11 Vietnamese Christians missing, rights group says

Many are Montagnards from the country’s Central Highlands.
RFA Staff
11 Vietnamese Christians missing, rights group says In this 2004 photo, a Vietnamese Montagnard emerges from dense forest in Cambodia's northeastern province of Ratanakiri, seeking asylum.
Adrees Latif/Reuters

A global religious rights group says it’s concerned about the fate of 11 Vietnamese Christians, imprisoned for their beliefs, who it says are now missing.

Washington-based International Christian Concern, or ICC, said on July 5 that the six Protestant and five Catholic men were sentenced between 2011 and 2016 to a total of 90 years and eight months in prison.

Among them are Degar Protestants Ro Mah Pla, Siu Hlom, Rmah Bloanh and Rmah Khil, accused of “undermining national unity policy.” 

ICC said the other two Protestants were punished for refusing to deny Christianity.

Sung A Khua was imprisoned for two years and two months on Jan. 2, 2019. Prior to his arrest, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom said his family were reportedly expelled from their village and their home was destroyed because they refused to renounce Christianity. 

While his sentence should have ended in March 2021, Sung A Khua’s whereabouts are still unknown.

The other Protestant, Y Hriam Kpa, was arrested for refusing to close his church.


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Degar is the term the government uses to refer to non-state sanctioned Protestant Montagnards living in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, who say they have long been persecuted for their beliefs.

In January, 100 individuals from Dak Lak province – an area populated by around 30 minority tribes – were tried for an attack on two People’s Commune headquarters that left nine people dead. 

Ten were sentenced to life in prison on terrorism charges. The remainder were handed sentences ranging from three-and-a-half years to 20 years, mostly on terrorism-related charges. 

ICC said the five Catholics Runh, A Kuin, A Tik, Run, and Dinh Kuh were also accused of “undermining national unity policy” for taking part in Ha Mon Catholic Church activities, which are also not sanctioned by the state.

The Vietnamese government adopted the Law of Belief and Religion in 2018, which requires religious followers to register with the government before practicing their faith.

About 7% of Vietnam’s roughly 97 million people are Roman Catholic, partly as a result of evangelism by missionaries from Portugal and Spain beginning in the 16th century.

Pope Francis has accepted an invitation to travel to Vietnam which is expected to take place later this year.

“The missing Christian prisoners speak to a larger problem within the Vietnamese legal framework for the nation’s minorities, like the Degar Protestants and Ha Mon Catholics,” ICC said in a statement.  

Radio Free Asia called Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its reaction to international concern over the fate of the missing Christians but no one answered the phone.

Edited by Mike Firn and Taejun Kang.


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