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Vietnam Tortures Christian Degar Montagnards: Urgent Concerns for their safety as some Flee Arrest

The Montagnard Foundation

BACKGROUND: The indigenous Montagnards (Degar) Peoples have suffered decades of persecution by the government of Vietnam , namely; confiscation of their ancestral lands, Christian religious repression, torture, killings and imprisonment. In March 2006 the US State Department has continued to maintain Vietnam on the “watch list” of countries that are the worst violators of religious freedom and over 300 Montagnards still remain in Vietnamese prisons. Religious and ethnic persecution continues against the indigenous Montagnards while Vietnam continues negotiations to gain accession into the World Trade Organization. Vietnam also continues to take repressive measures to prevent human rights abuses from reaching the international community however, the following abuses have just been received direct from inside the Central Highlands .

Beaten Unconscious for Refusing to join the Official Government Church

On March 2, 2006 the Vietnamese government committee from Ia Ko commune summoned our Christian Brother Siu Phon, (age 46, from the village of Plei Sur ) to meet with them at their commune office. The authorities initially spoke kindly to him about why he refused to join the official government recognized church but then took him to the police station at Cu Se district in Gialai province. There the police tortured Siu Phon by repeatedly punching and kicking him until he lost control of his bowels and he collapsed unconscious on the prison floor covered in his own excrement. Siu Phon had refused to abandon Christianity and refused to join the church that is recognized by the government. He is now imprisoned at the prison facility in Cu Se district and the condition of his health is unknown.

Arrested for refusing to join the Official Government Church

On March 5, 2006 the Vietnamese government committee from Ia Ko commune summoned our Christian Brother, Siu Thit (age 43, from the village of Plei Sur ) to meet with them at their commune office. He attended the meeting with his wife and when they arrived at the commune office he was arrested by police for refusing to join the official government recognized Church. The police took him to the police station at Cu Se district in Gialai province and sent his wife away. It is unknown what has happened to Siu Thit at this time but it is feared he was tortured like Siu Phon above. He is now imprisoned at the prison facility in Cu Se district and the condition of his health is unknown.

Christians flee to Jungle fearing Arrest and Torture: Village Ransacked by Police

On March 7, 2006 the Vietnamese government committee from Ia Ko commune summoned five of our Christian Brothers (from Plei Sur village in Cu Se district, GiaLai province) to meet with them at their commune office. Their names are:

q Rmah Anoc age 27

q Rmah Plik age 47

q Rmah Kul age 34

q Rmah Suaih age 32

q Kpa Huin age 30

These five Christians Montagnards knew what had happened to Siu Phon and Siu Thit and fearing torture they did not attend the commune meeting. The commune committee then sent police to arrest them in their village and the police ransacked the houses in Plei Sur village searching for them. Unable to locate the five Christians the police then threatened the villagers and their families. These five Christians are now on the run and it is greatly feared they will be tortured or killed if found by police.

Montagnard Christians walk out of Church as Authorities Place Picture of Ho Chi Minh in Church

On February 2, 2006 Vietnamese government officials commenced public relations ceremonies at a church built for the Montagnard people at Plei Batel , Ia Hru commune, Cu Se district, Gialai province. The officials included Montagnard government Church leader named Siu Pek and Siu Kim, and a Vietnamese official named Thay Hung. Many Vietnamese from Ho Chi Minh City also came to join them at the service. Siu Kim a Montagnard working for the government led the service and had invited 10,000 Montagnard Christians in the area to participate in the dedication ceremony. Only a few followers of Siu Kim came to the ceremony however, and inside the church the officials placed a big picture of Ho Chi Minh and the national flag. They started the opening service by worshipping Ho Chi Minh, singing songs praising him and then telling stories how brave the Vietnamese people are for defeating the French and Americans in the wars. After this Siu Kim started to preach but the Montagnards then commenced leaving the church one by one, not happy with Ho Chi Minh’s picture being placed in the Church.

The Montagnard Christians who attended the Church reported to the Montagnard Foundation that they did not see a picture of Jesus, or Mary or the cross at the Church ceremony. The Montagnard Christians were also told they are not allowed to place a cross on graves of their relatives, but only flowers. The authorities told the Montagnard Christians that anyone who places a cross on a grave will be arrested.

The Montagnard Foundation states that the Degar Montagnard people will however, respect Vietnamese leaders such as Ho Chi Minh but that they will refuse to worship him as their god and they will not tolerate his picture in Church. The Montagnard Degar people do not become Christian because they want to overthrow the government of Vietnam or demand independence. The Bible teaches Christians to do morally right things and to be good citizens that respect their government. Thus the Vietnamese communist government should cease all religious persecution and interference in Montagnard religious affairs.

This is how the Vietnamese communist government is continuing religious repression today in March 2006 by carrying out a policy amounting to “creeping genocide” towards the Montagnard Degar people. They threaten Montagnards with arrest and torture, forcing our people to hide in the jungles. Then the Vietnamese government uses this as an excuse to conduct sweeping operations giving their soldiers the right to persecute and even kill our people. It is not enough for them to confiscate our ancestral farmlands but it seems the Vietnamese government policy is also to repress us so they can force us into poverty in order to eliminate our people and our livelihood.