Vietnamese police detain 3 Protestant house church members in Dak Lak

The men were released on Monday, a week after their arrest.
By RFA Vietnamese
2024.03.08
Vietnamese police detain 3 Protestant house church members in Dak Lak At left, Dak Lak and Binh Phuoc provincial police search the residence and check the IDs of three adherents of an independent Protestant house church, March 5, 2024. At right, Y Nam Bkrong (L) and Y Qui Bdap hold a banner promoting Human Rights Day.
Montagnards Stand for Justice

Updated March 11, 2024, 00:04 a.m. ET.

Vietnamese police have released three members of an independent Protestant house church in Dak Lak province in the country’s Central Highlands, who were temporarily detained a week ago without the knowledge of their family.

Pastor Y Khen Bdap told Radio Free Asia on Thursday that the three are members of his family – his younger brother Y Qui Bdap, his son Y Nam Bkrong and his nephew Y Kic Bkrong.

They are from the Ede ethnic minority and permanently reside in Ea Khit village, Ea Bhok commune in the province’s Cu Kuin district. They have been working for KUKA Home Vietnam, an upholstered furniture manufacturer in Dong Xoai city, Binh Phuoc province, for many years and living in a rental unit near the company.

Police from both Dak Lak and Binh Phuoc provinces visited their home on Sunday night to check their IDs and to search the place, the pastor said.

The following day, the police went to their company while they were working and took them away, he said. 

“The police arrested and detained them without any explanation or warrants,” he said.

Last Friday, police released the three, allowing them to return to their rented accommodation in Binh Phuoc province.

The Evangelical Church of Christ of the Central Highlands and the independent Protestant house church are two religious groups in Dak Lak province that the Vietnamese government hasn’t recognized, making it difficult for them to carry out their activities. Members are often subjected to harassment and arrest by authorities.

The police earlier stonewalled relatives enquiring about the men.

Y Khen Bdap said his family went to the People’s Committee and the police’s headquarters in Ea Bhok commune on Thursday to ask about the detainees’ whereabouts, but staff there said they didn’t know. 

When family and friends asked the company about the arrests, they were told that police escorted the men away and that they hadn’t yet returned, he said.

Church established in 2017

RFA was unable to reach the KUKA Home managers and workers for comment at the phone numbers provided by Y Khen Bdap.

RFA also contacted Cu Kuin district police and Dak Lak provincial police to verify the arrests and detentions, but staffers told the reporter to go in person to their agencies’ headquarters in person for information.

Y Khen Bdap said he believed the arrests were related to his family’s religious practice, because the three, and other adherents of the church, often participate in annual human rights events, including the U.N.’s International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief on Aug. 22 and Human Rights Day on Dec. 10.

His brother, Y Qui Bdap, who is also a preacher, met with officers from the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi in 2020 to report on the local authorities’ repeated harassment of his independent house church.

Pastor Y Khen Bdap, who was sentenced to four years in prison in 2004 for “disturbing public order” for his religious activities, said local authorities often had harassed him and other church leaders since the church was established in 2017.

Local authorities have summoned him and the other leaders to ask  about their religious activities and to prevent the church’s adherents from holding events to celebrate Christmas.

In late October 2023, Cu Mgar district police temporarily detained four independent Protestants for five days after they invited President Vo Van Thuong to observe one of their religious services.

After interrogating them, district police demanded they stop practicing religion independently and suggested they join the Evangelical Church of Vietnam or other religious groups recognized by the Vietnamese government.

The police also demanded they not study civil society, saying its aim was to oppose the government, nor participate in activities commemorating the U.N’s human rights days.  

Translated by Anna Vu for RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Matt Reed.

Updated with details of the three men's release.

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