Cablegate: Vietnam and Unhcr -- Storm Clouds Remain

Published: Wed 28 Apr 2004 09:46 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) Summary. The GVN continues to blame UNHCR for a
role at least in encouraging flights by Montagnards from the
Central Highland and insists that the UNHCR staff in
Cambodia is "anti-Vietnam." The MFA has yet to agree to an
expected visit next week by senior UNHCR officials. While
the meeting likely will take place, Embassy is skeptical
that it will be productive. End Summary.
2. (SBU) In a conversation with Pol/C at a reception on
April 27, MFA Consular Department Director General Bui Dinh
Dinh (who has taken the lead on Montagnard and UNHCR issues
over the past several years, given this Department's
responsibility for the "protection" of Vietnamese nationals)
was quite direct in discussing what he claimed was the role
of the UNHCR staff in Cambodia in encouraging the flight of
Montagnards into Cambodia. (Reftel reports on similar
charges cited by AFM Nguyen Duc Hung to Ambassador shortly
after the April 10-11 demonstrations.) Dinh claimed that
the GVN had "proof" that UNHCR officials in Cambodia had
been active along the border offering payments of 500,000
VND (USD 35) to those who tried to cross and another US$300
payment to those who succeeded. He claimed that the "proof"
was detailed as to places, persons, and exact times, and
included many instances. He cited these alleged actions as
further "proof" of anti-Vietnam policy by UNHCR.
3. (SBU) Pol/C maintained his belief that there was not
now nor had ever been any UNHCR policy to USG knowledge to
encourage border crossings or to offer payments to
Montagnards who tried or succeeded in entering Cambodia. He
noted that, even if there may have been private individuals
offering assistance or encouragement, the GVN needed to be
very cautious in distinguishing between such private acts
and UNHCR policy and actions. He stressed that UNHCR had an
explicit mandate to examine asylum requests and to aid those
determined to have a valid claim to refugee status, and that
UNHCR's international reputation for fulfilling its mandate
was outstanding. He urged the GVN to be very careful
before making such accusations and to refrain from lashing
out publicly against such a respected institution. Dinh,
noting that he was a trained international lawyer, asserted
that UNHCR actions in Cambodia vis-a-vis the Montagnards
were in no way consistent with international law.
4. (SBU) Dinh, citing a "lack of goodwill" from UNHCR,
added that the MFA had yet to agree to a planned May 3-4
visit to Hanoi by UNHCR Asia Director Fakhouri and Bangkok-
based regional director Uktan. (Note: They are scheduled
to meet with Ambassador and Pol/C on May 3. End note)
Pol/C emphasized that UNHCR's willingness to send such
senior officials to Vietnam was itself an act of goodwill,
and urged the MFA to proceed with the meetings and re-
institute formal dialogue with the UNHCR, as well as to seek
ways in which UNHCR could be a part of the solution to the
long-standing Montagnard issue. He also urged the GVN to
take further steps to improve the situation in the Central
Highlands so that the impetus for leaving Vietnam would
diminish, and to make local residents less susceptible to
any blandishments or encouragement from what the GVN
believes are "hostile forces."
5. (SBU) Ambassadors from New Zealand, Australia, Norway,
and Switzerland, as well as a group representing UN agencies
in Vietnam, are tentatively scheduled to visit the Central
Highlands on a GVN-arranged trip during the week of May 10.
One expressed concern to Pol/C about the utility of such a
trip at this time, and asked for a full read-out after the
ongoing trip by US missionoffs.
6. (SBU) Comment: Not for the first time, the GVN prefers
to blame outside scapegoats for troubles here. GVN
officials have clearly not yet gotten our message to work
with UNHCR as part of the solution, and unfortunately still
seem bent on proceeding in exactly the opposite direction.
We believe that the MFA will in the end agree to see the
UNHCR delegation, but predict a stormy session that is
likely to be counterproductive.
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media