10/24/2006, 00.00
VIETNAM
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More torture of Montagnard Christians reported

The Montagnard Foundation reported the abduction of a Degar Christian and the torture of another, who was savagely beaten because he was speaking on his cell phone.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – There is no let up in persecution of Montagnard Christians of Degar ethnicity by the Vietnamese government: one man is dying after police torture and another disappeared after being kidnapped by police. These latest cases were reported by the Montagnard Foundation. For years, the foundation has lobbied for the religious freedom of the "people of the highlands", constantly monitoring their plight.

On 13 October, two police officers abducted a Christian Degar man called Thinh while he was walking close to his village: both the location where the man is detained and the status of his health are currently unknown. His family is "extremely concerned" about his safety because "arrests" leading to disappearance very often mean torture or death in custody.

The Foundation also denounced that police tortured a man of the same ethnic group named Y-Tao Eban. The man was apprehended with two relatives on 14 September because he was speaking on his cell phone: this is a pretext commonly used by police to stop Montagnards for "checks".

During interrogation, Eban was beaten repeatedly with an AK 47 rifle until he became unconscious. The police were afraid he would die in captivity, so they quickly organized a taxi to take him back to his village.

His family took him to a hospital because he could not move. His relatives "worry whether he will survive, although he is now fighting for his life. Doctors stated he had bleeding on his brain from being beaten."

According to data compiled by the organization, more than 350 Montagnard Christians of Degar ethnicity are currently in prison: they are given the choice of denying their faith or migrating to Cambodia.

Although Vietnam wants to enter the World Trade Organisation, it still persists with systematic violations of human rights and religious freedom, according to the rights watchdog, Human Rights Watch (HRW). Hanoi refuses to allow the United Nations Human Rights Commission to meet political prisoners.

In April, shortly before the start of the tenth national Congress of the Communist Party, hundreds of people – Christian priests, Buddhist monks, professionals, former Communists, ex detainees, teachers and others – signed a document calling for respect for fundamental human rights, a multi-party political system, independent trade unions and freedom of worship and political association.

Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch Asia director, said: "In Vietnam, simply signing this document is enough to result in a police inquiry and often imprisonment."

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