Vietnam blacklists US-based Montagnard groups as terrorist organisations
by Steve Suwannarat

The government blames US-based Montagnard Support Group Inc and Montagnard Stand for Justice for attacks on Communist Party headquarters in the Dak Lak area. Despite recent overtures, Vietnam’s Christian minority is still victimised and persecuted.


Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – Two more US-based groups advocating on behalf of ethnic minorities in Vietnam’s Central Highlands have been listed as terrorist organisations, further evidence that the Montagnards remain a thorn in the side of the Vietnamese government.

The Montagnard Support Group Inc (MSGI) and the Montagnard Stand for Justice (MSFJ) have been blamed for attacks in June last year on Communist Party headquarters in the Dak Lak area that killed nine people, including four police officers and local party officials.

Encouraged by the country’s authorities, Vietnamese mass media immediately linked the events in Dak Lak to "terrorist" groups abroad, including Boat People SOS and the MSFJ, unleashing a hate campaign against minority communities.

“Vietnam's state-run media have a long history of discriminatory bias and creating tall tales against ethnic minorities,” said recently Phil Robertson, deputy director at Human Rights Watch (HRW) Asia.

Despite the lack of any evidence against the targeted foreign-based Montagnard groups and their leaders, generally seen as “reactionary”, Vietnam’s intelligence service accuses them of orchestrating the attacks and having a secessionist agenda, charges the two latter deny.

Like other groups, the MSGI and the MSFJ have been accused of training and instructing members of ethnic minorities to "carry out terrorist activities, incite protests, kill officials and civilians, sabotage state assets and try to establish their own states”.

Such charges carry heavy consequences and can be applied to anyone who receives funds from any foreign-based groups.

In addition to terrorism accusations against such groups, Vietnam has also released a list of individuals involved in human rights advocacy, mainly based in the United States and Thailand.

Vietnamese authorities have threatened to target anyone involved with anyone they consider a risk to national security.

The Montagnards remain under a cloud of suspicion because they backed South Vietnam during the Vietnam War that ended on 30 April 1975 and are mostly Christian, an element of their identity that they have preserved in spite of pressures and decades of persecution.

Nevertheless, Montagnards’ treatment is not that different from that of activists and groups seeking greater civil liberties, human rights, and participation in a country that has experienced spectacular economic progress and shown some flexibility vis-à-vis demands for greater liberty and religious freedom.

In fact, Vietnam remains under the undisputed power of the Communist Party while exhibiting significant variation in terms of social and cultural progress.