Government authorities continue to apply unrelenting pressure on tribal Christians in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, while trying to convince the international community that all is back to normal in the troubled region.
The most recent outbreak in the long-standing tension commenced in April 2004, when thousands of Montagnards joined protests against the confiscation of tribal lands and the severe repression of the Christian faith that many of them profess.
Police and soldiersmany disguised as local farmerswere sent in to break up the demonstrations, resulting in deaths and injuries among the Montagnards. Due to a press blackout and intense measures taken by the government to cover up events of the April 10 and 11 clash, the full extent of what happened that Easter weekend and in the days immediately following may never be known.
Christian leaders in Vietnam close to the situation believe the number of deaths almost certainly exceeds the estimates given by some human rights organizations. Human Rights Watch, for example, initially reported only 10 deaths.
However, reports have recently surfaced of mysterious excavations at a military base near Buonmathuot following the April demonstrations. Some fear the bodies of people killed during the protests may have been buried here.
Montagnard sources told Compass that the people of the highlands desperately want their side of the story to be heard; they have supplied the names and addresses of three men in Dak Lak province who have offered to testify before any foreign investigators, regardless of the consequences to themselves.
Also provided to Compass were several lists totaling 123 names of people affected by the crackdown. The lists include dozens of highlanders sentenced ...1
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