“Montagnard Christians in Vietnam – A Case Study of Religious Repression”, a report published March 30 by Human Rights Watch, details Vietnamese government aggressive crusade to suffocate religious freedom against Central Highlands Protestants; and “While this paper focuses on Central Highlands Protestants, serious issues of freedom of religion affect nearly every other denomination in Vietnam, particularly those whose followers do not wish to associate themselves with an officially-registered -religious organization.”
Members of independent religious groups have been arbitrarily harassed, arrested, imprisoned, and placed under house arrest. The government also bans religious gatherings, confiscate religious literature and destroy church properties, interrogate religious leaders, and even torture religious followers to elicit confessions and public statements for the government’s propaganda. Some of these independent religious groups include Mennonites, Cao Dai, Hoa Hao Buddhist, ethnic Khmer Theravada Buddhist, and the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam.
Peaceful ethnic minority Christians in Vietnam’s Central Highlands have been suffering from a systematic and intensified campaign of brutality that include beatings, arrests, intimidation by government’s military and police. At least 25 minority Christians have died in government’s prisons under dubious circumstances. Additionally, hundreds of highlanders who belong to independent churches are being rooted out and arrested by the government which labels them “Dega Protestants” and members of an independent movement, even though there is no concrete evidence of any activity against the government by these church members can be obtained.
A special police unit called PA43, established by the Ministry of Public Security to eliminate what the government considers threaten it’s political grip, frequently conducts operations to detain and interrogate whomever they identified as Dega Protestant. “Some of these people are formally arrested, tried, and sentenced to prison on national security charges, such as undermining national solidarity (Penal Code article 87), while others are forced to confess their guilt in public denunciation sessions and then placed under close surveillance afterwards.”
In a blatant violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it is a state party, Vietnam devises ridiculously restrictive registration requirements that turn religious groups into obedient sheep and enable the government to easily control and crack down on members.
In it’s recommendations, Human Rights Watch calls on the United States to re-designate Vietnam as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for serious violations of religious freedom. Human Rights Watch also calls on the Vietnamese government to release its grip on religious freedom and be more transparent and allow the United Nations and independent international groups to have access to all religious groups in Vietnam.
The full report of “Montagnard Christians in Vietnam – A Case Study of Religious Repression” can be obtained at the web address http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/03/30/vietnam-montagnards-harshly-persecuted