Cablegate: Ubcv Leaders Meet Despite Gvn Interference

Published: Wed 1 Oct 2003 01:24 AM
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) Leaders of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of
Vietnam (UBCV) met September 18-20 in Binh Dinh Province,
according to UBCV Deputy Thich Quang Do, despite some overt GVN
efforts to prevent the meeting from taking place. This is the
first time the UBCV leadership has been able to gather together
since the release from pagoda detention of UBCV Patriarch Thich
Huyen Quang and Thich Quang Do himself earlier this year. The
meeting, which focused largely on personnel issues and strategies
for seeking government recognition, took place at Nguyen Thieu
Pagoda in Quy Nhon City, the current home of Thich Huyen Quang.
2. (SBU) Thich Quang Do told ConGen the GVN had tried to prevent
some of the monks from reaching Quy Nhon, succeeding in at least
one case. He, UBCV General Secretary Thich Tue Sy, and others had
been able to travel from HCMC on September 15 without difficulty.
Others in their traveling party had been approached by the
authorities a few days before the trip and told not to associate
with the UBCV or take any leadership role in the organization.
These monks still chose to go to Quy Nhon, however, and linked up
with Thich Quang Do unimpeded.
3. (SBU) The GVN had unpredictable luck in trying to prevent
other UBCV leaders from traveling, according to the UBCV Deputy.
A contingent of five monks, including Thich Thien Hanh, were
driving through the rugged Hai Van Pass from Hue when their driver
received a call on his mobile phone telling him that his wife was
in labor. The five monks managed to hitch a ride the rest of the
way in a truck while their own driver returned to Hue. Thich Hai
Tang of Quang Tri Province did not fare so well, however. Police
twice prevented him from boarding vans for Binh Dinh, then
escorted him back to his pagoda in a police car and kept him there
until the meeting ended.
4. (SBU) Thich Quang Do also noted that Nguyen Thieu Pagoda was
surrounded by local religious affairs officials and police
throughout the meeting. While the authorities never entered the
actual meeting room at any time, he believed their searches of the
pagoda before the meeting were merely clumsy attempts to plant
listening devices. Despite these problems, Thich Quang Do readily
acknowledged that no one had attempted to interfere with the
proceedings once the meeting had begun. He promised to provide a
more detailed readout of the discussions in a future meeting with
ConGenoffs. He also thanked the ConGen for its concern over his
recent successful medical procedure to open a blocked artery.
5. (SBU) Thich Quang Do expressed concern that the GVN seemed to
be taking a step backward from the open-minded attitude displayed
by Prime Minister Phan Van Khai during his meeting with Thich
Huyen Quang in Hanoi earlier this year. As further evidence,
Thich Quang Do noted that a small delegation from the HCMC
Committee on Religious Affairs had visited him on September 11
(Mid-Autumn Day) to remind him that the UBCV still had no legal
6. (SBU) In a separate conversation prior to the meeting in Quy
Nhon, Thich Quang Do had told ConGen he regretted sending a letter
criticizing the GVN for allegedly kidnapping former UBCV monk
Thich Tri Luc from Cambodia (where he had gained UNHCR refugee
status) last year and holding him secretly in detention until now.
Blaming the mistake on poor internal UBCV communication and long
periods of detention, he said he had not known that Thich Tri Luc
had "secularized" in 1997. Under the circumstances, Thich Quang
Do said he did not plan to press the issue any further with the
GVN. But neither does he plan to retract his previous erroneous
letter. Thich Quang Do did provide ConGen with a copy of the
invitation the former monk's family had received from the HCMC
People's Court inviting them to attend his trial. While the trial
has been postponed indefinitely, Thich Quang Do promised to notify
ConGen if the family received any additional communications from
the court.
7. (SBU) Comment: Thich Quang Do and Thich Tue Sy were much
more sanguine in their characterization of events than the flurry
of press releases from the UBCV's Paris-based International
Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB) citing systematic
interrogations and threats of reprisals. Instructive, perhaps,
was Thich Tue Sy's recent comment to ConGen that the IBIB often
publishes things which are "incorrect."
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