Vietnam continues to violate Montagnard human rights because they are Christian

Hanoi, Vietnam – The Vietnamese government continues to pursue policies that violate human rights, in particular those of the largely Christian Montagnard ethnic minority, this according to reports from an NGO, the Montagnard Foundation Incorporated (MFI).

The organisation, which has close contacts in many of Vietnam’s regions, including mountain areas near the Lao border, announced on May 29 that Vietnamese security forces “commenced excavation of tunnels at the mountain of Cu Ming and Cu Da to store ammunition, arms and various military equipments. The villagers in the surrounding area were forcibly restricted from leaving or entering their villages.”

On May 29 Vietnamese soldiers and police invaded the village of Buon Jun Yuh “searching for 300 Degar villagers from this village and the village of Buon V who ha recently escaped across the border to Cambodia.”

According to the MFI the villagers fled to avoid “”arrests and torture” by security forces. It said security forces had tried to forcibly restrict the Degar Montagnard villagers in the area from leaving, preventing them from attending to their farms and cattle.

The organisation also reports that an estimated 350 Degar Montagnard Christians are in Vietnamese prisons because of their faith. It reported that security forces are trying to isolate the communities living in the central plateaus from the outside world.

On May 12, an estimated 250 Vietnamese soldiers began sweeping operations near the village of Buon Dak Ndrung in DakNo province “searching for anyone with a cell phone”. About 70 police officers also searched for mobile phones in the village of Dak Rteh, also in Daknong province. According to MFI, similar operations took place in April in several villages of Daklak province.

Vietnam remains on the US State Department’s list of countries violating human rights and religious freedom.

The government in Hanoi has been particularly harsh with the Montagnard minority. For years, the Montagnards have suffered from religious persecution and land confiscation, accused by the authorities of observing “an American religion” and cooperating with US troops during the Vietnam War.

Vietnamese authorities have strongly denied allegations of human rights abuse and describe reports of persecution as “Western propaganda”.