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(Compass) – Government authorities continue to apply unrelenting pressure on tribal Christians in the Central Highlands of Vietnam . The most recent phase of the long-standing conflict commenced in April 2004, when thousands of Montagnards joined protests against the confiscation of tribal lands and the severe repression of the Christian faith. The government subsequently sent a special “peace corps” to the poverty-stricken region. But the corps really serves as “spies and guards,” according to sources in Vietnam . After its arrival, eight men in Dak Lak province were arrested and severely beaten. Church sources report that eight men were killed in Gia Lai province; four were shot and four were beaten to death. In July, 198 Montagnard refugees were airlifted from the Cambodian border province of Ratanakiri to Phnom Penh . One Vietnamese source told Compass that the rescue operation could encourage others to flee Vietnam . “It’s hard to describe the desperation people are feeling,” he said. “Vietnamese authorities tell everyone that the highlands are a place of peace, happiness and ethnic equality. But in reality they make it a hell for the Montagnards.”