Radio Free China

Human Rights and Religious Freedom News

Vietnamese Authorities Continue to Arrest and Torture House Church Degar Christians

Posted by radiofreechina on April 14, 2007

By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

SPARTANBURG, SOUTH CAROLINA (ANS) — Five men and one woman have been beaten and imprisoned for refusing to join the officially-sanctioned Vietnamese government church.

The Spartanburg, South Carolina-based Montagnard Foundation (MFI), which is dedicated to the preservation of the Indigenous People of the Central Vietnam, says the Vietnamese government is continuing to use its religious reform laws as a means of control. The five men and a mother were taken to a police station where they have been severely abused.

Vietnamese house church mother Rahlan H’Per
Vietnamese house church mother Rahlan H’Per

MFI is calling on the US State Department to reconsider placing Vietnam back on the ‘Country of Particular Concern’ (CPC) watch list of nations which are the most egregious violators of religious freedom.

MFI is also calling on concerned Embassies, the Red Cross and other international humanitarian agencies “to try to urgently ensure medical attention is given to the victims who are still in prison and seek to get medical help to hundreds of the other Montagnard prisoners inside Vietnam’s prisons who suffer abuse and maltreatment.”

The organization is asking concerned Embassies and the international community “to urgently demand Vietnam to release the prisoners still in custody and to release all 350 Degar Prisoners as identified in the Human Rights Watch report of 14 June 2006.” (See: http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2006/06/14/vietna13542.htm)

Furthermore, the group is requesting that concerned Embassies and the international community “pursue a permanent humanitarian presence in the Central Highlands by US, UN and international NGOs in order to address the underlying causes of the persecution of the indigenous Montagnard Degar peoples.”

BEATEN UNCONSCIOUS AND IMPRISONED: UNABLE TO EAT

MFI reports that on 5 April, a Degar Christian named Siu Eng (age 38) from the village of Plei Hluh was arrested in his home at approximately 6:30 am by two Vietnamese security police named Vu and Chung.

In a media release, MFI says: “The reason for his arrest was that he’s a layman of a house church at his village who refused to join the official government recognized church.”

According to MFI, the security police took him to the police station at Ia Grai district and beat him mercilessly using karate techniques, punching and kicking him over his body until he became unconscious.

“Siu Eng’s relatives visited him on 7 April and they saw his swollen face and battered body covered with blood. They burst into tears and used a handkerchief to wipe the dried blood from his face. He told them he was beaten repeatedly and had bled from his nose and ears. His family brought him food but he was unable to open his mouth from pain and was only able to feed him liquid soybean milk. Siu Eng is still imprisoned at the prison facility in the district of Ia Grai and the condition of his health is unknown,” MFI said.

Also on 5 April, a Degar Christian named Rahlan Piom (age 31) from the village of Plei Com, was also arrested (as Siu Eng above) at approximately 6:30 am but by different security police (names unknown).

“The reason for the arrest was that he was a layman for his house church at his village who refused to join the official government recognized church,” MFI said.

“The security police took him to the police station at Ia Grai district and tortured him in the same way they did to Siu Eng. The security police mercilessly beat him using karate techniques, boxing, and kicking him until he became unconscious. He was bruised and battered and covered in blood from the beatings. His family visited him on April 7 and cried out loud when they saw his battered face.

“They brought him food but he was barely able to open his mouth still suffering from the beatings. Rahlan Piom is still imprisoned at the prison facility in the district of Ia Grai and the condition of his health is unknown,” MFI reported.

BEATEN UNCONSCIOUS: ATTEMPTS TO BREAK HIS EARDRUMS

A Degar Christian named Rahlan Pyap (age 32) from the village of Plei Hluh, on March 11 received an order from the Vietnamese security police of Ia Grang commune to attend their office.

MFI said: “When Rahlan Pyap arrived at the police station around 10 am that day the police grabbed him and pushed him into a car and drove him to the police station in the district of Ia Grai. Here, the security police told Rahlan Pyap that he must follow the government recognized religion of Siu Kim and Rcom Boi or they will severely punish him.

“He refused and the police began striking him with their fists and slapping his ears trying to break his eardrums. They also beat his face, abdominal region and kicked him all over his body until he became unconscious. The police repeatedly tortured him in this manner numerous times until he was released on 23 March.”

On the same day another Degar Christian named Rcom Mrin (age 47) from the village of Plei Khop, was ordered by the Vietnamese security police of the Commune of Ia Grang to attend their office.

“When Rcom Mrin arrived at the police station around 10 am that day the police grabbed him and pushed him into a car and drove him to the police station in Ia Grai district. Here, the security police told him that he must follow the religion of Siu Kim or Rcom Boi or he will be severely punished,” the MFI statement said.

Rcom Mrin refused and the police began beating him with their fists and also slapping his ears trying to break his eardrums, MFI said. He was beaten on his face, his abdominal parts and kicked all over until he was unconscious. MFI says that Rcom Mrin is still imprisoned at the prison facility in the district of Ia Grai and the condition of his health is unknown.

Rmah Hlip (age 37), also a Degar believer, who is also from the village of Plei Hluh was summoned by the security police to attend their office at Ia Grang commune, MFI says.

MFI reports that when he arrived at the police station around 10 am, the police grabbed him and pushed him into a car then took him to the police station in Ia Grai district. Here, the security police told him that he must follow the religion of Siu Kim or Rcom Boi or he will be severely punished. “Rmah Hlip refused and the police began beating him with their fists and also slapping his ears trying to break his eardrums. He was beaten on his face, his abdominal parts and kicked all over until he was unconscious. He is still imprisoned at the prison facility in the district of Ia Grai and the condition of his health is unknown, the MFI report explained.

HOUSE CHURCH MOTHER AND 6 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER IMPRISONED

A 28-year-old Degar woman named Rahlan H’Per from Plei Com village, was summoned by the communal security police to meet with a provincial police officer at the communal police station.

MFUI says that at around 10:00 am, Rahlan H’Per arrived at the communal police station and she was grabbed by a Vietnamese police officer named Minh who took her to the police station in Ia Grai district.

The MFI report says: “The Vietnamese police questioned Rahlan H’Per as to whom she was communicating with in America and she replied back by saying that she only kept in contact with her husband. The Security Police warned her that if she doesn’t follow the official Church she will be placed in jail. She remained silent and was right away taken to prison in the district of Ia Grai.

“The next morning her mother and 6- year-old daughter came to the prison to see her. The security police then took her 6-year-old daughter and also put her in the prison cell with her mother and kept them both there for six days until they were released on 16 March.”

BACKGROUND TO DEGAR CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION

The indigenous Degar Peoples (known under the French colonial term “Montagnard”) have suffered decades of persecution by the Vietnamese communist government, namely; confiscation of their ancestral lands, Christian religious repression, torture, killings and imprisonment.

To date over 350 Degar prisoners remain in Vietnamese prisons for standing up for their human rights, for spreading Christianity or for fleeing to Cambodia and many have been subjected to electric shock treatment and torture as well as being withheld food and medical care.

The authorities continue to persecute members of the Christian House Church movement and in many cases have killed prisoners by deliberately beating them causing internal organ damage. Throughout the Central Highlands, the Degar population suffers abuses committed by soldiers and police.

A Vietnamese Government Document form the Central Bureau of Religious Affairs, dated Hanoi, 2006 says: “Those who are hostile and extremely resistant treat them severely and publicly denounce them to the citizen explaining their activities of destroying the country, dividing the ethnic groups, and their other illegal actions.”

MONTAGNARD FOUNDATION, INC.
P.O. BOX 171114 – SPARTANBURG, SC 29301-0038 USA
Fax: (864) 595-1940 – Phone: (864) 576-0698
E-mail: kksor@degar.org
Web site: http://www.montagnard-foundation.org

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