07ASTANA1371, KAZAKHSTAN: FUTURE OF HARE KRISHNA COMMUNE REMAINS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASTANA1371 2007-05-21 11:09 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO1348
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #1371/01 1411109
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211109Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9504
INFO RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0171
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0453
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0472
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1743

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 001371 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR SCA/CEN (M. O'MARA) 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL KDEM KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: FUTURE OF HARE KRISHNA COMMUNE REMAINS 
PRECARIOUS 
 
REF: A. 06 ASTANA 651, B. 06 ASTANA 668, C. 06 ASTANA 903 
 D. ASTANA 232 
 
ASTANA 00001371  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
1. (SBU) Summary:  Various government officials have assured the 
Hare Krishnas that their ongoing property dispute with local 
officials will be resolved fairly and peacefully, through 
negotiations.  Although there is hope that an acceptable resolution 
will be found, so far the Hare Krishnas report only confusion and 
roadblocks in dealing with the national government, and local 
authorities continue to threaten the demolition of additional Hare 
Krishna cottages. End summary. 
 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
SINCERE NEGOTIATIONS OR PUBLIC RELATIONS COVER? 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
 
2. (SBU) Throughout the winter, various government officials assured 
the Hare Krishnas and other observers that their ongoing property 
dispute with Karasai district officials would be resolved fairly and 
peacefully, through negotiations, and signaled that the resolution 
will involve a new plot of land for the Hare Krishnas.  In February, 
Amanbek Mukhashov, vice chairman of the Religious Issues Committee 
(RIC) publicly stated that the Hare Krishnas would be allotted 
another plot of land, and ordered them to work with local 
authorities to find a piece of land. In private conversations with 
Poloff, the Hare Krishna leadership indicated they were ready to 
consider moving, as they were not optimistic they would ever receive 
fair treatment from Karasai district officials or the court system. 
However, the Hare Krishnas stated that a new plot of land was not 
the only issue; they also wanted compensation for the investments 
they made in their current property, including for the homes that 
were demolished by local officials (Ref A). 
 
3. (SBU) On March 13, local akimat officials instructed the Hare 
Krishnas to relocate to a piece of land 70 kilometers northeast of 
Almaty.  The Hare Krishnas visited the land on March 16, but found 
it to be deserted, arid, saline land with virtually no vegetation. 
Accordingly, they rejected the land, though they remained open to 
further negotiations. 
 
4. (SBU) On March 30, local Krishna leader Govinda Swami met with 
Kazakhstan's Human Rights Ombudsman Bolat Baykadamov and one of his 
staff members at an OSCE conference in Vienna. Govinda Swami, a U.S. 
citizen, was accompanied by Liza Zhumakhmetova, a legal adviser in 
the OSCE's Human Dimension Office in Almaty, and Ninel Fokina of the 
Almaty Helsinki Committee.  According to Govinda Swami, Baykadamov 
said that the Presidential Administration was now handling the 
matter on behalf of the government, and wanted to inform the OSCE, 
foreign government delegations, and the Hare Krishnas that the 
matter would be resolved quickly because it was becoming an 
impediment to Kazakhstan's OSCE chairmanship bid. Baykadamov said 
the Presidential Administration blamed the predicament on "bad acts" 
by the Karasai district officials and the RIC, and wanted to work 
with the Hare Krishnas to find an alternate location for a worship 
Center in Almaty, as well as discuss compensation for the destroyed 
homes. According to Baykadamov, Karasai district officials and the 
RIC would no longer be involved in the matter. 
 
5. (U) On April 5, Baykadamov returned to Kazakhstan and made a 
public statement on the Hare Krishna issue. He insisted that the 
November demolition of Hare Krishna cottages was legal. He announced 
that he had met with Govinda Swami in Vienna and conveyed the 
Government of Kazakhstan's message that it was ready to provide 
another piece of land in Almaty for construction of a new temple. In 
addition, he stated that the government was ready to find a solution 
for the Hare Krishna's other issues, including another piece of land 
where they can raise cows and compensation for the resources 
invested into development of their property in the Karasai 
district. 
 
6. (SBU) On April 20, after hearing nothing from the government, the 
Hare Krishnas contacted Baykadamov about the situation.  Baykadamov 
reportedly retracted the statements he made in Vienna, stating that 
the Presidential Administration was not involved in the matter and 
never would be.  He informed the Hare Krishnas that they needed to 
work through the RIC and local officials, the same parties that the 
Hare Krishnas have been dealing with all along.  In frustration, the 
Hare Krishnas now allege that Baykadamov's comments in Vienna and to 
the media were part of a larger propaganda campaign to assure the 
OSCE and other Western observers that Kazakhstan is effectively and 
responsibly resolving the dispute. 
 
7. (SBU) After the about-face from Baykadamov, the Hare Krishnas 
contacted Yeraly Tugzhanov, chairman of the RIC, to proceed with the 
negotiati
ons.  According to Govinda Swami, Tugzhanov informed them 
 
ASTANA 00001371  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
that he was working with the Almaty city administration, and 
instructed the Hare Krishnas to apply for land in Almaty to 
establish a worship center.  The Hare Krishnas did so, but were told 
by Almaty city officials that they knew nothing of the situation and 
had no instructions from the RIC.  On May 18, the Hare Krishna 
leadership travel to Astana to meet with Tugzhanov, who again 
promised to work with Almaty city officials and make progress in 
finding a suitable piece of land. 
 
------------------------- 
DEMOLITION THREAT REMAINS 
------------------------- 
 
8. (SBU) In the meantime, Karasai district officials have continued 
their legal campaign against the Hare Krishna commune outside of 
Almaty.  On May 3, commune leader Viktor Golous received a call from 
local court executors that additional demolitions would occur the 
next morning, May 4, at 10 a.m.  The Hare Krishnas immediately began 
informing their supporters and calling their contacts in the 
government.  According to Golous, Tugzhanov of the RIC informed them 
that he could not help them and could not interfere with a court 
action. Poloff contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the 
matter, but officials there were unaware of any planned demolitions. 
 On May 3, deputy head of the Presidential Administration Maulen 
Ashimbayev, who was well-briefed on the issue but not aware of the 
demolition order, assured the Ambassador that the GOK wanted to 
resolve the dispute through negotiations. 
 
9. (SBU) On May 4, several journalists, Pol FSN, and an OSCE 
observer proceeded to the Hare Krishna commune to observe the 
demolitions.  Though the electricity was shut off for a while, no 
police or demolition crews arrived, and no demolitions took place. 
Amanbek Mukhashov, vice chairman of the RIC, later informed Poloff 
that no demolitions were ever planned, and the matter would be 
resolved through negotiations. 
 
10. (U) On May 8, the Supreme Court issued yet another ruling 
against the Hare Krishnas, this time concerning the 116 acre parcel 
of farmland as opposed to the cottages that have been the subject of 
the demolitions and demolition orders.  The ruling stated that the 
Hare Krishnas no longer have a right to use the land, and clears the 
way for authorities to confiscate the land at any time and transfer 
it to the Karasai district land reserve.  The Hare Krishnas 
criticized the ruling as another in a long series of unfair adverse 
court rulings. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
11. (SBU) Comment: There is some hope that the Hare Krishnas will 
find a minimally acceptable solution to their multi-year property 
dispute.  Officials in Astana are consistent in their stated desire 
to solve the problem by finding new land for the Hare Krishnas, and 
have thus far managed to forestall any further demolitions by 
aggressive local authorities.  The beleaguered Hare Krishnas are 
prepared to leave their commune in the Karasai district, assuming 
they are provided with suitable land for their place of worship, 
their animals and farming activity, and compensation for their 
substantial investment in the current commune property.  However, 
the government's eagerness to tell the world that it has peacefully 
resolved the problem appears greater than its actual desire to do 
so, given the slow pace of constructive negotiations and the 
continued aggression of local authorities.  Post will continue to 
monitor the situation and engage with government officials in 
support of a nonviolent, fair resolution.  End comment. 
 
ORDWAY

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