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Public Statements

Easter Crackdown on the Montagnards

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


EASTER CRACKDOWN ON THE MONTAGNARDS -- (Extensions of Remarks - April 27, 2004)

SPEECH OF
HON. CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH
OF NEW JERSEY
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
TUESDAY, APRIL 27, 2004

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, Easter is usually a joyous time for Christians throughout the world. Unfortunately, that was not the case this year for many Montagnards Christians, ethnic minorities in Vietnam's Central Highlands. On Saturday April 10, more than a thousand ethnic minority Christians assembled in the streets of Buon Ma Thuot to protest ongoing religious repression and confiscation of tribal lands.

Their peaceful protests were met with brutal force by the Vietnamese police, who attacked and arrested the protesters and sealed off the area to foreigners-much like the Chinese Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

Numerous reports state that hundreds may be dead with many others arrested, injured, and or in hiding. This follows years of ongoing persecution and a brutal crackdown in December of 2001, when the government also forcibly suppressed mass protests in the region, after which the Vietnamese government closed hundreds of Christian Churches.

Religious persecution in Vietnam against Catholics, Christians, members of the Unified Buddhist Church, and members of Vietnam's indigenous religious groups has been well documented in the State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights and International Religious Freedom.

Last year, the Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended Vietnam should be designated as a Country of Particular Concern for "systematic, egregious, and ongoing" religious freedom abuses. As if there was any doubt, the Easter crackdown confirms the fact that Vietnam should be designated as a Country of Particular Concern for violations in religious freedom. Protections and assistance for Montagnard asylum seekers should be provided also be provided by the Cambodian government and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Congress will continue to keep up the pressure on the regime in Hanoi. We will work to pass H. Con. Res. 378, a resolution calling for the release of Father Nguyen Van Ly, a prominent and outspoken Catholic priest, that was reported out of the House International Relations Committee and has nearly 90 cosponsors.

And we will also work to pass H.R. 1587, "The Vietnam Human Rights Act," which calls for careful monitoring of human rights in Vietnam. Similar legislation cleared the House 410-1 in the 107th Congress but stalled in the Senate.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to submit the following articles by Human Rights Watch detailing the events of the Easter crackdown, to the CONGRESSIONAL RECORD.

The United States and the world cannot turn a blind eye to this Easter crackdown and continual persecution of Montagnards and religious groups in Vietnam. We must take a stand.

END

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