Vietnam party chief visits troubled highlands

HANOI - Vietnam's Communist Party chief Nong Duc Manh has urged soldiers to try to win over the hearts and minds of people in the troubled Central Highlands region following disputes over land rights and religion.

The Communist Party's official newspaper reported on Saturday that Manh addressed soldiers in Kontum province in first visit to the Central Highlands since being elected Party chief in April, urging them to build a "fighting position in the people's hearts" in the strategic region.

Kontum was one of several provinces in the Central Highlands hit by ethnic unrest from February over land rights and religion, leading a shaken communist government, unused to open shows of dissent, to send in large numbers of troops to restore order.

The newspaper said Manh told members of the Catholic community on Wednesday and Thursday to pay closer attention to revolutionary tradition, national unity and unity between ordinary people and religious followers in order to work together to reduce poverty and eliminate hunger.

Ending a two-day visit to another highland province, Daklak, on Tuesday, Manh told local authorities and the people to stay on alert against "plots by hostile forces aimed at dividing national unity." Official media has blamed the unrest on agitation overseas exile groups.

07:12 09-15-01

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