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4/2/2011 Vietnam (StraitsTimes) – Vietnam has stepped up its repression of an indigenous Christian minority, forcing hundreds to renounce their religion, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday, March 31, 2011.

The watchdog called on the United States to put Vietnam back on a blacklist of nations violating religious freedom, after documenting forced renunciations of faith and other abuses of the Montagnard people in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.

The Montagnards are pressing for religious freedom and land rights prompting a government crackdown, according to a report by the US-based HRW.

‘In recent months, the Vietnamese government has increased its harassment of peaceful ethnic minority Christians in the Central Highlands, targeting members of unregistered house churches,’ the report said.

Authorities have reinforced their security presence and intensified efforts to find and arrest ‘Dega Protestants”, it added, referring to the Dega movement – an autonomy seeking group set up by Montagnard political exiles in the US.

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