in the 
Central Highlands as well as any religious Protestant organization 
that seeks to operate independently of the ECVN (note: SECV)" is 
both incorrect and misleading.  The report misinterprets 
provisions of GVN law covering registration and recognition of 
churches.  A house church can apply for "registration" under 
Vietnam's Implementing Decree for the Ordinance of Religion.  Such 
groups can hold religious services.  Registered organizations of 
longer legal standing in Vietnam can apply for "recognition," 
which brings with it additional rights.  To date, house churches 
in the Central Highlands have not applied for registration, 
although we understand that at least one Baptist house church 
organization is preparing to register.  The SECV also is working 
at the provincial level in Gia Lai and with the central-level 
Committee for Religious Affairs to register its churches in the 
Central Highlands. 
 
Allegations of Forced Renunciation and Dega Christianity 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
 
¶7. (SBU) The HRW report indicates that "Dega Christianity" is a 
religious faith no different from other Protestant religious 
practice in Vietnam.  Our religious community contacts familiar 
with the Central Highlands disagree with this premise.  They say 
that "Dega Christianity" mixes politics and talk of secession with 
religion.  "Dega Church" pastors are not formally trained, and are 
ordained telephonically from the United States.  Two contacts, one 
a house church leader, another a Gia Lai SECV contact separately 
told us that "Dega Church" services and doctrine were tailored to 
advocate for the creation of a separate Dega state.  The SECV 
contact said he attended a handful of "Dega Church" services in 
which Kok Ksor -- President of the North Carolina-based Montagnard 
Foundation -- was proclaimed a new Moses sent by God to rescue 
ethnic minority people from Vietnamese domination.   The services 
also praised "Montagnard fighters" and included prayers for the 
Montagnard people to get their land back from the Vietnamese. 
 
¶8. (SBU) Our SECV contact in Gia Lai said that as far as the local 
authorities and police are concerned there is no difference 
between the "Dega Church" and FULRO.  Consequently, police 
routinely hold village meetings urging ethnic minorities to 
abandon any affiliation with the "Dega Church" and to seek 
alternatives.   According to a house church organizer based in 
HCMC, in addition to the SECV there are another 14 Protestant 
organizations operating in the Central Highlands (see appendix A). 
Our contacts do not report forced renunciation efforts or 
significant harassment affecting these house church organizations 
in Gia Lai province, since the GVN adopted its new legal framework 
on religion.  However, in neighboring Dak Lak, all Protestant 
groups remain under intense pressure from local authorities. 
 
¶9. (SBU) Comment: Our frequent visits to the Central Highlands 
have confirmed that more needs to be done to resolve the legacy of 
land tenure disputes and discrimination and prejudice against the 
region's ethnic minorities.    Local authorities do themselves no 
favors by restricting access to the Central Highlands and reacting 
with Pavlovian toughness against any ethnic minority -- "Dega" -- 
activists they believe are enemies of the state. 
 
¶10. (SBU) However, as we have reported (reftels), there are new 
GVN efforts to implement economic and social reforms in the 
Central Highlands.  The latest HRW report heightens our concern 
that that the organization is basing its reporting on biased 
sources and dubious assumptions.  This most recent report 
highlights alleged abuses in Gia Lai province, the one area in the 
Central Highlands where we have seen the most progress, 
particularly on religious issues.  The HRW report also maligns the 
GVN-recognized Southern Evangelical Church of Vietnam (SECV), 
which has worked to overcome intense local government opposition 
to sustain its operations in the Central Highlands.  The report 
further discounts GVN fears of a resurgence of ethnic minority 
separatism and the possible role of the "Dega Church" in that 
process.  It does not address indications that actors outside 
Vietnam -- including in the United States -- may be promoting 
ethnic minority flight and calls for an independent Dega state. 
In our view, a more balanced HRW product would do far more to 
stimulate dialogue with the GVN to address many of the real and 
pressing challenges facing the ethnic minority community in the 
Central Highlands. 
 
Appendix A 
---------- 
 
List of Protestant Churches operating in the Central Highlands 
(all protect) 
 
¶1. Southern Evangelical Church of Vietnam (Tin lanh Vietnam Mien 
Nam) 
 
¶2. United World Mission Church of Pastor Nguyen Toi (Hoi Truyen 
Giao Co Doc VN) 
 
¶3. Vietnam Baptist Fellowship of Pastor Nguyen Ngoc Hien (Lien Huu 
Baptit Vietnam) 
 
¶4. United Gospel Outreach Church of Pastor Pham Dinh Nhan (Tin 
Lanh Lien Hiep Truyen Giao) 
 
¶5. Inter-Evangelistic Movement of Pastor Tran Mai (Lien Doan 
Truyen Giao Phuc Am) 
 
¶6. Vietnam Methodist Church of Pastor Lam Huu Duc (Tin Lanh Giam 
Ly VN) 
 
¶7. Vietnam Baptist Convention of Pastor Nguyen Thong (Baptit 
Vietnam) 
 
¶8. Vietnamese Mennonite Church of Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang 
(Mennonite Vietnam) 
¶9. Vietnam Southern Baptist Convention of Pastor Le Quoc Chanh 
(Baptit Nam Phuong Vietnam) 
 
¶10. Vietnam Christian Fellowship Church of Pastor Dinh Thien Tu 
(Lien Huu Co Doc) 
 
¶11. Full Gospel Church of Pastor Vo Van Lac (Phuc Am Toan Ven) 
 
¶12. The Grace Presbyterian Church of Pastor Ho Tan Khoa (Truong 
Lao An Dien Vietnam) 
 
¶13. Community Gospel Church of VN of Pastor Pham Linh (Phuc Am 
Cong Dong VN) 
 
¶14. Baptist General Conference of Pastor Pham Toan Ai (Baptit Lien 
Hiep VN) 
 
¶15. Seventh Day Adventist Church (Co Doc Phuc Lam) 
 
WINNICK 
 
 
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