Vietnam Troops Surround Christian Villages, Investigators Say

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

By BosNewsLife News Center

HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife) -- Vietnamese troops continued to surround several villages of predominantly Christian Montagnard Degar people Monday, May 22, amid fresh concerns over a government crackdown against this ethnic group, their representatives said.

The US-based Montagnard Foundation Incorporated (MFI) told BosNewsLife it has learned that since May 12 "heavily armed Vietnamese government troops commenced operations at the Degar villages of Bon Co, Bon Blah, Bon Hok and Bon Phu at Krong Pa commune in Son Hoa District of Phu Yen Province."

MFI added the troop movement followed an incident three days earlier when an ethnic Vietnamese man, identified as Muoi, allegedly used a machete to seriously injure three Montagnard Degar villagers. One of the victims "almost bled to death" as medical authorities "refused to treat" the victims because of "racial discrimination," the group claimed.

Vietnamese officials were not immediately available for comment. But the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry has in the past denied human rights abuses, accusing MFI and other groups of spreading false information.


MFI claimed police have "inflamed" the situation by arresting Degar students "who intervened to save one of the victims."

The group, which has contacts in Vietnam's volatile Central Highlands, said Vietnamese forces "have blocked all the streets and roads to prevent Degar people from entering or leaving the villages."

The soldiers allegedly confiscated motorcycles and bicycles, forcing the owners to walk back to their villages.

In an unprecedented move, 100 villagers from the surrounded villages managed to break through a line of soldiers to a local government office where they took back their motorcycles and bicycles that had been confiscated, MFI claimed.


However "40 army trucks full of heavily armed soldiers [have now] surrounded the villages and it is feared the government will use this situation as an excuse to violently attack the Degars there," MFI said.

It said it had urged the international community "for assistance to protect these villagers. If the government harms these villagers, it is feared the whole Central Highlands will stand up in another protest." MFI added it "prays for a peaceful solution and requests the Vietnamese soldiers use restraint."

The Degar, referred to by French colonists as Montagnard or "mountain people", are the indigenous peoples of the Central Highlands.

Most of the estimated 1-million Degar Montagnard people are Christians and have been accused by the Communist authorities of "following a Western religion" and cooperating with American troops during the Vietnam War, according to human rights observers. At least hundreds of them are known to be held in jails and prison camps. (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from Vietnam).

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