Vietnam's Relentless Repression of Montagnard Christians
Indigenous Montagnards Targeted for Religious and Political Persecution
May 3, 2018 - Vietnamese authorities continue to target indigenous minority Christians known as Montagnards for harsh persecution, according to a 25-page report published today by the Montagnard Human Rights Organization (MHRO) and the Campaign to Abolish Torture in Vietnam (CAT-VN).
“We Montagnards are treated like enemies in our homeland,” said Nay Rong, executive director of the Montagnard Human Rights Organization. “If we try to practice our religion independently or resist confiscation of our land, we are accused of being ‘spies’ or wanting to overthrow the government.”
Singled out are Montagnard Christians who worship in independent house churches, rather than affiliating with state-authorized religious organizations. The report documents the ongoing practice by government officials of forcing Montagnard Christians to publicly recant their religion; those who continue to worship in independent house churches face beatings, arrest, and imprisonment.
In March, Vietnamese state media reported that police in Gia Lai province arrested 25 Montagnard Christians. They were accused of proselytizing an unsanctioned religion known as Dega Protestantism under the direction of Montagnards abroad, and using the internet to “disseminate false information about land, religion, and human rights to slander the Vietnamese government”. The current whereabouts of those arrested is unknown.
Montagnards who resist confiscation of their ancestral lands are subjected to beatings and arrest by police. In July 2016, for example, police violently dispersed a demonstration by 400 Montagnard villagers in Buon Ma Thuot, Dak Lak Province protesting against the sale of 100 hectares of the community’s ancestral land to a private company. Twenty demonstrators were injured and seven were arrested and held in incommunicado detention.
Internet use by Montagnards is closely monitored by the Ministry of Public Security, which launched an operation in 2014 to prevent Montagnards from accessing or sharing “anti-government” material on the internet. The report documents the arrests of several Montagnards for using the internet to communicate with Montagnard activists abroad, with at least one sentenced to prison and others forced to confess their wrongdoings in public meetings broadcast on state television.
At least 60 Montagnards are currently serving prison sentences of up to 17 years for simply exercising their rights to peaceful dissent and independent worship. While Montagnards make up less than 2 percent of the population of Vietnam, they comprise as much as 50 percent of the numbers of prisoners of conscience in Vietnam.(1)
“The Vietnam government continues to arrest, torture and jail Montagnard Christians for their religious or political beliefs,” said Nay Rong. “At least 25 Montagnards have died in prison as a result of torture and mistreatment.”
The result of Vietnam’s harsh persecution of Montagnard Christians has been a flow of refugees to Cambodia and Thailand. “Until Vietnam ends its systematic repression, Montagnards will continue to try to flee to neighboring countries to seek asylum,” Nay Rong said.
The report documents punitive treatment of Montagnard asylum seekers returned to Vietnam, including detention, interrogation, physical abuse, and forced confessions of wrongdoings broadcast on state television.
“Relentless persecution of Montagnard Christians in Vietnam, as documented in this report, make it imperative that Cambodia and Thailand refrain from forcibly sending Montagnard asylum seekers back to Vietnam, where they face substantial risk of being arrested and tortured,” said Nguyen Dinh Thang, president of Boat People SOS and co-founder of CAT-VN.
The 1951 Refugee Convention and the U.N. Convention Against Torture protect persons from being returned to countries where they would be in danger of torture or face risks to their lives or their freedom.
MHRO and CAT-VN call on the United States to designate Vietnam as a country of particular concern (CPC) for its systematic, egregious and ongoing violations of religious freedom. The groups also urge the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom to apply sanctions against individual perpetrators of human rights violations under the Magnitsky laws of those countries.
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(1) The NOW! Campaign has published a list of 165 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam, of whom 72, or 44 percent, are Montagnards. Human Rights Watch’s most recent list of prisoners of conscience in Vietnam includes 59 Montagnards, or 56 percent, of a total of 105 prisoners. See: Now! Campaign, “Analysis of Findings,” https://www.vietnampocs.com/analysis and Human Rights Watch, “Vietnam: Release All Political Prisoners – Over 100 Behind Bars,” November 3, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/11/03/vietnam-release-all-political-prisoners
For more information, please contact:
Nay Rong, email: email@example.com; tel: (+1) 919-592-4298
Nguyen Dinh Thang, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, tel: (+1) 703-538-2190
The Montagnard Human Rights Organization (MHRO) is a non-profit organization founded in 1998 to improve the human rights and life for Montagnards in the Central Highlands of Vietnam and to advocate for Montagnard self-determination in Vietnam. MHRO’s mission includes refugee protection, family unity, advocacy, and comprehensive immigration services to all refugees. http://www.mhro.org/
The Campaign to Abolish Torture in Vietnam (CAT-VN) was formed in 2014 to advocate for the elimination of all forms of torture in Vietnam. CAT-VN monitors and reports instances of torture and mistreatment of detainees and prisoners in Vietnam, and proposes specific recommendations to the Vietnamese government and international stakeholders on practical approaches to systematically prevent and abolish torture in Vietnam. http://www.stoptorture-vn.org/