Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, June 16, 2006

Vietnam: Montagnards Face Religious, Political Persecution

As reported by Human Rights Watch, numerous Vietnam refugees—who had previously been living in UNHCR camps in Cambodia—are returning to their home country receiving harsh treatment from Vietnamese authorities. HRW has described such ill-treatment (which includes interrogations, torture, and detainment) in a report released on June 14th entitled “No Sanctuary: Ongoing Threats to Indigenous Montagnards in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.” The report highlights the ongoing government regulated religious persecutions of the Montagnards indigenous peoples living in the Central Highlands region of Vietnam.

According to this piece,

“Vietnamese officials continue to force Montagnard Christians to sign pledges renouncing their religion, despite passage of new regulations last year banning such practices. Authorities in some areas restrict freedom of movement between villages – in particular for religious purposes not authorized by the government – and ban Christian gatherings in many areas unless they are presided over by officially recognized pastors.

“More worrisome, the Vietnamese government persists in criminalizing peaceful dissent, unsanctioned religious activity and efforts to seek sanctuary in Cambodia, by arresting and imprisoning Montagnards who engage in those activities. The most harshly treated are evangelical Christians who belong to independent or unregistered house churches and supporters of a non-violent movement for the protection of, and greater control over, ancestral lands.

“More than 350 Montagnards have been sentenced to prison since 2001, largely for peaceful political or religious activities. Most have been charged under Vietnam’s Penal Code with vaguely worded national security crimes. These include “undermining the unity policy,” “disrupting security” and “causing public disorder”. More than 60 Montagnards have been imprisoned after being forcibly returned from Cambodia, where they were seeking asylum.

“The arrests are ongoing: during 2005 alone, at least 142 people – some of whom had been in pre-trial detention for as much as a year – were sentenced to prison terms of up to 17 years. This is more than double the number imprisoned during the previous year. At least 30 of those sentenced in 2005 had been arrested in Cambodia or near the border areas, whilst trying to seek asylum. They were apprehended by Cambodian police and turned over to Vietnamese authorities without having a chance to make an asylum claim with UNHCR. The report includes an annex listing Central Highland prisoners.”

To read the article in full, click here
To read HRW “No Sanctuary” report, click here


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