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Vietnam Security Forces Attack Christian Tribes; Kill Prisoner

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife

BosNewsLife (8/17/06) – Missionaries on Wednesday, August 16, said Vietnamese authorities have stepped up attacks against predominantly Christian tribes in remote areas of the Communist-run country shortly after a Christian prisoner was allegedly killed by police.

“Authorities of one village in Vietnam burned the homes of nine Christians of the Hre tribe,” said US-based Christian Aid Mission (CAM) which supports native missionaries in Vietnam .

“A total of 36 people, including young children, were forced to flee their homes. Furthering the brutality, the policemen used knives, tree limbs and rods to assault them as they fled,” CAM told BosNewsLife.

“Many Christians in this same village have been tortured, injured and have had their homes burned or destroyed. All the churches in this remote area are prohibited from holding official services, and must secretly meet together in smaller groups,” added CAM .

Prisoner Killed

It did not provide more details for security reasons, but the Hre tribes are known to live in regions that include the Central Highlands of Vietnam where another group, the Montagnard Foundation Incorporated (MFI) also documented deadly attacks against prisoners of the predominantly Christian Monatagnard Degar group.

In the latest confirmed incident “a Montagnard Degar Christian named Y Ngo Adrong, 49, from Dak Lak Province was tortured to death in the police interrogation room at Ea H’Leo District of Dak Lak Province,” MFI told BosNewsLife.

He was allegedly summoned by police for interrogation about his Christian house church activities. The man» attended the police station at 7:30 am on this date of July 13, 2006. At about 11am the police from Ea H’Leo district went to Y Ngo Adrong’s village of Buon Le and told his family that he had hung himself at the police station,” MFI said.

Body Transferred

The next day, July 14, his body was transferred to a morgue from where one of his relatives brought the human remains to his birth village Buon Blec, MFI said. However “dozens of police surrounded the village, preventing nearby villagers from attending the funeral. The police also prevented his family from inspecting his body and refused to allow his family to remove his clothing,” added MFI, which has close contacts with Christians in the Central Highlands of Vietnam .

“Family members wanted to see his wounds but police refused to permit relatives to get near the body and kept close watch over the funeral. The police gave his family 15 million Vietnamese Dong (USD 937) in compensation and admitted they were wrong in causing his death,” without providing more details MFI claimed.

Vietnamese officials have in the past however denied human rights abuses and Christian rights groups of spreading Western propaganda. “The family, wife and children of Y Ngo Adrong suffer great emotional pain,” MFI said. There have been similar incidents in recent months against Monatgnard Degar prisoners in recent months, investigators say.

Hundreds Jailed

Over 350 Montagnard Degar prisoners remain in Vietnamese prisons for charges involving “merely standing up for human rights, for spreading Christianity or for fleeing to Cambodia ,” said MFI. Secular human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have drawn similar conclusions.

CAM said that despite reports of persecution ethnic minorities “have had tremendous evangelistic success, and leadership training has been a crucial need. One indigenous Vietnamese ministry planned on training approximately 1,700 tribal pastors; however, they only have the funds to train half that number,” CAM said.

“This ministry has been instrumental in reaching remote tribes with the Gospel, including the Khmer, a Cambodian people living in southern Vietnam . Khmer believers are heavily persecuted by the government, as well as by Buddhist monks.”

Tribal Dialects

CAM added that the ministry, which it did not name apparently for fear of, attracting attention from local officials, also prints and distributes Bibles and hymnals in nine different tribal dialects, and aids the families of imprisoned pastors.

Although the Vietnamese government has pledged to allow churches more freedoms, the US State Department said it remained concerned over reports of persecution in remote areas of Vietnam .

“Police and local officials in some areas strove to prevent Protestants who belonged to unregistered or unrecognized groups from assembling to worship. This situation was particularly acute in some areas of the Central Highlands ,” the State Department said in its recent Country Report on Human Rights Practices.