Skip to comments.Vietnam army cracks down on minorities after protests
Posted on 04/12/2004 12:21:22 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
Security forces were patrolling yesterday in Vietnam's Central Highlands a day after police and troops dispersed hundreds of Montagnard ethnic minority marchers.
According to numerous political and police sources in Dak Lak province, hundreds of demonstrators took the streets in "violent protests" in the province's capital Buon Ma Thuot before being dispersed Saturday.
"The streets were quite messy yesterday. Now, the situation is normal. But security forces are everywhere," one witness in Buon Ma Thuoat told AFP.
Three years ago around 20,000 Montagnards in the Central Highlands protested over long-term confiscation of their land for use by ethnic Vietnamese or Kinh settlers and a crackdown on their evangelical Protestant faith.
Saturday's demonstrations came after the U.S.-based Montagnard Foundation (MFI) said people in the region would start a week-long non-violent demonstration of public prayer to press for religious freedom.
However an official from Dak Lak's People's Committee said: "There is nothing to worry about. Everything is under control. No one demonstrates." A police officer and a city dweller contacted by AFP also said the city was quiet.
A doctor in Dak Lak province general hospital said the hospital had received around 40 injured policemen and soldiers Saturday, most of them attacked with stones and sticks, but added none was in critical condition.
A police officer said Saturday that some protesters who attacked police had been arrested.
The MFI accuses Hanoi's communist regime of persecuting ethnic and religious minorities in the country. Several rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have also expressed concerns.
"All we want is to live as indigenous peoples on our ancestral lands without fear of persecution," MFI president Kok Ksor said in a statement.
But the government regularly rejects the allegations as "slanderous reports" and accuses the MFI of channelling money from U.S.-based Montagnard exiles who fought alongside U.S. troops during the Vietnam War to separatist groups and creating disorder.
A U.S. embassy spokesman in Hanoi said that American officers trying to reach Buon Ma Thuot on Saturday from Ho Chi Minh City by car were stopped in Binh Phuoc province by the police.
"They were told the area was not suitable for foreigners and had to turn round," he said.
Vietnam's ministry of foreign affairs has not been available for comment.
State media regularly praise Hanoi's efforts on poverty reduction and education policies to improve the lot of the indigenous population.
There is another group that I cannot find the link. They are a Vets group who have been going into the western Central Highlands with medical supplies for several years. They are a damn fine group. I will try to find the link. They deserve our help.
Kok Ksor and the Montagnards sided with the U.S. in the Vietnam War. Kok Ksor is a Montagnard who escaped from Saigon the day before it fell and has lived in the U.S. since 1975. He heads the South Carolina-based Montagnard Foundation that advocates for Montagnard rights in Vietnam.
Kok Ksor's 18-year-old niece, H'Ngon, was among those the Cambodians forcefully turned over to Vietnamese authorities. They then took her to an undisclosed location where she was repeatedly raped over three days and nights as retaliation for her uncle being a political activist in the USA, though she, herself, had done "nothing." She continues to suffer trauma from the horror.
When Kok Ksor's 80-year-old mother, H'ble Ksor, refused to read a document denouncing her son over Vietnamese TV in May 2001, security forces beat her, breaking three ribs, and threatened to kill her, even though she "never did anything to criticize the Vietnamese government," according to the Montagnard Foundation. She now suffers pain from her injuries, but is forbidden to leave her village to seek medical help.
Similarly, on Friday, January 31, Vietnamese authorities tortured and executed Y-Su Nie with lethal injection. He was arrested last November for being a Christian and land-rights advocate, though no specific words or actions have been cited. In Buonmathout Prison he was tortured by beatings and electric shock and forced to publicly denounce Kok Ksor and Christians before other Montagnard villagers, even though he apparently was never tried in an open court or found guilty of anything.
They handcuffed him on January 30 and told him he "would soon die, but because the Vietnamese government is merciful, we will allow you to see your family one last time." Then they injected him with a lethal poison and released him. When he reached his family, he cried and told them, "The government let me come to see you for a few moments before I die; the police have already injected my body with poison."
He died the next evening, even though he, also, apparently had done "nothing."
This is what is happening in the Highlands.