MONTAGNARD FOUNDATION APPEALS TO EACH AND EVERY MEMBER OF US CONGRESS TO REMEMBER OVER 300 MONTAGNARD PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE IN VIETNAM


Montagnard Foundation

31 January 2006 Spartanburg S.C. USA

BACKGROUND: The indigenous Montagnards Degar peoples have suffered decades of persecution by the Vietnamese government and in January 2006 the US State Department has continued to maintain Vietnam on the “watch list” of “countries that are the worst violators of religious freedom. During the Vietnam War over 40,000 Monagnards served alongside US forces and since 1975 Vietnam has persecuted our people through confiscation of our ancestral lands, Christian religious repression, torture, killings and imprisonment. Over 300 Montagnards remain in Vietnamese prisons today and refugees returned to Vietnam are tortured and imprisoned. Vietnam is however engaged in negotiations to gain accession into the World Trade Organization.

The Montagnard Foundation is in direct contact with our people throughout the Central Highlands, who with great risk to themselves continue to communicate with those of us who live in freedom in the United States. We, the Montagnards who live in the United States however, cannot forget our brothers and sisters inside Vietnam who suffer and who cry out to the outside world for help. This is why we now write to US Congress in a plea to bring freedom for our people. All we want is human rights and equality for our people and do not wish to halt progress for Vietnam. However, we have over 300 of our people suffering in prison and our villages all over Vietnam report they are under surveillance by security forces.

The following is a copy of the letter of appeal we have sent to each and every US Senator and Representative to please help our 300 prisoners of conscience and to also protect our refugees who are forcibly returned to Vietnam from Cambodian refugee camps. We also ask that monitors be granted access to the Central Highlands in order to protect our people from ongoing human rights abuses.

Our people inside Vietnam will be praying throughout their villages over the next few weeks as we send these letters out to each and every US Representative and Senator. (copy of letter attached below).

For more details contact:
Kok Ksor on (1) (864) 576-0698 Email: kksor@montagnard-foundation.org

For media inquiries also contact: Scott Johnson:
Mob phone: (61) 0409 084 036 Email: scottj@mail2me.com.au



To the kind attention of:

The Honorable (Representative or Senator)
United States Congress
Washington, DC

25 January 2006

MONTAGNARD FOUNDATION APPEALS TO EACH AND EVERY MEMBER OF US CONGRESS TO REMEMBER OVER 300 MONTAGNARD PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE IN VIETNAMESE PRISONS; AND REMEMBER THE SAFETY OF MONTAGNARD REFUGEES WHO WERE FORCED TO RETURN TO VIETNAM FROM CAMBODIA; AND THE RIGHTS OF MONTAGNARD PEOPLE TO CO-EXIST WITH VIETNAMESE PEOPLE IN HARMONY

Dear (Representative or Senator)

I am writing you today concerning the United States and the Government of Vietnam, in relation to Vietnam’s bid to enter the World Trade Organization (WTO). This issue is of utmost importance for the well-being of not only over 300 our peaceful indigenous people who have been tortured and unjustly imprisoned by Vietnam but for our entire race and the future of US/Vietnam relations. Soon the US Government and Vietnam will conclude negotiations for Vietnam’s accession to the WTO and the fate of our people’s future remains uncertain. (We believe Australia and New Zealand also have also yet to conclude negotiations with Vietnam’s WTO accession). We however, gratefully acknowledge the interest that Representative Chris Smith and the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee has shown towards helping our people.

I stress however, we do not harbor ill-feelings toward progress in Vietnam, but we now cry out to each and every member of the US Congress to remember us in this crucial hour. On behalf of our constituents in Vietnam who have suffered torture, persecution for being Christian and for standing up for our basic human rights, we make this plea. Our people merely want freedom from decades of persecution and we respectfully ask that the fate of over 300 Montagnard prisoners and the ongoing persecution occurring in our villages be raised with government of Vietnam. We would like all our prisoners of conscience to be released before Vietnam is granted accession with the WTO and that our people are protected from future human rights abuses.

As you may know the Montagnard Degar people have inhabited Vietnam’s Central Highlands for centuries, have suffered intense discrimination and persecution by the Vietnamese Government as over 40,000 of our people served alongside our American brothers during the Vietnam War. During that war, our people largely sided with the US military actively supporting the effort to stop communist forces taking over South Vietnam for we knew the communists would have oppressed our civil liberties, starting with the right to religious freedom, our indigenous rights, and the right to our ancestral lands. This religious, social and political oppression has continued to deteriorate since the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, especially since our people decided to stand up for their rights and organize peaceful mass demonstrations in the central highlands to demand that Vietnam respect their basic rights. Both in 2001 and on Easter 2004 the largely peaceful demonstrations, carried out by the Montagnard Degar people, in coordination with us, the Montagnard Foundation have been followed by a crackdown of the Vietnamese authorities and deployment of security forces in the Central highlands, who have killed many of our people and conducted a widespread campaign of arrests, tortures and intimidation that is far from over. Even my own relatives, including my own mother who is over 80 years old was beaten in retaliation by Vietnamese police and my half brother imprisoned. Below is a picture of some Montagnard refugees who escaped describing how one was tortured for practicing Christianity and being forced to stand in stress position over nails in a form of crucifixion.

Despite some cosmetic gestures by the Vietnamese authorities almost all the Montagnards imprisoned since 2001 for peacefully demonstrating for their rights, for fleeing to Cambodia or for practicing Christian beliefs remain in Vietnamese prisons. This repression has been documented by numerous sources, including the US State Department which had designated Vietnam as a Country of Particular Concern in 2005 for violating religious freedom. Today the information we receive indicates Vietnam continues religious persecution by arresting house church Christians and by forcing Montagnard Christians to join the “official” government church.

(Representative or Senator,

With this letter I wish to respectfully request if you can use your influence to help secure the release of over 300 Montagnard Degar prisoners imprisoned following the 2001 and 2004 demonstrations. On our website we have published a report of these prisoners, many with photographs who remain in Vietnam’s prisons and will send you a full report if you desire. This report also expands on the information on Montagnard Degar human rights violations already reported by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Many of these people have been beaten and tortured. We also ask that a permanent solution be explored to protect our people inside Vietnam namely that humanitarian monitors be granted unhindered access to the central highlands.

We are not asking the United States to abandon relations with Vietnam and we do not want progress between US and Vietnam to be stifled however, we ask that our people’s sacrifice during the Vietnam War be remembered. We know the world of politics and world trade is complex but we cry out in desperation to you in order that you may use some of your influence to help our people who suffer in prison. If there is something you can do to ease the suffering of our people please feel free to let us know.
Sincerely and God Bless,



Kok Ksor
President of the Montagnard Foundation


A form of crucifixion: The Montagnard refugees (right)
were interviewed in refugee camps in 2004 and describe
how one was chained to a wall, forced to stand over
nails in a stress position while Vietnamese police
taunted him, “Where is your Jesus now?” See video:

http://www.montagnard-foundation.org/MRelease-04-1121.htm