Viewing cable 05HOCHIMINHCITY896

05HOCHIMINHCITY8962005-08-24 23:55:00 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.
E.O. 12958: N/A 
¶1.  (SBU) Summary:  At an August 13 meeting with Thich 
Thien Hanh, the senior-most member of the Unified 
Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) in Hue, the 
Ambassador encouraged Hanh and the UBCV to seek to 
regularize their legal status.  Hanh said the UBCV 
could envision working with the GVN, but only if it 
were granted real independence.  He did not indicate 
that the UBCV is willing to dilute the pro-democracy 
elements of its agenda.  According to Hanh, he and the 
Hue chapter of the UBCV remain under tight control. 
While he recently was allowed to travel to attend the 
funeral of a UBCV colleague in Nha Trang, his 
delegation was prevented from making an impromptu stop 
to visit UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang in Binh Dinh 
Province.  End Summary. 
¶2. (SBU) On August 13, the Ambassador met with Thich 
Thien Hanh, senior-most member of the unregistered 
Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), at his Bao 
Quoc Pagoda in Hue.  Hanh said he and ten other UBCV 
monks have been under unofficial pagoda arrest since 
October 2003, when he participated in an organizational 
meeting of the UBCV in Binh Dinh Province. 
¶3. (SBU) According to Hanh, officials continue to 
prevent him from visiting UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen 
Quang in Binh Dinh Province.  His latest failed attempt 
came on June 21, when he led a group of nine monks from 
Hue to Nha Trang to attend the funeral of a fellow UBCV 
monk.  He had obtained permission for that travel from 
Hue officials.  However, on the return trip, the group 
made an unannounced stop in Binh Dinh Province.  They 
arrived in Binh Dinh around 1:30 p.m. and then traveled 
by motorcycle to the Patriarch's pagoda.  En route, 
they were stopped by two plainclothes police officers, 
who said it was not "safe" for them to continue.  When 
the police refused to produce identification, the monks 
continued on foot. 
¶4. (SBU) After they had gone about 30 meters, a police 
van approached from the other direction.  The police in 
the van asked the monks to go back to their car and 
return to Hue, but Hanh replied that they would proceed 
unless the police could show they were authorized to 
stop the monks.  According to Hanh, when the police 
began threatening to arrest the driver of their van, 
they ended their attempt to visit Thich Huyen Quang and 
returned to their vehicle.  Once on the National 
Highway, the UBCV van was escorted by two police cars. 
After 12 kilometers, the police stopped them to return 
the driver's papers.  At that time, a verbal 
confrontation with the police ensued.  One monk 
fainted.  The police asked the monks to follow them to 
the office of the District's People Committee, where 
they stayed overnight, apparently unattended.  The 
following morning, the group was allowed to return to 
¶5. (SBU) Hanh said he plans to try again to visit Thich 
Huyen Quang in the near future, this time informing 
officials in advance.  However, he is skeptical that 
the result would be any different.  Hanh said that of 
the 25 monks living at the Bao Quoc Pagoda, he is the 
only one allowed to travel.  The Ambassador indicated 
that he is prepared to intercede with the GVN in 
support of a visit to Thich Huyen Quang.  (Note: 
According to our UBCV contacts, after his meeting with 
the Ambassador, Thich Thien Hanh requested permission 
for a 24-monk delegation from Hue to visit Thich Huyen 
Quang on August 22, but was denied. The state-owned car 
company in the province terminated the car rental 
contract at the last minute and no private car owner 
agreed to transport them to Binh Dinh.) 
Status of the UBCV 
¶6. (SBU) Turning to the status of the UBCV, the 
Ambassador emphasized that the USG supports the UBCV 
and has encouraged the GVN to recognize it as an 
independent organization.  Hanh replied that he is 
aware of and appreciates USG support.  He added that 
the UBCV would continue to fight for democracy for all 
Vietnamese, particularly for the 80 percent who "follow 
some religion."  The Ambassador advised Hanh that the 
UCBV needs to begin a dialogue with the GVN to restore 
its legal status, since the UBCV could not be an active 
and effective organization in Vietnam while operating 
outside the law.  Noting that political change in 
Vietnam will be a slow process, he recommended that the 
UBCV accept the leadership roles of the Communist Party 
and the Vietnamese Government.  Hanh replied that were 
the Party to demonstrate good leadership, the UBCV 
would be willing to cooperate.  However, he expressed 
doubt about the Party, recounting how it had repressed 
the UBCV since 1981, when it had created and recognized 
the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha.  He added that if the 
United States does not support bringing democracy and 
more freedom to Vietnam, Vietnamese people would "lose 
their affection for America." 
¶7. (SBU) Comment:  At least Thich Thien Hanh did not 
completely rule out discussions with the GVN on 
regularizing the status of the UBCV.  However, at 
present, neither side appears prepared to compromise. 
In a separate conversation, the Chairman of the Thua 
Thien Hue People's Committee told the Ambassador that 
the religious freedom situation in the province is 
"perfect," even as the province keeps the UBCV under 
tight control.  For his part, Hanh must have known that 
his impromptu attempt to visit Thich Huyen Quang would 
fail and would provoke a response.  And by trying, he 
embarrassed those officials in Hue who had sanctioned 
his travel (to another UBCV event) in the first place. 
Hanh also does not appear ready to yield or to ease up 
on the political elements of his organization's agenda, 
the sine qua non of any compromise with the GVN.  End