By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent, BosNewsLife
HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife) — A day after the US removed Vietnam from it list of ‘countries of particular concern’ regarding religious freedom, human rights workers said a Montagnard Christian was “hanged” by security forces who also “tortured” and “detained” other believers and pro-democracy activists.
The Montagnard Foundation Incorporated (MFI), an influential advocacy group, told BosNewsLife it established Tuesday, November 14, that a Montagnard Christian, identified as Moi, was hanged by most likely the Vietnamese military.
MFI, which has close contacts with the, predominantly Christian, Montagnard community in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, said Moi disappeared from his village last month.
The next morning, October 22, two Vietnamese police officials came to the village and told the villagers that Moi “was dead and hanging from a tree” about 1 kilometer (0,6 mile) from the area, Montagnard Christians said.
Villagers apparently found Moi hanging on a tree tied up with Vietnamese military shoestrings. Moiâ€™s skull was cracked, both arms broken and his body was covered in bruises and cut marks, MFI said. Local Christians allege that Vietnamese officials “had long hated Moi” because he was a believer who refused to join the official church.
“Montagnards risk their lives getting this information out of the Central Highlands,” MFI Advisor Scott Johnson told BosNewsLife.
He said MFI also received information that Vietnamese troops surrounded and invaded villages in the Central Highlands, especially in Dak Lak province, where security police also confiscated mobile phones, a key communication tool in rural regions.
“The villagers report the soldiers and security police have threatened to shoot any Montagnards who attempt to leave these villages or speak to foreigners about what is happening,” MFI said in a statement.
Since last month several Christian Montagnard Christians have been detained including in Dak Nonk province where Y-Tai, 27, Y- Huyen, 28 and Y-Nhat, 23 disappeared from their Buon Jun Yuh village October 15, MFI reported. Two days earlier in the same village two Christians, identified as 26-year-old Chuan and Y-Ntun, 24, were taken into custody because they allegedly refused to join the state-run church.
Elsewhere in the region, another Christian, identified as farmer Y-Leng Ya, was stopped by police while riding his tractor to join relatives for the rice harvest, Montagnard Christians said.
MFI quoted witnesses as saying that “police tortured him by beating him with their fists and kicking him until he passed out,” before taking him to a prison in Cu Jut district on charges of trying to escape to neighboring Cambodia. He remained in police custody, Tuesday, November 14, and the condition of his health remained unknown.
Family members also continued searching Tuesday, November 14, for 46-year-old Ngram from Buon Dak Mler village, another Christian Montagnard who was was taken into custody September 30. He joins over 350 Montagnard-Degar people, most of them Christians, who remain in prison, investigators said.
MFI’s Johnson said he did not understand, “why the [United States] State Department removed Vietnam from the religious watch list..,” ahead of President George W. Bush’s visit to Vietnam where he will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting this week.
“Is trade more important than human rights,?” he wondered. Since last week in Vietnam, hundreds of leaflets have been distributed by pro-democracy activists with a similar message, BosNewsLife learned.
“The objective is to inform people from all walks of life the appeal from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on the conditions of human rights violation in Vietnam,” said the party Central Committee Member Do Thanh Cong in a statement to BosNewsLife.
“We call on the Vietnamese Communist Regime to immediately release all political prisoners, of which two leaders of the PDP, Dr. Le Nguyen Sang and Journalist Huynh Nguyen Dao,” he added.
In the leaflet, obtained by BosNewsLife, the pro-democracy activists also demand the release of activist Le Trung Hieu and three others as well as Internet writers and other human-rights activists imprisoned in various detention centers.
They include Journalist Nguyen Vu Binh, Nguyen Ngoc Quang, Vu Hoang Hai, Pham Ba Hai, Truong Quoc Huy, who PDP claims are “incarcerated solely for having publicly supported democracy in signing their names to the “Manifesto on Freedom and Democracy for Vietnam”.
As APEC leaders gather, the group said it was high time for Vietnam’s government to make changes in the constitution and “accept an open and direct dialogue with other opposing political groups” and, “to respect differences in politics and to end all baseless allegations and arbitrary detentions.”
Vietnam’s Communist government has denied human rights abuses and says it is reaching out to unregistered churches. (With BosNewsLife Monitoring and reports from Vietnam. Stay wth BosNewsLife for the news behind the APEC headines).
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