Cablegate: Ambassador Visits Ubcv Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang

Published: Fri 26 Nov 2004 08:34 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) HCM 572; B) Hanoi 3187
1. (SBU) Summary: The Ambassador visited the Most Venerable Thich
Huyen Quang, Patriarch of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of
Vietnam (UBCV), at Quy Nhon General Hospital November 21. Thich
Huyen Quang confirmed that he remains under unofficial pagoda
arrest, although local officials arranged his hospitalization.
The 86-year-old monk expressed his gratitude for the ambassador's
visit and sought USG support for the creation of a religious
school for its monks. Unlike UBCV General Secretary Thich Quang
Do, who sharply attacked the GVN in a November 21 meeting in HCMC
(septel), the patriarch did not raise broader political issues
with the Ambassador. In a separate meeting, Chairman of the Binh
Dinh Provincial People's Committee told the Ambassador that Thich
Huyen Quang "may request permission to travel as soon as he is
healthy" and that he would allow it. End Summary.
2. (SBU) On November 21, the Ambassador met for 20 minutes with
UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang in a VIP room at Quy Nhon General
Hospital. The 86-year-old religious leader has been receiving
treatment for a stomach hemorrhage; local GVN officials arranged
for his hospitalization on November 18. Thich Huyen Quang was on
an IV drip and remained in bed throughout the visit, but his voice
was strong and he greeted the Ambassador with a firm handshake.
Thich Huyen Quang stated that his health had improved
considerably, and he expected to be released the next day. (Note:
Currently, he remains in the hospital.) Although local officials
accompanied the Ambassador to the hospital, the meeting was
private except for two doctors and one nurse who remained in the
3. (SBU) Contradicting information circulating on the internet
that local officials refused to provide medical treatment to him
in the past, Thich Huyen Quang stated he had not made any previous
requests for treatment, although he acknowledged that he had been
ill for some time. When asked why he did not receive treatment
earlier, he simply said he "didn't think of it." Thich Huyen
Quang confirmed that prior to his hospitalization, he was not
allowed to leave his pagoda, remaining under virtual house arrest
since October 2003 when he was stopped from traveling to Ho Chi
Minh City with other UBCV monks. He stated that it was "very
difficult" for him to communicate with UBCV Deputy Head Thich
Quang Do in Ho Chi Minh City who is also under unofficial pagoda
arrest. He did not directly respond to the Ambassador's offer of
USG assistance to try to facilitate the visit of his UBCV Deputy.
On November 22, HCMC and Dong Nai province police forces prevented
Thich Quang Do from visiting. (DAS Dugan's November 21 visit with
UBCV General Secretary Thich Quang Do and Thich Quang Do's failed
attempt to travel to visit his mentor will be reported septel.)
4. (SBU) In contrast to his statements to Ambassador Burghardt in
April 2004 (Ref. A), Thich Huyen Quang said he saw "no reason" why
the outlawed UBCV should merge with the GVN-recognized Vietnam
Buddhist Sangha (VBS). When asked what the Ambassador could do
for him, Thich Huyen Quang emphasized the UBCV's need to establish
a school to train its next generation of leaders from primary
school through graduate studies.
Provincial Leadership Takes Conciliatory Tone
5. (SBU) In a subsequent meeting, Mr. Vu Hoang Ha, Chairman of the
Binh Dinh Provincial People's Committee, told the Ambassador that
Thich Huyen Quang "may request permission to travel as soon as he
is healthy" and indicated that he would approve the request.
Chairman Ha expressed his frustration with dealing with the UBCV
and pointed out that he and other senior provincial officials had
visited Thich Huyen Quang several times over the past year and had
promptly transferred the UBCV leader to the hospital in response
to his request. Ha noted that two officers of the Ministry of
Public Security had donated blood when Quang was in need of a
blood transfusion the previous week. He also claimed that his
staff had been arranging for Thich Huyen Quang to travel to Hanoi
"earlier this month," but those plans had to shelved due to the
Patriarch's health problems.
6. (SBU) When asked by the Ambassador why an ill 86-year-old man
was seen as a threat to the GVN, Chairman Ha said that the UBCV
brought on their current problems with the GVN themselves by
holding an "illegal Congress" in September 2003 (reftel). Ha
stated that the UBCV could only hold such meetings if it was a
registered religious group. The Ambassador pointed out the
difficulty in registering a religious group without first holding
internal discussions about the issue. Ha replied that the GVN
does not wish to be involved in the UBCV's deliberations on
whether to unify with the VBS or seek to register as a separate
religious organization, but offered no suggestions as to how its
leaders could come to such a decision when they are not permitted
to meet or even speak to each other.
7. (SBU) Comment: While we would like to think otherwise, Chairman
Ha is not likely to be able to fulfill his promise of more lenient
treatment for Thich Huyen Quang in the future. In October 2003,
Thich Huyen Quang was allowed to leave Binh Dinh Province, only to
be stopped in Khanh Hoa Province on his way to Ho Chi Minh City.
Upon his return to Binh Dinh, Quang was placed under unofficial
pagoda arrest. The GVN's decision to prevent Thich Quang Do from
traveling from HCMC to visit his ailing mentor probably is a more
accurate gauge of GVN attitudes towards the UBCV and reflects its
intention to keep the UBCV on a very tight leash. End Comment.
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