By BosNewsLife Asia Service with BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos
HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife) -- The family of a jailed Degar Montagnard Christian in Vietnam's Central Highlands feared Wednesday, October 15, that she may have been killed or suffers from serious injuries as a result of torture.
Six months afer Puih Hâ€™Bat, 41, was detained by security police for hosting an unregistered prayer service in her house, her children and estranged husband fear that â€œshe has already been killed or suffers from serious wounds as a result of being tortured,â€ said the Montagnard Foundation Incorporated (MFI), an advocacy group with close ties to Christians in the region.
"The authorities are deliberately trying to conceal her murder [and] the family fears the worst, [and] have maintained a blackout of information," claimed MFI, adding that several villagers have appealed to authorities to release her.
H'Bat was reportedly arrested in the early hours of April 11 in the village of Ploi Bang in Gialai province by some eight Vietnamese security police who reportedly raided her home, put her in a truck and took her to a local prison. The same night police also detained two Christian men, identified as Ksor Sim and Rahlan Don, and allegedly sprayed a chemical epellant inside Sim's house, forcing his family outside.
Police allegedly gave him electric shocks with special batons until he collapsed, unconscious. "His wife and 16 year-old daughter ran to see if he was alive or dead. Police then beat and shocked them with electrical batons until they also collapsed unconscious," MFI said.
Ksor Sim and Rahlan Don have since been released from prison after they reportedly agreed to sign a document promising to follow the government sanctioned church. Police officials have not confirmed the reports.
The detentions came after H'Bat threatened while leading a prayer service attended by 20 Christian believers, Christians said. Security police allegedly demanded that she and the Christians sign a document agreeing to join the government backed Hoi Thanh Tin Lanh Vietnam, or 'The Evangelical Church of Vietnam'.
Police said if they refused to sign the document, â€œthey would be arrested, tortured and imprisoned,â€ MFI told BosNewsLife. "All Christian believers at the home of Puih Hâ€™Bat, however, refused to sign the document." Security forces returned the next day to the village and summoned all villagers, to report to Ploi Bang Elementary school. The soldiers accused the people of following the Montagnard Foundation Incorporated leader Ksor Kok and worshiping him.
"The villagers and believers laughed saying 'we do not follow the religion of Ksor Kok or worship him. He is not god. We only follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and worship our Almighty God the Father'," MFI stressed. Police allegedly attempted to coerce them into signing the document joining the official government sanctioned church. When everyone still refused, they apparently dismissed the meeting, before returning the next morning to arrest H'Bat and the two other Christians.
MFI said Puin Hâ€™Bat may also have been singled out as besides hosting prayer services, she also married someone who has since fled to the United States. Her 43-year-old husband, Rahlan Hre, is â€œterribly worried about his wifeâ€™s welfare and how his children will survive without her. Currently, there is no one to take care of the children except for his elderly mother in law," MFI explained.
The children have stopped attending school â€œbecause they are devastated about what is happening to their mother in prison and are afraid that the government will come for them too," MFI said. Puih Hâ€™Bat is currently imprisoned at the criminal prison T-20 in Pleiku province, according to earlier reports from Vietnamese security police. â€œShe has committed no crime other than have Christian prayer services in her home and tell Degar Montagnard people about Jesus Christ," MFI said.
The group said it has urged the international community and non governmental organizations, including the Red Cross, to intervene. There has been an increase in reported police raids in Christian homes in the Central Highlands, as part of an apparent crackdown on unregistered worship in the area.
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