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MONTAGNARD FOUNDATION ADDRESSES EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT CONFERENCE

BRUSSELS STATEMENT DELIVERED 6 DECEMBER 2006

12/15/06 Vietnam (Montagnard Foundation) The President of the Montagnard Foundation Mr. Kok Ksor delivered the following statement on 6 December 2006 at a European Union Parliamentary conference held in Brussels chaired by Edward Mc-Millan Scott MEP (and Vice-President of the European Parliament) and Marco Pannella MEP (and Leader of the Transnational Radical Party). Mr. Kok Ksor notes that despite clear evidence of ongoing human rights violations committed by the government of Vietnam the European Commission has still avoided using the instruments at its disposal to strongly denounce this situation and states that it is very dangerous when agreements signed by the European Union are not respected, dangerous not only for the fate of the Montagnard Degar people but dangerous for the fate of the rule of law in Europe. The text of Mr. Ksor’s speech is as follows:

Dear Excellencies,

I am pleased to be able to speak here today on behalf of an indigenous population, my people, whose fate has been forgotten for a long time. This invitation represents a sign of attention towards an oppressed population and I hope that this conference will open the road for a real change in the policies of the European Union towards an authoritarian state such as Vietnam .

The Degar Montagnard people have been living for centuries in the central highlands of Vietnam and in the last decades the oppression against our people has increased, especially since the Vietnamese Communist Government established its control over our ancestral homelands after the end of the Vietnam War. A war, whose end did not bring peace to our people and to the Vietnamese citizens, but, it brought continued oppression and the denial of our fundamental human rights.

In particular, and despite the growth of the Vietnamese economy over the last fifteen years, and resulting from the huge financial support that the Vietnamese regime has received from the international community, and in particular from the European Union, there have been no signs of real improvement in the respect of human rights or political liberties in Vietnam.

The situation facing our people in the tightly controlled central highlands is dire. Over 350 of our people who advocated for human rights and indigenous land rights remain in prison, condemned only for speaking out against policies that many international institutions and NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have reported as openly discriminatory and oppressive.

Even my own relatives have been targeted including my 85 year old mother who had several ribs broken by security police during a beating in 2001 and my half brother who is now serving a 7 year prison sentence for trying to flee Vietnam as a refugee.

Since taking over South Vietnam the Vietnamese regime has unleashed a sophisticated form of revenge against our entire population that reads like a blueprint for genocide. Today the Vietnamese regime has confiscated virtually all of our ancestral lands, stealing our lifeblood – as we are indigenous peoples who live primarily by farming. Decades of internal migration policies have forced thousands of ethnic Vietnamese from the coast onto our lands, whereupon our people found themselves driven into a life of poverty.

The once great forests of the Central Highlands today have been virtually logged to oblivion by companies controlled by the Vietnamese military. In the 1990s the Vietnamese authorities increased coercive birth control programs on our women using threats, fines and financial incentives to force them to get surgically sterilized. We have refugee woman today in North Carolina who bear the scars from these operations.

The official policy for persecuting Christians was actually given a name, “Plan 184” and involves forcing our people to renounce their faith in official ceremonies, under threat of imprisonment and torture.

The horrors inside the prisons are appalling and only weeks ago on 30 August 2006 one of our Christian Brothers named “Thup” died in Ha Nam prison from abuse and torture.

On July 13, 2006 our Christian Brother, Y-Ngo Adrong, was tortured to death in the police interrogation room at Ea Hleo district, Daklak province.

In recent weeks especially while President Bush was visiting Hanoi in November for the APEC summit the Vietnamese authorities cracked down hard and security forces surrounded many of our villages threatening to shoot our people who disobey the lockdown. Police also confiscated hundreds of mobile cells phones from our people and tortured many of them. We also note that in September 2006 Reporters Without Borders identified that UK and US companies had recently sold cell phone monitoring equipment to Vietnam .

We, the Montagnard Foundation state clearly however, that we do not want to overthrow the government of Vietnam and do not seek an independent state. We only seek to ensure our people’s human rights so we can co-exist with the Vietnamese people as equal citizens.

While there are some reports of religious persecution in Vietnam making some progress, the persecution against our House Church Christians continues and the repression by the Vietnamese Government of individual freedoms has increased. The decades of religious persecution is still entrenched in Vietnam and our people still report arrests and abuses if they are house church Christians. The peaceful demonstrations seeking respect of land rights and religious freedom by our people in 2001 and in 2004 have been considered crimes against the State by Hanoi , and the violent repression by the authorities has lead to the killing of dozens of our brothers.

The Cooperation Agreement stipulated by the European Union and Vietnam in 1996 has in its article 1 the so-called democratic clause, whose text I believe is very clear to everyone. Article 1 states that: “Respect for human rights and democratic principles is the basis for the cooperation between the Parties and for the provisions of this Agreement, and it constitutes an essential element of the Agreement.”

After ten years of implementation of the cooperation agreement, and the disbursement of generous developmental aid from the European Union to Vietnam , no one can say that the Vietnamese Government has respected or made improvements in the respect of human rights and democratic principles. Despite this clear evidence, the European Commission has till now still avoided using the instruments at its disposal to strongly denounce this situation.

I really hope that the European Parliament, especially thanks to the initiative of the ALDE group and to the work of the Transnational Radical Party, that is fully supported by hundreds of my people who are currently political refugees in the United States, will be able to take concrete initiatives to make sure that the text of the agreement signed by the European Union is respected. It is in fact very dangerous when rules and agreements signed by the European Union are not respected. Not only for the fate of my people who live under oppression in the central highlands, but for the fate of democracy and the rule of law in Europe .

Our people cry out for your help. On behalf of them, the Degar Montagnard peoples, I sincerely thank you.