Friday, April 1, 2011

Crackdown on Christians in Vietnam

The Vietnamese government has intensified repression of indigenous minority Christians from the country's Central Highland provinces who are pressing for religious freedom and land rights, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 46-page report, "Montagnard Christians in Vietnam: A Case Study in Religious Repression," details the latest government crackdowns on these indigenous peoples, known collectively as Montagnards. The report documents police sweeps to root out Montagnards in hiding. It details how the authorities have dissolved house church gatherings, orchestrated coerced renunciations of faith, and sealed off the border to prevent asylum seekers from fleeing to Cambodia.

"Montagnards face harsh persecution in Vietnam, particularly those who worship in independent house churches, because the authorities don't tolerate religious activity outside their sight or control," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch. "The Vietnamese government has been steadily tightening the screws on independent Montagnard religious groups, claiming they are using religion to incite unrest."

Human Rights Watch documented the abuses in the Central Highlands, which is off-limits to independent, international rights groups, through interviews with Montagnards who have fled Vietnam and reports in Vietnam's government-controlled media.

Since 2001, thousands of Montagnards in Vietnam have fled harsh government crackdowns to Cambodia, where most have been recognized as refugees and resettled to the United States, Sweden, Finland, and Canada.

In December 2010, the Cambodian government ordered the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to close the Montagnard refugee center in Phnom Penh. With the center's closure on February 15, 2011, Montagnards seeking to escape repression in Vietnam are left with fewer options.

"Montagnards will continue to try to flee Vietnam as long as the Vietnamese government systematically violates their basic rights," said Robertson. "The Vietnamese government needs to end this repression immediately."

Source: Human Rights Watch


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