Who knows of the Montagnard Prisoners?

11 April, 2008 a woman named Puih H’Bat was arrested.

June 2011, 3 years later, despite various petitions and political pressure to release her, her case is suppressed by a heavy silence, a silence commonly endorsed by the Vietnamese authorities on such cases, and nothing is known of her wellbeing.

What was her crime?

She had been leading prayer services for Christians in her house in the Ploi Ban village, in the Gia Lai province.

Her actions of practicing her religion freely, something that should be a given right, but which is increasingly challenged in politically tenuous countries, is the cause of her arrest.

Restless Beings have been in contact with the Montagnard Foundation Inc, who work tirelessly to ‘’restore, safeguard, and monitor the innate and inalienable human rights of the Montagnards as described in the covenants and declarations of the United Nations’’.

Puih H’Bat, a Degar Montagnard Christian, has been reported to be sentenced to five years imprisonment as her acts equate to ‘’ Crimes of infringing upon national security’’ and ‘’undermining national unity policy’’ referring to Article 87 of the Penal Code of Vietnam. The Vietnamese government, though claiming it allows the free expression of religion, in fact consistently upholds tight reigns on religious practices at all levels in the country, from religious appointments to teachings and private practices within the home. Independent churches are banned and any unrecognised churches are destroyed upon discovery. Article 87 is often used to justify such actions, as the government claims that such actions foster dissent and hinder national unity.

Her situation is not unlike many others in Vietnam. In January, 2010, a 37 year old man, Ksor Ju was arrested for unknown reason. His daughter watched as he was detained by two security police officers and tied to their motorcycle before being dragged away. On the same day, over 30 officers then ransacked his home and threatened Ksro ju’s family. As with all the prisoners detained by the authorities it is feared that they will be tortured and even killed. The family since January, 2010 have not heard anything about Ksor Ju, thus giving rise to a fear of the worst and that like Puih H’Bat he may have been murdered.

In April this year, the Montagnard Foundation were made aware of the names of 81 prisoners who had been detained unlawfully. It was believed that they too like Puih H’Bat and Ksor Ju had been members of Christian house Churches. However, there are hundreds more believed to be held across various secret prisons in Vietnam. Operating repression, and feeding off fear, whilst all the while claiming to uphold democracy, the Vietnamese government continue to go unaccountable for their actions of systematic brutality of the Montagnards.

Restless Beings have previously reported on the story of Pezilet Ekber, who as Uighur in North Western China was arrested on trumped up charges of violently protesting against the government. She consequently, after enduring months of detainment and secret trial was sentenced to death. The cases of Pezilet Ekber and Puih H’Bat and Ksor Ju are all one and the same. The Montagnard Degars, like the Uighurs from Chinese Authorities, face persecution and marginalisation at the hands of the Vietnamese authorities and it continues every day un challenged by the international community.

Restless Beings is a humanitarian organisation seeking to provide a voice for voiceless, marginalised and silenced communities around the world. As we seek to provide a platform for their cases to be heard, please share and make the stories of Pezilet Ekber, Puih H’Bat and Ksor Ju known to all.

ALL must be equal before the law with no fear of discrimination based on race, religion, gender, culture or any other difference in ANY country. And WE must stand for them.

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