By BosNewsLife News Center
HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife) -- At least three Montagnard Degar Christians died and many more were injured in recent weeks because of torture carried out by Vietnamese police, friends and fellow prisoners confirmed Monday, July 3.
The Montagnard Foundation Incorporated (MFI), which investigates reports of abuses against the mainly Christian Montagnard Degar people in Vietnam's Central Highlands, identified one of the three killed believers as 33-year old Khon, a human rights activist.
"Khon was from the village of Ploi Hdok [in] Gialai province and had participated in [a] peaceful demonstration [for more freedom] on Easter 2004 with thousands of other Degar people," MFI told BosNewsLife in a statement.
"He was perfectly healthy prior to his arrest but was tortured severely with electric shock and beatings. His health deteriorated and authorities feared he would die in custody so they released him on December 30, 2005," the organization added.
"When Khon was returned to his village he could not recognize his family and he was suffering severe brain damage and appeared mentally insane. He was also reported to have been injected with unknown drugs whilst in custody. Khon never regained his senses and he died painfully on 31 May 2006," MFI said.
It also quoted Montagnard Degar prisoners as saying that they saw "11 Degar prisoners being tortured at the same time with Y-Mpi," who nearly died, in Ha Nam prison. "They also reported seeing two Degar prisoners from Daklak province killed in custody and that their bodies were taken outside of the prison for burial."
48-year-old prisoner Y-Mpi from the village of Sarpa in Dak Lak province was released with apparently severe injuries in May after two years imprisonment for his participation in a pro-democracy demonstration during Easter in 2004.
"In custody he had been severely tortured because he had participated in the peaceful demonstration on Easter 2004. His health deteriorated and authorities fearing he would die in custody released him to his family on May 28, 2006," MFI added. He was reportedly listed, "near death", at Kien Giang Hospital near Ho Chi Minh City. "Information received indicates he will not live long due to his injuries and inhumane treatment he received n prison," MFI claimed.
At least 11 other Montagnard Degar Christians were detained and tortures since May. MFI claimed. It said that Vietnamese police will "repeatedly" beat prisoners on their bodies causing "internal injuries so that later, after they are released, the prisoners will die. It is reported the Degar prisoners are also injected with some type of poison."
Investigators have linked the reported crackdown allegedly ordered by Vietnam's Communist authorities to frustration over what they claim was the support given by the Montagnard Degar people to US forces during World War Two. Vietnam's government is also concerned over the spread of Christianity in the country, several groups have suggested.
News of the attacks against the Montagnard Degar people came shortly after The Full Gospel Church in the area of Thieu Vien in Thanh Hoa province was reportedly harassed by security forces.
Members of the evangelical congregation were assaulted in June by Vietnamese security police breaking up their prayer meetings, Christian human rights investigators said. It were the most violent incidents since the church was founded in 1999.
During a second raid, June 18, police reportedly detained at least four Christians, identified as Nguyen Trung Ton, Hac Ngoc Si, Ms. Nhan and Mrs. Lan. Ton and Si were allegedly seriously beaten while under interrogation and forced to sign a statement that they would not meet at the home again for Bible study.
Vietnamese authorities have denied human rights abuses. They have accused human rights groups of spreading "propaganda" and lies. Yet MFI and other investigators maintain that Christians, including hundreds of Montagnard Degar people are jailed for their beliefs.
"At least 350 Montagnard Degar prisoners are in Vietnamese prisons for charges involving merely standing up for human rights, for spreading Christianity or for fleeing to Cambodia," said MFI. "These prisoners are regularly tortured in prison and the Vietnamese authorities will often release them from prison once they are close to death so it will appear they did not die from torture and maltreatment."
In May this year the US State Department announced it would continue to maintain Vietnam on its “watch list” of countries that are allegedly the worst violators of religious freedom. MFI said it has urged the international community to "urgently pursue a permanent humanitarian presence in the Central Highlands to monitor the human rights situation by United Nations and international agencies and international NGOs." (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from Vietnam).
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