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Vietnamese Government Targets Christians’ Cell Phones

ICC Note: Socialist nation taps cell phones to cut off religious freedom discussions

5/10/10 Vietnam (WND) – Vietnamese officials are purchasing phone snooping gear so they can listen in on Christians’ phone calls, reports persecution watchdog International Christian Concern.

ICC Regional Manager Logan Maurer reports that the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’s security apparatus has purchased phone eavesdropping software and are able to monitor all cell phone calls. This allows them to directly interfere with communications.

“Whenever an international conversation turns to human rights and religious freedom, the call is disconnected,” Maurer explained. “This is a very recent development that has severely impacted the amount of information we get out of the country.”

Montagnard Foundation President Kok Ksor, whose organization works to preserve the culture of Vietnam’s indigenous Montagnard people, says that this development represents an increase in the Vietnamese government’s surveillance.

“The government doesn’t know who has cell phones in the country, but if they hear a conversation by a political opponent, they’ll go to the village where he or she lives, take away the phone and frequently put the person in prison,” Ksor explained.

“It’s not just Christians they’ll listen to. They listen in on anyone who has a cell phone. If they find anything in the conversations they don’t like, especially if it’s someone with family in the United States, they’ll arrest the person and torture them and sometimes put them in prison for a long time,” Ksor added.

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Maurer wrote in an email to WND that the reported arrest and torture of four Montagnard men from Ploi Bar Gok Village earlier this year is a rare recent example of Vietnam’s Christian persecution reaching the outside world.

Maurer adds that Montagnard Christian K’pa Lot was allegedly beaten and tortured to death only a month before this recent incident. The 31-year-old Phu Yen province resident Lot died in a Pleiku hospital in March of this year and it took the story over a month to reach the United States.

Human rights activist and attorney Scott Johnson wrote in a report for Canada Free Press that Lot’s torture was daily and so extreme that his family didn’t recognize him.

“He was swollen and bruises were all over his body and face. He could not move, eat, and could barely speak. Security forces stood guard during the family’s visitation,” Johnson’s story said.

Johnson reports that Lot got one last message to his wife about his treatment.

“K’Pa Lot whispered to his wife in his native language and told her about how he was regularly tortured inside prison. He stated he was mistreated and beaten on a daily basis by the authorities. He said they beat him with whatever they had in their hands as if they wanted him to die,” Johnson stated.

Kok Ksor believes there are two primary reasons for Lot’s arrest and torture.

“Lot was a Christian and didn’t want to go to the government-approved church. Montagnard Christians don’t want to worship in the government built church because they don’t feel like they can really worship there,” Ksor explained.

“What the Montagnard Christians want is to worship Jesus. They don’t want to have the government build them a church and go there to worship. That’s not really freedom of religion,” Ksor further explained.

“The government said the people have freedom of religion, but why do they persecute us just because we don’t want to worship in the buildings they build for us?” Ksor asked.

“Another reason the government arrested Lot is that government agents found a cell phone on him and because the government says Lot was involved in a peaceful demonstration,” Ksor added.

The ICC reports 15 acts of anti-Christian persecution in Vietnam this year. Since February, the Montagnard Foundation has documented four cases of beating and torture against Vietnam’s Montagnard Christians.

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