STATEMENT BY KOK KSOR CONCERNING THE EASTER MASSACRE OF MONTAGNARD CHRISTIANS IN VIETNAM


Montagnard Foundation

On April 10, 2004 thousands of Christian Montagnards conducted peaceful demonstrations inside Vietnam’s Central Highlands calling for an end to years of persecution namely religious persecution and confiscation of our ancestral lands and the negation of political autonomy. Vietnamese paramilitary forces attacked our people and Human Rights Watch stated on 22 April 2004 “We’ve received alarming reports that scores of protesters were wounded during the demonstrations, and that some protesters were beaten to death.”

In regards to the aftermath of this brutal repression conducted by Vietnamese security forces and I issue this statement:

Our people have confirmed the worst and I can assure the international community our original estimates of approximately 400 Montagnards being killed is correct. Soon we will be releasing details of hundreds of victims and their villages and those who doubted us will see the depth of the Vietnamese government’s repression.

I would also remind the international community that On December 18, 2003, the International Religious Freedom Report released by the US State Department stated: “Foreign diplomats visited the Central and Northwest Highlands several times during the period covered by this report, although the provinces continued to provide "escorts" and plainclothes "security." The Government continued to restrict or supervise closely access to these provinces by diplomats, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), journalists, and other foreigners, making it difficult to verify conditions in those areas”.

On April 20, 2004 in a statement released by the EU Mission in Hanoi stated: “The EU also called on the authorities to re-establish a Tripartite agreement with UNHCR and Cambodia and allow UNHCR access to the Central Highlands to monitor the situation. The EU requested access to the area for diplomats, international press, other UN agencies and international NGOs. Furthermore, the EU requested the authorities to investigate the grievances of the ethnic minority people in the Central Highlands, to address them and to respect their freedom of religion.”

Furthermore on April 28, 2004, Amnesty International stated: “Whilst there is no doubt that overseas Montagnard groups have been linked to the public protests both in 2001 and April 2004, Amnesty International believes that to blame “outsiders” for the unrest avoids addressing fundamental and underlying problems including land rights’ pressures from internal migration and differences of religion and culture.“ and that “People reported to have been unlawfully killed during the crackdown on demonstrators include those listed below [8 people]. Amnesty International fears that the final death toll is considerably higher and has further names of victims which are yet to be corroborated.”

Thus, I ask the media to be extra vigilant when quoting official Vietnamese sources as the Hanoi regime is notoriously known for manipulating the truth and forcing people to lie to journalists. It should be always stressed that the interviews, which are taking place in the Central Highlands these days are taken without direct and free access and dialogue of the media with the witnesses.

I further assure the international community that the Montagnard people conducted the Easter demonstrations solely because they are suffering terrible human rights abuses. The proposition made by Vietnamese authorities that money was promised to people to attend the demonstrations is completely false, and MFI has never promised the people in the Central Highlands that the UN would resettle them in the United States. Our people want to live in freedom in the Central Highlands of Vietnam and do not want to expatriate, even though we appreciate the hospitality provided by the US people and Government to a few thousands Montagnards. Those who are fleeing to Cambodia are doing so to avoid being killed or tortured by the Vietnamese security forces. The Cambodian Government must respect the 1953 Refugee Convention and cannot arrest and repatriate our people as it has already happened with hundreds of individuals over the last days.

In response to Vietnam’s allegations that the Montagnard Foundation is a terrorist organization, I wish to say clearly this is false propaganda used by the Vietnamese government as a ploy to prevent me from speaking at the UN. The only violent actions currently taking place in the Central Highlands are those by the Vietnamese military and police forces, and sometimes by civilians, against the Montagnard and disarmed Montagnard civilians. Hanoi is also trying to sanction an NGO of which I am a member (The Transnational Radical Party which has consultative status with the United Nations) for allowing me to speak at the UN Commission on Human Rights where, also this year, I have spoken out to denounce the repression suffered by the Montagnard people in Vietnam. These intimidations tactics however violate the principles of freedom of speech at the UN.

The Easter demonstrations were in fact based on Christianity and Gandhi’s principles of nonviolence. The demonstrations were organized by the people inside Vietnam and, after having failed to dissuade them to go ahead at this point in time, the Montagnard Foundation offered its support to alert the international community and diplomatic missions in Vietnam with a public announcement on April 9, 2004. Our people are crying out for help. Our most immediate concern for our people is that international and independent UN agencies must be allowed into the Central highlands to monitor the ongoing human rights abuses as recommended by the 2002 Human Rights Committee, (UN doc: CCPR/C/SR.2031), and as it has been repeatedly requested by various Governments.

Vietnam should not continue to receive the huge economic support from international donors without respecting basic human rights.

I also refute the Vietnamese claims that we are seeking independence. We only want our human rights and indigenous rights respected according to international law. We also have no word for “independence” in our language but we do have a word for “freedom”. It is this word “freedom” which the government of Vietnam falsely claims that we are seeking independence.

We also sympathize with the oppressed Vietnamese Buddhists and other repressed groups in Vietnam and we declare we bare no animosity towards the Vietnamese people.

As a Christian I pray not only for our brothers and sisters inside Vietnam who struggle for freedom but also I pray for the Vietnamese communist authorities who persecute us.

Regards

Kok Ksor
Montagnard Foundation