Vietnam Jails Eight Montagnards for ‘Undermining National Unity’

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Montagnard villagers drive along a road in Gia Lai province in Vietnam's Central Highlands on March 13, 2013.
Montagnard villagers drive along a road in Gia Lai province in Vietnam's Central Highlands on March 13, 2013.

A court in Vietnam’s Central Highlands on Wednesday sentenced eight ethnic minority Montagnards affiliated with an unregistered Catholic church to between three and 11 years in prison for “undermining unity” in the authoritarian state.

The Gia Lai provincial court said some of the eight had worked with a banned exile organization to establish an independent state for indigenous peoples in the Central Highlands, according to state media.

The others were accused of inciting thousands of protesters to demonstrate against their relocation from their village to make way for a power plant in 2008.  

All eight—who are between 32 and 73 years old—were convicted under Article 87 of the penal code, a national security provision that forbids “undermining the [national] unity policy” by “sowing division” or ethnic or religious hatred.

Vietnam’s Central Highlands are home to some 30 tribes of indigenous peoples, known collectively as Montagnards or the Degar, who rights groups say suffer extreme persecution.

In the early 2000s, thousands in the region staged violent protests against the confiscation of their ancestral lands and religious controls, prompting a brutal crackdown by security forces that saw hundreds of Montagnards charged with national security crimes.

Scott Johnson of the Montagnard Foundation, a U.S.-based rights group, said Vietnam’s jailing of members of the ethnic minority for national security crimes and linking them to alleged overseas separatist groups was unjustified.

“In reality all these ethnic people … want are indigenous land rights and basic human rights,” he said.

“They are not terrorists, they are not separatists, and they do not seek an independent state.”

“Basically the Vietnamese government is seeking to crush the independent underground house church movement [in the region],” he said.


Vietnamese state media identified the eight convicted on Wednesday as Runh, Byuk, Jonh, Dinh Hron, and Dinh Lu from Gia Lai province and A Hyum, A Tach, and Y Gyin from Kon Tum province.

vietnam-gia-lai-map-400.jpgVietnam News Agency reported that according to the indictment, in 2002 Y Gyin had “spread rumors” that the Virgin Mary had appeared in Ha Mon, where authorities were planning to build a hydroelectricity plant.

The others joined him in “enticing” thousands of people to protest against the plant in 2008, and the same year, A Hyum contacted an alleged exiled armed separatist organization—the Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Peoples, or FULRO—to ask for help, it said.

FULRO, founded in the 1950s, was a resistance army that fought on the side of United States and South Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam War before officially disbanding in the 1990s.  Vietnam has asserted that rights groups working on Central Highlands issues are part of an ongoing separatist movement linked to FULRO, but the groups reject the claims, saying they are working nonviolently for human rights.

FULRO had instructed the eight men to “prepare to establish” a separate state in the Central Highlands, and they started several branches of the organization in the region, state media reported.

Ha Mon Catholics

According to previous Human Rights Watch reports, Runh, Jonh, and Byuk were taken into custody in May last year for being associated with the unregistered Ha Mon Catholic sect, which Y Gyin founded around 1999.  

The group said that authorities have painted the Ha Mon sect as a “false religion” that is being taken advantage of by FULRO to undermine national security.

While Protestant Montagnards have faced religious repression for many years, Catholic Montagnards have more recently become a target for persecution by the government, according to the group.

Reported by Thanh Truc for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.

Comments (4)

Anonymous Reader

Vietnam has had ambitious plans for centuries to wipe out the race of its neighboring nations,but they will never succeed from their evil acts .

Jul 06, 2013 09:02 PM


from NC

It's the same old excuse that Hanoi gives for arresting Montagnards that simply want SUPPOSEDLY what their consitution guarantees, and that is freedom of practicing their religion, and basic human rights. Hanoi has had this paranoia about FULRO for 40 years now, even though it disbanded back in the 1990's. This government is quickly losing popularity with all citizens of Vietnam. Everyday you can read about human rights advocates, bloggers, Catholics, Buddhists, Hmong, Montagnard, etc being jailed for "undermining National unity". What this communist government doesn't realize is that THEY undermine unity with these actions. Will this young generation have the knowledge, courage and love of real freedom to get rid of communism.

May 30, 2013 01:06 PM

Dao Quoc Viet

from Quoc vuong champa

The Authority Vietnamese harm a child to all
Indigenous people in order to handle; the perverted gonernment in the deperil Regime

May 30, 2013 05:36 AM


from GiaLai/KonTum

Prison & killing is every day happening to our Degar people. Not because our religions or struggle movements. We are continuous subjected to because our ancestral lands need to be taken away and ethnic cleansing are imposed on us by Vietnam regime!

May 29, 2013 09:48 PM





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