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05/03/2012 Vietnam (BosNewsLife) –  Eight ethnic Hmong tribesmen remained in prison Thursday, May 3, after a court in northwestern Vietnam sent them to 30 months imprisonment for what the government called “disturbing social order and inciting separatist unrest last year.”

Supporters say the minority Christian defendants were participating in a religious convocation that allegedly ended in a “massacre” blamed on Vietnamese security forces.

The official Vietnam News Agency, in a report monitored by BosNewsLife, called the defendants “illiterates” who”“admitted to not knowing the illegal nature of their activities.”

Presiding Judge Phan Van Nam has been quoted by news reports as saying police were hunting for three ringleaders.The prison terms, given in March, come nearly a year after international media reported widespread unrest in the region near the border with Laos, the Voice of America (VOA) network said.

The government claimed “thousands of evangelical Hmong” had gathered in Dien Bien province waiting for their God to appear to take them to the promised land in May.

Vietnam’s government reportedly launched a crackdown after additionally accusing leaders of advocating for an independent Hmong kingdom.

Some Hmong advocacy groups said over 60 people were killed and hundreds of others injured in the crackdown.

BosNewsLife news agency quoted James Jacob Prasch, executive director of Moriel Ministries (MM), as warning at the time the real figure may be higher than dozens. “I am told by Hmong pastors that so many were shot dead that they were buried in mass graves bulldozed over,” he added.

Others were reportedly detained.

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