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(ANS) – New evidence shows that Vietnamese security forces are continuing to mistreat and arbitrarily detain Montagnards, indigenous hill people from the Central Highlands. Human Rights Watch (HRW) today in a new 16-page briefing paper said Vietnamese officials are also continuing to force Montagnard Christians to recant their faith. Targeted in particular are those perceived as following “Dega Christianity,” an unsanctioned form of evangelical Christianity followed by many Montagnards, who distrust government-controlled religious organizations and seek to manage their own affairs, HRW said in a report received by ASSIST News Service (ANS). Human Rights Watch said the Vietnamese government has banned Dega Christianity and charges that it is not a religion but a separatist political movement. “Montagnards who attempt to practice their religion independently still face assaults and live in fear,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The persecution of Montagnards for their religious beliefs and for their claims to ancestral lands continues unabated.” Human Rights Watch said that recent talks between Vietnam and the United States on Vietnam ‘s designation by the U.S. as a “Country of Particular Concern” for religious persecution have produced some commitments by the Vietnamese government to allow greater religious freedom. Registration requirements for some churches have been loosened, and the Prime Minister has issued a regulation banning the forced renunciation of religious beliefs. However, the regulation requires religious organizations to obtain government permission in order to operate. It states that only churches that have conducted “pure religious activities” since 1975 can register for official authorization. This effectively eliminates Montagnard house churches in the Central Highlands , most of which started up in the late 1980s and early 1990s. HRW says that in an ominous tone, the regulation instructs officials to publicly expose “disguised Protestants” and to “fight attempts by hostile forces to abuse Protestantism to incite people to act subversively.”

To read the full story, click here: RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION PERSISTS IN CENTRAL HIGHLANDS OF VIETNAM