Vietnam Cracking Down on Christian Tribes in Mountains

U.N. Funds Sterilization Program, Paper Reports

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ROME, JAN. 28, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Vietnam recently launched a new campaign of repression against its Montagnards, or mountain people, forcing them to drink pigs´ blood and renounce their Christian faith publicly, the newspaper Avvenire reports.



Armed forces and security agents converged on tribes living in the central highlands, most of them Protestants, in mid-December, the Italian newspaper reported Saturday. Raids, arrests, tortures and disappearances ensued, the paper said.

Avvenire also reported that the Vietnamese authorities have received the support of the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA). According to the Save the Montagnards organization, UNFPA is funding a strict program of birth control that includes sterilization.

Last year, UNFPA allocated $17.9 million to Vietnam, specifically for programs for the Montagnards, the newspaper said.

The December attacks against the Montagnards were concentrated in the province of Daklak, according to a report published by the Montagnard Foundation.

The culminating point of the operation took place in several villages on Dec. 24-25. Two hundred policemen and soldiers arrived in Bion Sup, Buon Ea Rok and Buon Koya, and began to destroy the Christmas decorations.

They "threatened to arrest, strike and incarcerate the Montagnards who left their homes to pray," Avvenire reported.

Moreover, "they killed a pig and forced the Montagnards to drink its blood," a ritual connected to animist traditions, the paper said. Finally, they obliged Christians "to renounce their faith publicly."

Three hundred Montagnard refugees who tried to flee into Cambodia were detained by that country´s soldiers on Dec. 28-29. The Cambodian government then sold many of the refugees back to the Vietnamese authorities.

The refugees, including many women and children, were taken to the Dak Mil district and tortured, before they disappeared altogether, according to local residents.

Repression of the Montagnards is not new. But it seems to have intensified over the past two years, following a massive conversion to Christianity in the region.

The Montagnards had a difficult life during the French occupation and also with the government of South Vietnam, despite the fact that during the Vietnam War many were persuaded to side with the Americans.

This led the Communists to step up their repression, beginning in 1975. A key part of the new campaign is "cultural leveling," whereby the regime wants to uproot and absorb all minority cultures in Vietnam.