Cablegate: Gvn "Closes" Central Highlands to Foreigners,

Published: Mon 12 Apr 2004 10:20 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
Ref: A. HCMC 391 B. Hanoi 692
1. (SBU) Summary: Embassy and ConGen officers, who had been
told the Central Highlands were "closed" to foreigners after
demonstrations there turned violent, were stopped by police
from traveling to the Central Highlands town of Buon Ma
Thuot, in the province of Dak Lak, on April 10. Police
stopped ConGen HCMC vehicle at a toll station and informed
Mission Officers that they would not be allowed to proceed
to the region as the situation was "not suitable" for
foreigners. Some Vietnamese travelers were also reportedly
stopped. We have not been informed officially by MFA of
these restrictions, however, and have asked to meet to
discuss. End Summary.
2. (SBU) Septel from ConGen will report additionally on
Easter weekend disturbances in the Central Highlands (ref
a), and septel from Embassy will comment on their
significance and implications.
3. (U) On the morning of Saturday, April 10, Mission
Officers were informed by officials from the Ho Chi Minh
City External Relations Office (ERO) that they must postpone
their previously-scheduled trip (ref b) to the Central
Highlands provinces of Dak Lak, Gai Lai, and Kon Tum, and
that their appointments in the region (which had been
confirmed on the afternoon of April 9) had all been
cancelled for now. The ERO official added that the entire
Central Highlands region was "closed to foreigners for
security reasons." After consulting with Mission
leadership, missionoffs attempted to travel overland to the
Central Highlands to assess the situation firsthand.
3. (SBU) Missionoffs proceeded as far as the town of Dong
Xoai in Binh Phuoc province, about 2 1/2 hours from HCMC and
2 hours from Dak Lak province, where they were stopped by
police at a toll station. Called into the toll station's
office, they were met by two police officers who identified
themselves as provincial immigration police. The police
noted that Missionoffs had already been told by the ERO that
they could not travel to the Central Highlands. Saying that
the region was "not suitable" for foreigners, they politely
but firmly informed Missionoffs that they would not be
allowed to proceed. The police did note that Vietnamese
citizens "with a reason to travel" to Dak Lak province were
being allowed to continue, but said that other Vietnamese
visitors were being asked to delay their trips. The police
claimed that vehicles traveling from the region had shown
signs of damage from rocks thrown by ethnic minority persons
on the roadside. After Missionoffs began driving back to
HCMC, police followed them for several miles.
4. (SBU) On the morning of April 11, Missionoffs inquired
about purchasing tickets for a flight to the Central
Highlands town of Pleiku, in Gia Lai province. Vietnam
Airlines ticket agents informed officers that foreigners
were not being allowed to fly to Buon Ma Thuot or Pleiku,
although they were allowed to fly to Dalat, in the Central
Highlands province of Lam Dong. Travel by air for
Vietnamese citizens did not appear to be restricted. The
MFA told DCM on April 10 that the missionsoffs "cannot and
should not" even try to take a flight to Pleiku.
5. (U) As of COB April 12, the MFA has not formally
informed Embassy of new restrictions on our in-country
travel. We have requested an appointment to discuss ASAP.
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