Vietnam court starts trial of 100 accused in Dak Lak shootings

Most are charged with terrorism in connection with attacks that left 9 dead.
By RFA Vietnamese
2024.01.16
Vietnam court starts trial of 100 accused in Dak Lak shootings This photo taken and released by the Vietnam News Agency (VNA) on Jan. 16, 2024 shows defendants sitting during their trial in Vietnam's Dak Lak province.
STR / Vietnam News Agency / AFP

The People’s Court of Dak Lak has started the trial of 100 people in connection with violent raids on two People’s Committee offices in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, state media reported.

The first-instance trial began Tuesday and will last until Jan. 26.

Of the 100 defendants, 92 are accused of terrorism following the 2023 attack that left nine people dead, including four policemen, two commune officials and three locals.

One person is being tried for concealing crimes and one for helping people enter and exit the country illegally. Six defendants living abroad are being tried in absentia for terrorism.

On the morning of June 11, 2023 two groups of around 40 people armed with guns and knives attacked the headquarters of the People’s Committee in the communes of Ea Tieu and Ea Ktur.

While 93 of the defendants are from ethnic minorities, Vietnamese authorities have denied that ethnic discrimination, injustice and poverty among the Montagnard people were behind the attack, going so far as to say there are no Montagnards in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.

Authorities said all the participants were members of a U.S.-based organization that ordered them to infiltrate Vietnam and carry out the attack.

Dak Lak.gif
Vietnamese police guard suspects in the attacks on two Dak Lak People’s Committee offices. (Mobile Police Command)

Montagnards is a term coined by French colonialists to describe around 30 tribes who live in the Central Highlands, many of whom practice Christianity.

Evangelical Church preacher Alur Y Min, an ethnic Ede who has been living as a refugee in Thailand since 2017, said the Vietnamese government had been using the police and military to oppress Montagnards for decades by taking their land and denying them freedom of religion.

“In my opinion, the shooting is not a terrorist incident, but this is a sign that the water has broken its banks and people cannot stand the oppression,” he told Radio Free Asia.

“The People’s Police and the People’s Army are against the people, protecting the interests of the state and protecting businesses or private individuals who occupy people's land. Why are they not on the side of the people but on the side of the enemy – the side that wants to take over the people’s property?”

Co-founder of the human rights group Montagnards for Justice, Y Quynh Bdap, is one of the six people being tried in absentia for terrorism. He is also a refugee in Thailand.

He denied that he and his group were involved in the attacks, saying they only used peaceful tactics.

“I object to the trial. The Vietnamese government will not give up making slanderous accusations against activists, because they have slandered hundreds of Montagnards for a long time,” he told RFA Vietnamese.

“If they want to arrest someone, they will find a way to make slanderous accusations, make people afraid and then people will be hesitant to report government violations of their land and religion.”

Translated by RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Mike Firn and Taejun Kang.

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