Vietnam’s Politburo Continues to Oppress Indigenous Peoples, Ethnic Minorities
By David M. Kinchen, Huntington News Network
February 25, 2007 – Hardliners in Vietnam’s politburo in Hanoi are obsessed with punishing, oppressing and even eliminating peoples — such as the Khmer Krom, Montagnards and Hmong Lao, that aligned themselves more than 30 years ago with the United States during the Vietnam War.
That’s the view of international human rights groups,and many others in Southeast Asia concerned with the rights of indigenous and ethnic peoples.
Founded by Ho Chi Minh, the Communist Party of Indochina is well-known in the public for the killing fields of Cambodia, the boat people and the reeducation camps.
Less known is the current ongoing genocide on the Hmong Lao, which is currently making major headlines in the international media, after thousand of Hmong Lao fled Vietnamese and Laotian military aggressions inside of the Communist country Laos.
More than 10,000 of the ethnic minority Hmong Lao, descendants of former CIA soldiers, are hiding to this day in remote mountain areas in Laos. Well documented reports reveal that Vietnamese soldiers are taking part in attacking and killing thousands of half starved Hmong Lao who are constantly on the run from military attacks – including the use of chemical weapons, bombs and rockets.
Rebecca Sommer’s video documentary “Hunted Like Animals” documented not only hundreds of testimonies of Hmong Lao refugees who recently fled from Laos, but includes shocking footage filmed by the Hmong Lao themselves — people living-in-hiding in remote mountain areas of Laos — showing gruesome atrocities which are considered genocide by international human rights groups. Passports of Vietnamese soldiers where confiscated by Hmong groups-in-hiding, after finding dead corpses of soldiers from troops who attacked them.
“We know that the Vietnamese are the higher rank military commanders inside of our country Laos, Hanoi is in charge of Laos – as in the case of Cambodia. Hanoi is giving the final orders – we saw them attacking us, we hear them speaking Vietnamese, it is no secret to us who is attacking us Hmong Lao” said Faitou Vue, a Hmong Lao refugee, and CIA veteran who fled Communist Laos’ widening military aggressions to refuge in Thailand.
In Vietnam, the indigenous peoples such as the Montagnards and Khmer Krom, who also sided with the U.S. during the Vietnam War, endure severe oppression and human rights violations, with many of them escaping to neighboring Cambodia.
“But if we stay in Cambodia, the Vietnamese will get us any minute. Cambodia listens to Hanoi, so many of our people got killed or forcefully brought back to Vietnam. The Cambodian authorities do nothing to protect us,” stated one of many hundreds of Khmer Krom refugees, an indigenous peoples from the Mekong Delta, who fled further than Cambodia, hiding as an illegal migrant in Thailand.
Two weeks ago, inside of Vietnam — five Khmer Krom Buddhist temples, together with their Khmer Krom communities held a peaceful demonstration to request to Hanoi to be allowed to maintain their Buddhist religion, which they say was not granted.
Instead, the temples were surrounded by Vietnamese authorities, and in the case of the Tra Set temple two hundred Vietnamese military officers surrounded and arrested numerous Buddhist monks, and disrobed them.
“They abuse our people for so long, we are arrested for teaching our own language, or our history, and they always target our Buddhist monks, the heart and soul of our Khmer Krom people,” said T. Thach, president of NGO Khmer Krom Federation. “Our temples are the center of our communities. We are imprisoned and tortured when we listen to the radio from the outside word, or when we check the internet related to our concerns. Writing e-mails to the outside world is prohibited.”
T. Thach continued: “If our Khmer Krom Buddhist monks teach the sacred Buddhist language Pali — they are ordered by Hanoi to include Communist doctrines, if not, they get disrobed and are not allowed to be monks anymore, and are imprisoned as traitors and enemies of Communism . This is not right: our religion has nothing to do with Communism, or any form of politics, it is our religion, and sacred to us. It is the teaching of peace and rightful conduct in life. But we are not allowed to maintain our religion, we are not even allowed to maintain our Khmer Krom culture, way of life, actually, they want to Vietnamize us in a manner, that nothing would be left from us, as Khmer Krom peoples, or Montagnards peoples — and we object to that.”
Award winning filmmaker Rebecca Sommer, a New York City-based representative from the Society for Threatened Peoples International documented in 2006 disturbing human rights violation claims made by hundreds of Khmer Krom from Vietnam in her video documentary ” “Eliminated Without Bleeding”.
“The title explains what is happening to the Khmer Krom — they are not massacred like the Hmong Lao, which is well-documented in my feature film ‘Hunted Like Animals,’” Sommer told HNN. “The Khmer Krom and Montagnards have a different situation, They have no freedom of speech or religion, and are under tight control and intimidation — targeted with their identity as a people. They are not massacred, but nevertheless eliminated as a people.”
Sommer said that inside Vietnam, the Vietnamese Communist Party maintains a virtual iron curtain around the Central Highlands of Vietnam that used to be the traditional homeland for the 54 ethnic hill tribes loosely defined as Montagnards. No Montagnard can leave a village without a pass, their leaders are confined to house arrest, and many are in prison that refuse to denounce their protestant religion. The same rules apply to the Khmer Krom, who are Buddhists.
“One can always tell when a group of Montagnards escapes into Mondulkiri Province. Vietnamese army and police officials chase after them and cross the border as if they owned western Cambodia,” said journalist The Co Van, from Peace and Freedom. “The Cambodian provincial police are alerted, and the guesthouses in the capital of Sen Monorum quickly fill with Cambodian police and army officials from neighboring provinces,” The Co Van added. “What a tragedy that America has abandoned our former allies in the Vietnam War a second time. Now the U.S. has the leverage to force the Vietnamese government to treat the Montagnards better but it remains silent when Hanoi glosses over their draconian human rights record in their bid for entrance into the WTO.”
The Montagnard Foundation reports that they hold evidence that bounty hunters capture the Montagnard refugees in Cambodia, and sell them back to the Vietnamese for $20 to $100. Twenty dollars is a month’s pay for a policeman in this part of the world.
” Why does the mainstream media ignore the plight of the Montagnards, the Khmer Krom, and their cousins, the Hmong in Laos for over 30 years, and still continue to do so?” asked Chue Chou Tchang, from the SGU Veterans, a U.S.- based Hmong organization.
Those Vietnam Veterans who fought the war along side with America — and the holocaust that unraveled in Southeast Asia after the American military left — had been simply too painful for the left in America to face, for if they honestly examined it, they might find themselves guilty by their tacit support for the perpetrators of the killing fields in Cambodia, the reeducation camps in Vietnam and Laos, and the genocide of the ethnic hill tribes that continues today, Tchang told HNN.
“One has to wonder why the Vietnamese Communist Party is so paranoid and ruthless in their treatment of a few Montagnards and Khmer Krom — escaping their clutches in the middle of the night,” said Van. “Why Laos, under the advice of Hanoi pressurew Thailand to force thousands of Hmong Lao refugees back to Laos. That’s because they know they can get away with it and that the mainstream media in the West really isn’t interested in the human rights abuses of Communist police states” said Van.
Sommer said that even though journalists and human rights advocates have entered and reported on the alarming human rights violations in in Laos and Vietnam, the ongoing silence by the U.S. administration that has lasted for over 30 years persists to this day. She opined that the U.S. continues to ignore the ongoing genocide in Southeast Asia of their former allies and swallows whole the communist doublespeak on the human rights violation there.