Viewing cable 06HOCHIMINHCITY18
Title: VISIT TO ETHNIC MINORITY MINORITY RETURNEES IN DAK LAK

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
06HOCHIMINHCITY182006-01-06 11:23:00 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.

061123Z Jan 06

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FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0198
INFO AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 
ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 000018 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREF PREL PHUM KIRF SOCI EAID VM ETMIN HUMANR RELFREE
SUBJECT: VISIT TO ETHNIC MINORITY MINORITY RETURNEES IN DAK LAK 
PROVINCE 
 
REF: HCMC 962 
 
¶1. (SBU) Summary:  During a January 4-5 visit to the Central 
Highlands province of Dak Lak, PolOff met with four ethnic Jarai 
voluntary returnees from Cambodia and the family of a fifth. 
Government officials reported -- and other returnees confirmed 
-- that a sixth returnee was killed in a late December 
altercation with his brother.  UNHCR was notified of the death. 
As requested, our meetings were private (returnee and family), 
although we recruited a local ethnic Jarai government clerk to 
act as an impromptu translator. 
 
¶2. (SBU) None of the returnees or their families indicated that 
they felt they had been abused or discriminated against since 
returning to Vietnam.  Unlike our September visit to Gia Lai 
province where we met with 18 returnees, none of the Dak Lak 
cohort raised grievances related to GVN policies on religion or 
alleged expropriation of land.  Nonetheless, our sense is that 
the cohort's meager economic prospects -- they are poorly 
educated -- and government pressure due to fears of ethnic 
minority separatism drove the group to Cambodia.  Septel will 
report on discussions on religious freedom and family 
reunification visas (VISAS-93) at the provincial and district 
levels in Dak Lak.  End Summary. 
 
¶3. (SBU) During a January 4-5 visit to the Central Highlands 
province of Dak Lak, ConGen PolOff traveled to Ea Sup district 
near the Cambodian border to meet with ethnic minority 
returnees.  Post had requested private meetings with a cohort of 
seven individuals from the district, all of whom had returned 
voluntarily to the province in November 2005, after crossing to 
Cambodia in July 2005.  Ultimately we met with four returnees 
and the parents and sister of a fifth.  A sixth returnee was 
killed in a family dispute a few weeks earlier and a seventh 
lived in another village some 15 miles away.  The meetings were 
conducted in the homes of returnees without the presence of 
government officials, although officials and media accompanied 
us to the front gate of the homes.  A local ethnic Jarai clerk 
employed by the district was asked on the spot to act as our 
interpreter. 
 
Local Government:  Committed to peaceful reintegration 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
 
¶4. (SBU) Ea Sup District officials underscored their commitment 
to reintegrate the returnees peacefully and to fulfill Vietnam's 
obligations under the Tripartite Agreement with UNHCR and the 
Cambodian Government.  The returnees were being treated fairly 
and humanely, the People's Committee Chairman assured us.  The 
Province had provided returnees with different forms of 
assistance (rice, seed, food, clothes, kerosene) under GVN and 
provincial-level rural development programs.  It was up to 
officials at the village level to decide what specific 
assistance was needed -- including providing housing and land 
grants -- after conducting interviews with the returnees. 
Because the families of some returnees were relatively well off, 
some individuals did not receive any assistance.  The officials 
said that they recognized the spiritual needs of the ethnic 
minority community in Ea Sup and were working to implement the 
GVN's new legal framework on religion.  That said, officials 
claimed that, unlike other areas of Dak Lak, Ea Sup had a small 
Protestant community that "freely worshiped in their homes." 
 
No Claims of Mistreatment 
------------------------- 
 
¶5. (SBU) Following the official meeting, we met with four 
returnees: R'Mah Deuk, Ksor Khinh, K'Pa Un, and R'Mah Wik.  All 
appeared healthy and in good spirits.  In response to our 
questions, they did not complain of any official harassment or 
physical abuse either before their flight to Cambodia, in UNHCR 
custody, or since their return to Vietnam in November.  None of 
the returnees was agitated; some smiled and laughed, others 
appeared shy and embarrassed to be in the spotlight.  All said 
that we were the first foreign visitors to meet them.  We also 
met with the parents and sister of a fifth returnee, K'Pa Samay; 
she had not yet returned from the family fields, where she was 
working.  Her parents said that she was treated well upon return 
and did not face harassment or discrimination.   (Note:  UNHCR 
Vietnam Mission Director Vu Anh Son told us that UNHCR had not 
yet visited the Ea Sup group but a visit was planned for 
mid-January.  End Note.) 
 
Economic Conditions:  Poor But Not Hungry 
----------------------------------------- 
 
¶6. (SBU) Government officials told us that the returnees and 
their families live below the poverty line according to new GVN 
income standards of 200,000 Dong (USD 27) per family member per 
month.  That said, the village -- and the returnees themselves 
-- were relatively prosperous, particularly in comparison to 
other ethnic minority villages that we have seen elsewhere in 
 
 
the Central Highlands.  Four returnee homes were electrified; 
the fifth household was waiting for the local government to 
connect the power line.  Three of the five households had 
motorbikes; two also had tractors.  Three had televisions.  A 
number also owned some water buffalo and cattle.  Government 
officials also said that the families of two of the returnees 
had received low-cost agricultural development loans of five and 
eight million Dong (USD 300 and USD 500 respectively) to help 
develop family land devoted to cashew-nut production. 
 
¶7. (SBU) According to data provided by local government 
officials and confirmed by the returnees and their families, the 
five households had landholdings of between 2 hectares and 5 
hectares of rice, corn, beans and cashew nuts.  (Note:  1 
hectare equals 2.47 acres.  End Note.)  Government officials 
observed that the villagers low level of education -- three of 
the five returnees were illiterate, the two others had a middle 
school education -- sharply reduced their overall productivity 
and income; better educated ethnic Vietnamese with similar 
property are far wealthier. 
 
Death of a Returnee 
------------------- 
 
¶8. (SBU) Local Government officials reported that Siu Hon, a 
26-year old, unmarried returnee was killed in a family 
altercation at the end of December.  According to the officials, 
during a family gathering, Hon and his brother became drunk and 
starting arguing.  During the course of the argument, Hon was 
stabbed by his brother and died.  His brother is under police 
custody at the local hospital, where he is being treated for 
wounds suffered during the altercation.  A second returnee 
family that lived near Hon privately confirmed the government 
report. 
 
Reason for Flight 
----------------- 
 
¶9. (SBU) Government Officials maintained that the returnees fled 
to Cambodia because of their marginal socio-economic condition. 
"Bad people" reportedly told them that were they to cross to 
Cambodia they would be resettled in the United States and the 
USG would ensure that they would "never have to work again." 
Overall, 19 persons from Ea Sup district fled to Cambodia since 
¶2004.  Another 24 fled after unrest in the region in 2001. 
Government officials asked us to emphasize to the returnees and 
their families that the reality in the U.S. was quite different 
from the rumors being spread in the ethnic minority communities 
in the Central Highlands. 
 
¶10. (SBU) The returnees were vague about why they crossed to 
Cambodia, but it appears that the entire group made the two-day 
crossing together.  Initially, the four returnees that we 
interviewed -- all young men between 16 and 23 -- told us that 
they went "for fun" or "were drunk" or were "following a 
friend."   During our interview, K'Pa Un, told us that 
unspecified friends told him that he could get resettled in the 
United States if he crossed to Cambodia.  Un and the other 
returnees said that, once in Cambodia they became disillusioned, 
missed their families and wanted to return home "as quickly as 
possible.  The parents of K'Pa Samay told us that they had no 
idea where their daughter had gone; they were working in the 
fields when their daughter set out for Cambodia.  They 
maintained that she did not explain why she left, and they did 
not ask. 
 
¶11.  (SBU) Unlike our discussions with returnees from Gia Lai 
province (reftel), none of the Ea Sup returnees said that they 
crossed to Cambodia because of fear of government repression or 
religious harassment.  Of the five ethnic minority families that 
we interviewed, three self-identified as Protestant, although 
none could or would state to which denomination they belonged. 
A fourth returnee was a lapsed Catholic, the fifth claimed to be 
an animist.  The Protestant families told us that the Government 
instructed the local congregation not to gather to observe 
Christmas, because there was neither a pastor nor church in the 
area.  As a consequence "extended families" gathered in 
individual homes to celebrate. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
¶12. (SBU) All the returnees were young, between 16 and 26. 
Although their present economic situation is relatively stable, 
their future is not bright.  They are severely uneducated, with 
little prospect for alternative employment other than working 
the family homestead.  However, family landholdings are too 
small to subdivide economically and the returnees are competing 
with their many other siblings for the family's land.  Moreover, 
the prospect of obtaining large tracts of additional land is 
dwindling over time.  Government fears over ethnic minority 
 
 
separatism and the role of the "Dega Protestant Church" in that 
movement also appears to be an unstated factor in encouraging 
the cross-border movement.  Ea Sup, which appears to have banned 
Protestant Christmas gatherings altogether, is one of the 
tougher districts in what hitherto has been the Central 
Highland's toughest province.  End Comment. 
WINNICK 
 
 
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