By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife) -- A long-time jailed member of Vietnam's predominantly Christian Montagnard Degar community has been tortured to death, BosNewsLife learned from supporters Wednesday, September 6.
The Montagnard Foundation Incorporated (MFI), which is active in Vietnam's Central Highland, told BosNewsLife that the prisoner, identified as 54-year old "Christian Brother, Thup," died August 30 in the Trai Ba Sao prison of Ha Nam province "due to severe torture." Often only one name is used in the region.
He was reportedly arrested in March 24, 2004 and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on February 24, 2005 on charges of “public order offences”. Human rights groups as well as local Degar Montagnard Christians claim these kind of charges are often used to imprison active Christians and dissidents in the Communist-run nation.
MFI quoted unidentified Vietnamese officials from the Kon Gang Commune area as telling Thup's family he died "from abuse" on August 30, 2006.
"It was well known he was severely tortured in prison. His wife and relatives asked officials if they collect his body for burial but were refused this request," MFI added in a statement.
On September 1, 2006 his village buried his clothes instead "and mourned for him according to our customs," the group said. Vietnamese officials have not commented, but have in the past linked accused MFI and other influential human rights groups of spreading Western propaganda.
“We as the Degar Montagnard people would like to appeal to all governments who are now dealing with Vietnam in trade and business to please do what they can to prevent our people from dying in prison," MFI President Kok Ksor told BosNewsLife. Thub's death was the latest in a series of similar reported incidents in Vietnamese prisons this year.
MORE DEATHS PREDICTED
"Our people inside Vietnam fear all our imprisoned brothers and sisters prisoners will die in the hands of the Vietnamese officials,” Ksor added. So far, over 350 Degar Montagnard prisoners remain in Vietnamese prisons on trumped up charges because of their involvement in spreading Christianity, or "standing up for their human rights, or for fleeing to Cambodia," MFI explained.
In addition the Degar, referred to by French colonists as Montagnard or "mountain people" are the indigenous peoples of the Central Highlands, have been accused by Communist authorities of following "an American religion" and of cooperating with American troops during the Vietnam War.
MFI and secular rights groups, including Amnesty International, have reported that Vietnamese security forces continue "with a campaign of repression" against the Montagnard Degar population. This year, the United States State Department continued to maintain Vietnam on its “watch list” of countries accused of serious religious freedom violations. (With BosNewsLife Research, BosNewsLife News Center and reports from Vietnam).
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