Degar

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For the village in India, see Digger, Leh.
1st Cav LRRP Montagnards scanning for enemy troops, March 1968

The Degar, also known as the Montagnard, are the indigenous peoples of the Central Highlands of Vietnam. The term Montagnard means "mountain people" in French and is a carryover from the French colonial period in Vietnam. In Vietnamese, they are known by the term người Thượng (Highlanders)—this term now can also be applied to other minority ethnic groups in Vietnam or Người dân tộc thiểu số (literally, "minority people"). Earlier they were referred to pejoratively as the mọi.[1]

History[edit]

A Montagnard tribesman during training in 1962.

In 1962, the population of the Degar people in the Central Highlands was estimated to number as many as one million.[2] Today, the population is approximately four million, of whom about one million are Degars. The 30 or so Degar tribes in the Central Highlands comprise more than six different ethnic groups who speak languages drawn primarily from the Malayo-Polynesian, Tai, and Austroasiatic language families. The main tribes, in order of population, are the Jarai, Rade, Bahnar, Koho, Mnong, and Stieng.

Originally inhabitants of the coastal areas of the region, they were driven to the uninhabited mountainous areas by invading Vietnamese and Cambodians beginning prior to the 9th century.

French missionaries converted some Degar to the Catholic Church in the nineteenth century, but American missionaries converted more to Protestantism in the 1930s. Of the approximately one million Degar, close to half are Protestant, and around 200,000 are Roman Catholic. This made Vietnam's Communist Party suspicious of the Degar, particularly during the Vietnam War, since it was thought that they would be more inclined to help the predominantly Christian American forces.

In 1950 the French government established the Central Highlands as the Pays Montagnard du Sud (PMS) under the authority of Vietnamese Emperor Bảo Đại, whom the French had installed as nominal chief of state in 1949 as an alternative to Ho Chi Minh's North Vietnam. In the mid-1950s, the once-isolated Degar began experiencing more contact with outsiders after the Vietnamese government launched efforts to gain better control of the Central Highlands and, following the 1954 Geneva Accord, new ethnic minorities from North Vietnam moved into the area. As a result of these changes, Degar communities felt a need to strengthen some of their own social structures and to develop a more formal shared identity. When the French withdrew from Vietnam and recognized a Vietnamese government, Degar political independence was drastically diminished.

The Degar have a long history of tensions with the Vietnamese majority. While the Vietnamese are themselves heterogeneous, they generally share a common language and culture and have developed and maintained the dominant social institutions of Vietnam. The Degar do not share that heritage. There have been conflicts between the two groups over many issues, including land ownership, language and cultural preservation, access to education and resources, and political representation.

In 1958, the Degar launched a movement known as BAJARAKA (the name is made up of the first letters of prominent tribes; similar to the later Nicaraguan Misurasata) to unite the tribes against the Vietnamese. There was a related, well-organized political and (occasionally) military force within the Degar communities known by the French acronym, FULRO, or United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races. FULRO's objectives were autonomy for the Degar tribes.

A U.S. Army Ranger trains Degar guerrillas

As the Vietnam War began to loom on the horizon, both South Vietnamese and American policy makers sought to begin training troops from minority groups in the Vietnamese populace. The U.S. Mission to Saigon sponsored the training of the Degar in unconventional warfare by American Special Forces.[3] These newly trained Degar were seen as a potential ally in the Central Highlands area to stop Viet Cong activity in the region and a means of preventing further spread of Viet Cong sympathy.[4] Later, their participation would become much more important as the Ho Chi Minh trail, the North Vietnamese supply line for Viet Cong forces in the south, grew. The U.S. military, particularly the Special Forces, developed base camps in the area and recruited the Degar. Because of their quiet resolve and skills in tracking, roughly 40,000 fought alongside American soldiers and became a major part of the U.S. military effort in the Highlands and I Corps, the northernmost region of South Vietnam.

In 1967, the Viet Cong slaughtered 252 Degar in the village of Dak Son, home to 2,000 Highlanders, known as the Đắk Sơn massacre, in revenge for the Degar's support and allegiance with South Vietnam. In 1975, thousands of Degar fled to Cambodia after the fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese Army, fearing that the new government would launch reprisals against them because they had aided the U.S. Army. The U.S. military resettled some Degar in the United States, primarily in North Carolina, but these evacuees numbered less than 2,000. In addition, the Vietnamese government has steadily displaced thousands of villagers from Vietnam's central highlands, to use the fertile land for coffee plantations.

Montagnard and Chinese officers from 1976 and 1979 were purged from the Vietnam People's Army.[5]

Vietnam's south and center highlands were subjected to systematic state backed colonization by ethnic Vietnamese Kinh and the Central Highlands people experienced ruin and brutality during the Vietnam War.[6]

Outside of southeast Asia, the largest community of Montagnards in the world is located in Greensboro, North Carolina, US.[7]

Colonization by Vietnamese[edit]

The native inhabitants of the Central Highlands are the Degar (Montagnard) peoples. Vietnam conquered and invaded the area during its "march to the south" (Nam tiến). Ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh) people now outnumber the indigenous Degars after state sponsored colonization directed by both the government of South Vietnam and the current Communist government of unified Vietnam. The Montagnards have fought against and resisted all Vietnamese invaders, from the anti-Communist South Vietnamese government, the Vietcong, to the Communist government of unified Vietnam.

The Champa state and Chams in the lowlands were traditional suzerains whom the Montagnards in the highlands acknowledged as their lords, while autonomy was held by the Montagnards.[8] After World War II concept of "Nam tiến" and the southward conquest was celebrated by Vietnamese scholars.[9] The Pays Montagnard du Sud-Indochinois was the name of the Central Highlands from 1946 under French Indochina.[10]

The French, the Communist North Vietnamese, and the anti-Communist South Vietnamese all exploited and persecuted the Montagnards. North Vietnamese Communists forcibly recruited "comfort girls" from the indigenous Montagnard peoples of the Central Highlands and murdered those who didn't comply, inspired by Japan's use of comfort women.[11]

Up until French rule, the Central Highlands was almost never entered by the Vietnamese since they viewed it as a savage (Moi-Montaganrd) populated area with fierce animals like tigers, "poisoned water" and "evil malevolent spirits", but the Vietnamese expressed interest in the land after the French transformed it into a profitable plantation area to grow crops on,[12] in addition to the natural resources from the forests, minerals and rich earth and realization of its crucial geographical importance.[13]

The Montagnard inhabited Central Highlands became open to the Vietnamese only under French rule. The word savage (moi) was used by the Vietnamese against the Montagnard Degars. Both the South Vietnamese and the united Communist Vietnam government were fought against by the FULRO Degar fighters for the sake of the Central Highlands and Montagnard people under the direction of Y-Bham Enuol. The war lead to the deaths of 200,000 Degar people. Degar courts were abolished by South Vietnam and the Central Highlands became flooded with Vietnamese colonizers under the direction of South Vietnam. Torture and mass arrests by the Vietnamese military were used in the Central Highlands against the Degar during the February 2001 protests against Vietnamese oppression.[14]

The Chinese, the Central Highlands Montagnards, Cham, and Delta Cambodians (Khmer Krom) were all alienated by the South Vietnamese government under Diem. The Montagnard Highlands were subjected to colonization with ethnic Vietnamese by Diem. A complete rejection of Vietnamese rule was felt by non-NLF tribes of the Montagnards in 1963.<ref]>Frances FitzGerald (30 May 2009). Fire in the Lake. Little, Brown. pp. 298–. ISBN 978-0-316-07464-3. </ref>

An insurgency was waged by Montagnards in FULRO against South Vietnam and then unified Communist Vietnam.[15] A colonization program of Kinh Vietnamese by the South Vietnamese government and united Vietnamese Communist government was implemented[16][17] and now a Kinh majority predominates in the highland areas.[18] The Montagnard lands in the Central Highlands were subjected to state sponsored colonization by ethnic Vietnamese settlers under the South Vietnamese regime of Ngo Dinh Diem which resulted in estranging the Montagnards and leading them to reject Vietnamese rule.[19]

The South Vietnamese and Communist Vietnamese colonization of the Central Highlands have been compared to the historic Nam tiến of previous Vietnamese rulers. During the Nam tiến (March to the South) Khmer and Cham territory was seized and militarily colonized (đồn điền) by the Vietnamese which was repeated by the state sponsored colonization of Northern Vietnamese Catholic refugees on Montagnard land by the South Vietnamese leader Diem and the introduction to the Central Highlands of "New Economic Zones" by the now Communist Vietnamese government.[16] The thousand year violent war the Vietnamese in the lowlands had with the Montagnards in the mountains was a long established custom and the Vietnamese used the derogatory word "Moi" (savages) to address the Montagnards, the South Vietnamese government was strongly against the autonomous Montagnard CIDG (Civilian Irregular Defense Groups) who were fighting against the Vietcong because they feared that the Montagnards would gain independence so the South Vietnamese and Montagnards violently clashed against each other. The Vietnamese Communists implemented harsh punishment against the Montagnards after the defeat of South Vietnam.[20]

The Vietnamese viewed and dealt with the indigenous Montagnards in the CIDG from the Central Highlands as "savages" and this caused a Montagnard uprising against the Vietnamese.[21] The Montagnard Rhades mounted a revolt, seizing hundreds of Vietnamese civilians and soldiers, assassinating officers of the Vietnamese special forces and seizing American advisers on 19–20 September but the 23rd Division of the South Vietnamese army stopped them from sizing Ban Me Thout, the provincial capital of Darlac Province.[22] In the Central Highlands the Montagnard FULRO organization fought against both the Communists and South Vietnamese due to discrimination by the South Vietnamese army against the Montagnards. After the victory of the Communist North Vietnamese, the Vietnamese refused autonomy to the Montagnards, and on Montagnard land they settled around one million ethnic Vietnamese in addition to using "reducation camps" on the Montagnards, leading the Montagnard FULRO to continue the armed struggle against the Vietnamese.[15][23]

The Vietnamese were originally centered around the Red River Delta but engaged in conquest and seized new lands such as Champa, the Mekong Delta (from Cambodia) and the Central Highlands during Nam Tien, while the Vietnamese received strong Chinese influence in their culture and civilization and were Sinicized, and the Cambodians and Laotians were Indianized, the Montagnards in the Central Highlands maintained their own native culture without adopting external culture and were the true indigenous natives of the region, and to hinder encroachment on the Central Highlands by Vietnamese nationalists, the term Pays Montagnard du Sud-Indochinois PMSI emerged for the Central Highlands along with the natives being addressed by the name Montagnard.[24] The tremendous scale of Vietnamese Kinh colonists flooding into the Central Highlands has significantly altered the demographics of the region.[25] Violent demonstrations with fatalities have broken out due to Montagnard anger at Vietnamese discrimination and seizure of their land since many Vietnamese Kinh were settled by the government in the Central Highlands.[26][27]

Long tails and excessive body hair were attributed as physical characteristics of Montagnards in Vietnamese school textbooks in the past.[28] Ethnic minorities in general have also been referred to as "moi",[29] including other "hill tribes" like the Muong.[30] The anti-ethnic minority discriminatory policies by the Vietnamese, environmental degradation, deprivation of lands from the natives, and settlement of native lands by a massive amount of Vietnamese settlers led to massive protests and demonstrations by the Central Highland's indigenous native ethnic minorities against the Vietnamese in January–February 2001 and this event gave a tremendous blow to the claim often published by the Vietnamese government that in Vietnam There has been no ethnic confrontation, no religious war, no ethnic conflict. And no elimination of one culture by another.[31] The same state sponsored settlement of ethnic minority land by Vietnamese Kinh has happened in another highland region, the Annamite Cordillera (Trường Sơn), both the Central Highlands and Annamite Cordillera were populated by ethnic minorities who were not Vietnamese during the 20th century's start, but the demographics of the highlands was drastically transformed with the mass colonization of 6 million settlers from 1976 to the 1990s, which led to ethnic Vietnamese Kinh outnumbering the native ethnic groups in the highlands.[32]

Leaving out any plans for autonomy for ethnic minorities, an assimilation plan was launched by the South Vietnamese government with the creation of the "Social and Economic Council for the Southern Highlander Country", the South Vietnamese based their approach to the highlanders by claiming that they would be "developed" since they were "poor" and "ignorant", making swidden agriculturalists sedentarize and settling ethnic Vietnamese colonists from the coastal regions into the highlands such as Northern Vietnamese Catholic refugees who fled to South Vietnam, 50,000 Vietnamese settlers were in the highlands in 1960 and in 1963 the total number of settlers was 200,000 and up to 1974 the South Vietnamese were still implemented the colonization plan even though the highland natives experienced massive turbulence and disorder because of the colonization, and by 1971 less than half of a scheme back by the Americans to leave Montagnards with just 20% of the Central Highlands was completed, and even in the parts of the highlands which did not experience colonization, the South Vietnamese threw the native tribes into "strategic hamelets" to keep them away from places where communists potentially operated and the South Vietnamese consistently spurned any attempts too make overtures to the native Highlanders.[17]

The Montagnards in FULRO fought the Vietnamese for twenty years after the end of the Vietnam War and the scale of Vietnamese attacks on the Montagnards reached genocidal proportions with the slaughter of over 200,000 Montagnards after 1975. The Vietnamese slaughtered 200,000 Montagnards after 1975 during the war between FULRO and Vietnam in the Central Highlands, as the Vietnamese lease land for Japanese companies to harvest lumber in the area. Munitions, weapons, and 5,000 rifles were given by the Chinese to the Montagnards after the Montagnards requested help from China via Thai General Savit-Yun K-Yut since the United States refused to help the FULRO Montagnards against the Vietnamese.[33]

A colonization program of Kinh Vietnamese by the South Vietnamese government and united Vietnamese Communist government was implemented. Leaving out any plans for autonomy for ethnic minorities, an assimilation plan was launched by the South Vietnamese government with the creation of the "Social and Economic Council for the Southern Highlander Country", the South Vietnamese based their approach to the highlanders by claiming that they would be "developed" since they were "poor" and "ignorant", making swidden agriculturalists sedentarize and settling ethnic Vietnamese colonists from the coastal regions into the highlands such as Northern Vietnamese Catholic refugees who fled to South Vietnam, 50,000 Vietnamese settlers were in the highlands in 1960 and in 1963 the total number of settlers was 200,000 and up to 1974 the South Vietnamese were still implemented the colonization plan even though the highland natives experienced massive turbulence and disorder because of the colonization, and by 1971 less than half of a scheme back by the Americans to leave Montagnards with just 20% of the Central Highlands was completed, and even in the parts of the highlands which did not experience colonization, the South Vietnamese threw the native tribes into "strategic hamelets" to keep them away from places where communists potentially operated and the South Vietnamese consistently spurned any attempts too make overtures to the native Highlanders.[34][35][36]

In 1955, the Central Highlands were flooded with Northern Vietnamese migrants after the autonomous Montagnard area was abolished by Ngô Đình Diệm. Y Bham Enoul founded Bajaraka on January 5, 1958 to resist the discrimination, Vietnamese settlement on Highlands and forced assimilation by the South Vietnamese government. The United Nations Secretary General and foreign embassies were contacted by Y Bham Enuol. "Front for the Liberation of the Highlands of Champa" (Mặt Trận Giải Phóng Cao Nguyên Champa) and Bajaraka were both headed by Y Bham Enuol. He was killed by the Khmer Rouge on April 20, 1975. Les Kosem, Y Bham Enuol and Prince Norodom Sihanouk worked together to found FULRO and launch an uprising against the South Vietnamese government to regain their land from the Vietnamese colonizers. Vietnam is still persecuting the religion and culture of the natives who live in poverty and are losing their land to ethnic Vietnamese settlers who continue to flood into their land in the Central Highlands in Vietnam today.[37]

Concessions for ethnic minority rights were issued after the South Vietnamese government was forced by the FULRO insurgency to address the problem under "Front for the Liberation of the Highlands of Champa" (Mặt Trận Giải Phóng Cao Nguyên Champa) and FULRO led by Les Kosem and with the help of the intelligence agency and military of Cambodia under Prince Norodom Sinhaouk. The effort to free the Cham people was led by Major General Les Kosem. The Cham people keep the soul of FULRO alive according to former FULRO Cham member Po Dharma who went a journey to see Les Kosem's grave.[38]

Quang Van Du was the legal registered name of the Cham Pho Dharma. He stood against ethnic Kinh Vietnamese bullies for his fellow Cham while he was in school and helped spread Cham nationalist ideas against the South Vietnamese. He became a member of FULRO and attended a FULRO training camp in Cambodia and fought in Mondulkiri. While in Cambodia he attacked the North Vietnamese and South Vietnamese embassies and then he fought against Vietnamese Communists. After being wounded in battle he quit his military career after seeking the permission of Les Kosem himself and went to France to be educated and serve FULRO in a civilian capacity.[39]

A 2002 article in the Washington Times reported that Montagnard women were subjected to forced mass sterilization by the Vietnamese government for the Montagnard's population to be reduced, in addition to stealing lands of the Montagnards, and attacking their religious beliefs, killing and torturing them in a form of "creeping genocide",[40]

Luke Simpkins, an MP in the House of Representatives of Australia condemned the Vietnamese persecution of the Central Highland Montagnards and noting both the South Vietnamese government and regime of unified Communist Vietnam attacked the Montagnards and colonized their lands, mentioning FULRO which fought against the Vietnamese and the desire for the Montagnards to preserve their culture and language. The Vietnamse government has non-Montagnards settle on Montagnard land and killed Montagnards after jailing them. There were 200,000 Montagnard deaths to the war.[41]

Former Green Beret and writer Don Bendell wrote a novel based on Vietnam's policies in the Central Highlands with details in his book such as accusing the Communist Vietnamese government implemented a genocidal and discriminatory policy against the native Montagnards in the Central Highlands, banning Montagnard languages and implementing Vietnamese language, having Vietnamese men marry Montagnard girls and women by force, colonizing the Central Highlands with massive amounts of Vietnamese settlers form the lowlands, inflicting terror and on the Montagnards with the Cong An, and making them perform slave labor, erecting plantations for rubber, tea, and coffee on the Central Highlands after destroying the vegetation in the area and due to these "apartheid-like conditions".[42]

The Montagnards in FULRO fought the Vietnamese for twenty years after the end of the Vietnam War and the scale of Vietnamese attacks on the Montagnards reached genocidal proportions with the slaughter of over 200,000 Montagnards after 1975.[33] Since 1964 the Montagnards of FULRO struggled for their own country and continued to fight against the Vietnamese Communist regime which persecuted them for their religious beliefs.[43] After mass jailings and killings during the 2001 and 2004 protests by ethnic hill tribe minorities against the Vietnamese regime, foreigners were banned from the Central Highlands for a period of time by Vietnam.[44][45]

2001 mass protests[edit]

After the Vietnamese government arrested Montagnards a demonstration was started in Chu Prong county by the Montagnards in the Central Highlands consisting of around 500 people in February 2001. Vietnam accused them of plotting for autonomy and accused them of trying to stir up ethnic animosity, and launched an anti-Highlander military operation. The traditional lands of the Central Highland had been taken by the Vietnamese and the Central Highland demonstrators had asked for it back. The Vietnamese government refused to return the lands and instead attacked the demonstrators, arresting hundreds and assaulting and pummeling the demonstrators. The Vietnamese military took charge of the Central Highlands, severing telephone lines and keeping heavy watch over travel within the area. The Bahnar, Rhade, and Raglai participated in the mass demonstrations against the Vietnamese. They carried no weapons while they started their mass protests. The natives regard the puppet leaders placed in their communities by the Vietnamese Communist government as collaborators who help persecute the natives for the Vietnamese. The tribal customs of the highlanders are ignored by the Vietnamese government which shows no regard for the traditional leaders of the Highlanders. The natives of the Central Highlands are mired in poverty and the Vietnamese are richer than them and are subjected to starvation. The Vietnamese government seized the land of the natives in the Central Highlands for Vietnamese settlers and coffee companies. They severely limited the amount of land farmed by the Highlanders and drove them away. Vietnamese colonizers also directly seize land from the natives in addition to the coffee companies. The policies of the Vietnamese government impede the natives while helping the Vietnamese colonizers. The lumber and coffee companies are assisted by the Vietnamese government. Vietnamese government workers embezzle and steal aid meant for the Central Highlanders. After these provocations, when Buon xer village was seized by Vietnamese colonizers, they were attacked by the Rhade when the straw finally broke the camel's back on August 8, 2000. The massive amount of Vietnamese colonizers and land theft was the impetus for the mass 2001 demonstrations against the Vietnamese. Rahlan Djan and Rahlan Pon were the two Montagnards who were abused and arrested by the Vietnamese and ex-FULRO member Ksor Kok helped bring attention to their plight.[46][47]

The jailed Montagnards had been subjected to torture by the Vietnamese government which caused the mass protests. There were 30 police officers wounded in Buon Ma Thuot in Daklak and Pleiku. Coffee farming and colonization of ethnic Vietnamese in the Central highlands are supported by the Vietnamese government. The natives were attacked by Vietnamese helicopters and soldiers in Daklak and Gia Lia provinces.[48][49]

The Ratanakiri and Moldokiri based Montagnards numbered 402 people in December 1992. Another wave of Montagnard refugees in Cambodia happened after the Vietnamese government crackdown on the protests in the Central Highlands in February 2001.[50][51]

Torture was performed by the Vietnamese upon Montagnards who were detained after the protests. The demonstrators were crushed by Vietnamese troops and police after they asked for the land back in non-violent protests in the Central Highlands in 2001. In their own native lands, the Vietnamese have been removing Montagnards since they don't have official documentation and the Highlands have been flooded with Vietnamese colonists supported by the Vietnamese government. Plantations run by the government were built on the land of the Montagnards which were also settled by lowlanders. Montagnards were made to give up their lands for far less than they were worth to the Vietnamese government[52]

2004 mass protests[edit]

Prison sentences were handed down to 15 people in May 2004. Gia Lai and Dak Lak's capital Buon Ma Thuot were the scene of the April 2004 mass demonstrations against the Vietnamese. Access to the Central Highlands was cut off by the police. The Vietnamese government oppresses them because they want their native land rights. The 2001 mass protests led to an exodus to Cambodia of Montagnards escaping from the Vietnamese authorities. After attempting to escape Vietnam or demonstrating against the government, jail terms were imposed upon over 70 Montagnards.[53]

Electric batons and tear gas were deployed by the Vietnamese against a communal prayer by the Montagnards. Like the 2001 mass demonstrations, Buon Ma Thuot was once again the scene of a huge gathering of Montagnards demanading that their traditional Daklak lands be given back and religious freedom allowed. Plantations were set up on stolen land where the Montagnards were driven out of by the Vietnamese government since the Vietnamese use it for growing coffee.[54]

Gia Lia and Daklak were the scene of the mass 2004 demonstrations. The Montagnard demonstrators demanded that they be given their lands and be justly treated. The demonstrations involved thousands and police and demonstrators were among the injured.[55]

The flood of Kinh Vietnamese colonists on stolen Montagnard lands led to 20,000 Montagnards participating in the 2001 protests. Buon Ma Thuoat was flooded by Vietnamese armed forces after crushing the rally in which Montagnards took part in by the hundreds. Foreigners were banned by the Vietnamese police from entering Buon Ma Thuot. Religious and ethnic groups are oppressed by the Vietnamese government according to the Montagnard Foundation.[56]

America received 1,000 asylees from Montaganrds in Cambodia where they had fled to after the mass demonstrations in 2001. The theft of indigenous land was the cause of the protests in Daklak province's capital Buon Ma Thuot on Saturday by over 1,000 Montagnards in 2004. The Vietnamese arrested Montagnards during the demonstrations and people were hurt during fights which broke out. The Montagnard Foundation was accused by the Vietnamese government.[57][58]

Observers were shocked by the Gia Lai and Daklak 2004 demonstrations since the heavy Vietnamese military presence in the area was implemented after suppressing and clamping down on the 2001 demonstrations. Destitution is rife in the Central Highlands. There were estimates of thousands of people participating in the demonstrations. The coffee growing highlands were closed to every single non-Vietnamese after the protests. The airports in Pleiku and Buon Ma Thuot were forbidden from allowing non-Vietnamese in. Special permission is needed for non-Vietnamese reporters and consular officers.[59]

The Vietnamese government stole the land of the Montagnards when the Communists came to power. During the protests Montagnards were shot according to Save the Montagnards leader George Clark. 2,000 Montagnards were alleged to have been killed with rivers being used as dumping grounds for bodies by the Vietnamese according to the Montagnard Foundation.[60][61][62][63][64]

The peaceful protests were crushed by the Vietnamese government and the toll inflicted was substantial.[65]

Jail terms were handed out to hundreds of Montagnards while others were murdered by the Vietnamese government forces during the crushing of the Daklak disturbances in 2001. In order to search for Montagnards the Vietnamese government closed streets, shut down flights and banned non-Vietnamese from the area. Cambodia was the destination of many Montagnards who fled the crackdown in which the amount of people detained and hurt reached into the hundreds after the Vietnamese Communists crushed the protesters, who sought to address the theft of their land by the Vietnamese government.[66]

Italy called for Montagnard asylum seekers to be allowed into Cambodia and called the Montagnard persecution at the hands of the Vietnamese to end.[67][68]

The 2001 incident was over land. In 2004 there were multiple disappeared and murdered demonstrators as demonstration was subjected to water cannon, gas and electric sticks. Reporters and non-Vietnamese were banned from the Central Highlands by the Vietnamese. Indigenous land seizure was one of the complaints of the rally in Daklak outside of the Vietnamese government buildings by the Montagnards.[69][70]

The Easter weekend was when the protests over the theft of indigenous land happened and water cannons, gas and electric sticks were deployed against them. During the incident murdered and injured Montagnards were seen. Foreign officials and observers were forbidden to enter. Vietnam has long crushed indigenous land rights for ethnic minorities. Italy and the USA attempted to investigate the crackdown.[71][72]

The number of wounded and imprisoned reached into the dozens according to some. The Vietnamese murdered Montagnards by the hundreds according to Montagnard advocates in the USA. An observation trip by US diplomatic officers was barred by the Vietnamese. Italy and the USA both called upon the truth behind what happened to be investigated. The death toll of hundreds came from Kok Ksor who leads the Montagnard Foundation. Released Vietnamese prison inmates and Vietnamese civilians helped the Vietnamese police assaulted the Montagnards. Trucks, rivers, wells, and coffee plantations human remains lying around. The Vietnamese detained Montagnard children and the Central Highlands was off limits to independent observers. The path to Cambodia was obstructed by the Vietnamese.[73][74]

One number given of protest participants was 400,000 while an approximate number of deaths was given at 400. Vietnamese civilians joined Vietnamese security forces in assaulting the Buonmathuot Degar Montagnard protesters.[75]

Dak Lak's capital Buon Ma Thuot was the scene of the convergence of Montagnards in the thousands on April 20, Saturday of 2004. Tanks were deployed water cannons, electric sticks and gas were deployed by the police. Gia Lai's districts of Dak Doa, Cu Se, and Ayun Pa on April 11 were the scenes of further protests by Montagnards against the Vietnamese. Human Rights Watch also reported deaths and injuries among the Montagnards in the 2004 uprising. Indigenous land restitution was a demand of the non violent Montagnard protesters. External contact was limited and three or more people gathering was prohibited, along with Central Highlands internal movement. House arrest was implemented with Vietnamese police entered the houses and villages of the Montagnards. Multiple incidents of Vietnamese jailing and assaulting Montagnards were documented in 2003 and 2004.[76]

Indigenous land seizure was a reason cited for the Saturday demonstrations by the Montagnards in which dozens were arrested by the Vietnamese. Non Vietnamese were banned from the Central Highlands while the demonstrations were crushed by Vietnamese police. A death toll of hundreds was given by the Montagnard Foundation.[77]

Asylum for the Montagnards was advocated to the United Nations and the government of Cambodia by Cambodian King Sihanouk.[78][79]

Indigenous land theft at the hands of the Vietnamese led to the demonstrations in which the Vietnamese savagely crushed 1,000 Montagnard Degars and resulted in a death toll of possibly hundreds. There has been acute discrimination of the Montagnards by the Vietnamese.[80]

The coffee plantations and Buonmathuot had corpses strewn around numbering in the hundreds while some were beheaded, their limbs broken after guns, stones, and electric sticks were used in the assault on the Montagnard protesters by private Vietnamese citizens who helped the Vietnamese police and military. The Vietnamese persecute both Northwestern and Central Highland ethnic minorities. The Montangards were driven to Cambodia after they were left in destitution when their indigenous lands were seized by the Vietnamese in an "ethnic cleansing" plan implemented by the Communist Vietnamese. The Radical Party of Italy brought attention to the plight of the Montagnards to the European Parliament. United Nations monitors were banned from the Central Highlands.[81]

Vietnamese government media claimed that the death toll was two people. Theft of land was a cause of the demonstration by the Montagnards. The Central Highlands was blocked to non-Vietnamese. The demonstrations were mostly ignored by Vietnamese media. There were deaths causes by shootings and violent batterings of Montagnards at the hands of the Vietnamese according to Human Rights Watch.[82]

The Vietnamese Embassy in the United States and the Foreign Ministry of Vietnam claimed no discrimination was going on and everything was "normal".[83]

The Montagnard demonstrators were accused of being separatists who wanted their own country by the Vietnamese government.[84][85][86]

The Italian Radical Party and Mountagnard Fondation's remarks were attacked as false by the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry. Vietnam claimed that the protests were started by the Montagnard Foundation.[87]

The Vietnamese crackdown on the Montagnards 2004 Easter demonstrations led to denunciation from the European Union. The Central Highlands were requested to be open up to non-Vietnamese by the EU since the area was off limits to foreign reporters. Indigenous land theft and discrimination against their beliefs by the Vietnamese was the reason for the rally in Dak Lak's capital Buon Ma Thuot by the Montagnards. Vietnamese police thrashed some people until they died.[88]

Montagnard participants were estimated at 30,000 or 10,000. Foreign monitors were banned by the Vietnamese. Access to the Central Highlands was demanded by Human Rights Watch. Private Vietnamese citizens helped the Vietnamese police assault, thrash, and murder Montagnards in the middle of coffee plantations and in the streets, including a blind Montagnard woman.[89] The Human Rights Watch report was cited in the United States House of Representatives.[90][91][92][93][94][95][96][97][98][99]

Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation (KKF) supported the statement made by King Sihanouk on the situation. Sanctuary for Montagnards running away from the crackdown was requested of the Cambodian government by KKF.[100]

The first Montagnard protests were started when 3 of them were detained by the Vietnamese in February 2001. Natives only make out 1 million out of the 4 million residents of the Central Highlands since Vietnamese colonists have flooded into the region with Vietnamese government support. Sterilization and involuntary termination of pregnancies were implemented against Montagnards. Having 3 or a greater number of children would result in penalties for Montagnards. The Vietnamese punish any escapees they can retrieve[101][102]

A whitewashing campaign of the sanguine events by the Vietnamese government was accused by Human Rights Watch. Killings perpetrated by the Vietnamese were witnessed and divulged to Human Rights Watch. The Vietnamese launched ambuscade and surprise traps against protesters.[103]

When the protests were crushed villages were missing a massive amount of their inhabitants. Prohibitions slapped on the entry of non-Vietnamese and censorship failed to stop reports of accounts of murder and torment inflicted upon Montagnards at the hands of Vietnamese citizens and police. The Vietnamese government implemented a campaign to censor and whitewash the events.[104]

Demonstrators were hunted down with dogs in coffee plantations by the Vietnamese. Tourists and airlines were barred as were foreign embassy officers. Montagnards were sterilized involuntarily by the Vietnamese. Indigenous land theft by the Vietnamese was the cause of the protests.[105]

The savage events led to Cambodia becoming a destination for fleeing Montagnards.[106]

20 Vietnamese troops sexually violated a Degar woman who was 20 years old called HHlon. The skull of a Degar was crushed by Vietnamese students after he was detained by police. He was 33 years old and his name was Siu Plen. A fatal head shot was administered by Vietnamese on a Degar named Hnun. A fatal thrashing was administered after the eyes were gouged out by Vietnamese citizen colonists on a Degar man named Tol. The crimes committed by the Vietnamese were reported despite the Vietnam government shutting access to the area. The Banmathout death toll was estmiated at 400 as Degar were murdered by Vietnamese colonists and police.[107][108][109]

Montagnard land being stolen was the cause of the protests. 10 Montagnards were murdered by Vietnamese citizens and police according to Human Rights Watch. Transparency was requested of the Vietnamese government by the European Union.[110]

On April 24, it was reported that the Central Highlands were reopened to non-Vietnamese.[111]

Due to the bloody crackdown in the Central Highlands, in Washington D.C. the Vietnam embassy was the scene of protests. Hmong and Laos opposition supported the Montagnards due to Vietnam's alliance with the government of Laos.[112][113]

Once the protests were crushed by the Vietnamese, a Vietnamese government controlled and monitored tour of the Central Highlands of non-Vietnamese reporters was given after caving into the strong reaction by other countries to the events.[114][115][116]

In the European Parliament a condemnation of the Vietnamese persecution of Montagnards was proposed by the Italian Radical Party.[117]

The Montagnard Foundation was accused by Vietnam.[118]

Rubber weapons only were used according to Vietnamese claims in response to accusations of using guns and killing demonstrators by thrashing them. The people wanted their land back.[119]

The Montagnard Foundation was blamed by Vietnam.[120][121]

Deportations were made by Cambodia of Montagnards who had escaped the Vietnamese.[122]

Vietnam claimed it allowed freedom of belief and tolerance for minorities in response to the unrest.[123]

The inhabitants of the Central Highlands were made to provide quarter and lodging to Vietnamese soldiers. During the demonstrations additional soldiers were brought n by the Vietnamese. Vietnam claimed as lies the reports by Montagnard Foundation and Human Rights Watch, denied discrimination and claimed that the Central Highlands people were being taken care of by Vietnam. Police killed Montagnards by thrashing them.[124]

Land theft led to the demonstrations which resulted in the deaths of Montagnards at the hands of Vietnamese. Foreign ambassadors and monitors were banned from the area by the Vietnamese. Entry to the Central Highlands was demanded by the Italian and American embassies. Vietnam refused to acknowledge any problem and refused to allow the Montagnards situation to be observed by outsiders while the land rights of the Montagnards are being denied.[125]

There was documentation of the killings of 10 Montagnards according to Human Rights watch while 8 were documented by Amnesty International. A whitewashing was alleged by HRW while the situation of ethnic minorities was criticized by Amnesty.[126]

Vietnamese civilians helped the Vietnamese police assault and massacre Montagnard demonstrators. Traps were set up by the Vietnamese at locations where hey started violently assaulting the protesters. The protests had 30,000 people.[127]

Because of his desire to promote trade with Vietnam, John Kerry rejected showing any concern for Montagnard rights and voted against the 2001 Vietnam Human Rights Act in the Senate. Kerry said that "communism" was what the people wanted in Vietnam. The current 750,000 Montagnard have been halved from their original 1975 number of 1,500,000 while there was a three times growth in the Vietnamese population while killings, torture, and seizure of land from the Montagnards has taken place. Mass graves were created to be filled with the corpses of the Montagnards as kids, women and men were assaulted by Vietnamese security forces. Laotian Communists are effectively a satellite of the Vietnamese with Laos containing Vietnamese soldier garrisons and the Laotians are seen as primitive by the Vietnamese. The Cambodian government is seen as a satellite government under Vietnam's control with a garrison of Vietnamese soldiers stationed there as Vietnamese use their historic military settlement method of Don Dien on Cambodia and Laos. The vision of dominance of Cambodia and Laos by Vietnam was formulated by Ho Chi Minh.[128]

Neutral journalism was forbidden when reporters were finally permitted in after the European Union and Human Rights organizations strong armed access after there was a total lack of reporting on the demonstrations for 3 weeks. 19 were murdered according to organizations while 2 died according to Vietnam.[129]

The Vietnamese crackdown against the Montagnards in 2001 and 2004 over their land rights resulted in Cambodia experiencing an Exodus of Montagnard asylum seekers.[130][131][132][133]

Threats were made against potential future demonstrators by the Vietnamese government after they crushed the Central Highlands demonstrations with the Montagnard being named as a source of enmity by Nguyen Tan Dung, the Deputy Prime Minister.[134]

Foreigners were accused of inciting the demonstrations by Vietnam and the ability of the demonstrations to take placed was blamed on leniency on part of the state by Nguyen Tan Dung, the Deputy Prime Minister.[135][136][137]

House Resolution 613 was initiated by Republican representative Tom Davis over persecution in Vietnam<.[138][139]

Continued persecution[edit]

Montagnards are oppressed and abused by the Vietnamese regime with their land being seized and stolen by the Vietnamese, the Cambodian-Vietnamese border blocked by the Vietnamese to stop them from leaving as refugees and the Vietnamese tortured Montagnards with electricity and beatings. As a means of intimidation, the Vietnamese gather hundreds of spectators to watch trials of arrested Montaganrds and force public repudiation of religious belief upon the Montagnards. the Vietnamese accuse Montagnards of being "reactionary".[140][141]

Degar religious rights and autonomy are not allowed by the Vietnamese Communists. A Montagnard family was attacked with machetes by ordinary Vietnamese citizens. Assaults and brutality by Vietnamese citizens is sanctioned and supported by the Vietnamese government. Their traditional lands were seized from them.[142][143][144]

Vietnamese government supported racism, anti-religious policies, land theft, abuse, and imprisonment against ethnic minorities like the Hmong, Montagnards, and Khmer Krom were condemned by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva during its 80th Session.[145][146]

In Gialai province, Cu Se district, Hbong village, Siu Klong, a Degar Montagnard, was hung to death by ordinary Vietnamese citizens on 5 December 2012 and the Vietnamese police and government ignored the crime and did nothing against the perpetrators.[147][148][149]

Religious freedom is officially allowed in article 70 of the constitution of Vietnam, but the Vietnamese government ignores this and kill, jails, and abuses Degars because of their religion after 1975 when the Central Highlands was occupied by North Vietnamese. The Vietnamese police crucified a fifty year old Degar man named A Tac while assaulting and beating other Degars whose limbs were restrained in the commune of Dak Krong.[150]

Vietnamese police assaulted and beat Montagnard Degar children and babies in addition to adults, women, and old people in the province of Kontum, Kon Braih district, Dak T'Re commune in Bon Kon H'Drom village on 21 August 2012.[151]

The de-listing of Vietnam by the US State Department was criticized by the Montagnards due to Vietnam's continued arrests and abuse of Montagnards due to religion.[152]

The Degars experienced hardship, tribulation and adversity during the Indochina Wars and have continued to suffer from Vietnamese oppression while the beneficiaries have been the Vietnamese. The Vietnamese has sterilized Degar women, and murdered and jailed Degar men to wipe out the Degars for the purpose of seizing their land and the Vietnamese despise the Degar way of life due to ethnic hatred by the Vietnamese against the Degar which led to ethnic cleansing.[153]

The Montagnard Degar man Siu Thoan's family was terrorized and bullied by Vietnamese police including his wife. The Vietnamese Pham Anh Tuan violently assaulted Siu Thoan's family.[154]

After rejecting a demand by the Vietnamese for his religion to be repudiated, a sentence of five years in jail was handed down to Y-Huong Nie, a Degar Montagnard.[155]

The Vietnamese police assaulted and brutalized the Montagnard Foundation President Kok Ksor's mother, Ksor H'Ble, especially following the Degar February 2001 demonstrations over land and religion and the April 2004 demonstrations. The Vietnamese police bullied and assaulted her for years. She died on 18 August 2011. Due to lands and religious disputes The Vietnamese have killed Degars in the thousands.[156]

Due to religious issues In the commune of Croh POnan 3 Montagnards were tortured by the Vietnamese.[157]

Due to their religious faith Degars had dogs unleashed to assault them by the Vietnamese police.[158]

Degars were violently assaulted and brutalized by racist ordinary Vietnamese citizens on 27 September 2007. Degars were targeted for murder by Vietnamse citizens on 5 October 2007. In the Central Highlands there is severe ethnic bigotry towards the native Degars by the Vietnamese. Degars are subject to bigotry and hatred both by ordinary Vietnamese and the government of Vietnam.[159]

Ethnic minority lands are subjected to settlement and colonization by ethnic Vietnamese Kinh supported by the Vietnamese government, as the native populations are driven out and their lands stolen in addition to their bad economic situation. Violence and jail sentences are used against ethnic minorities like Khmer Krom and the most racism is perpetrated against the Hmong and Montagnards.[160][161]

Demanding that the Vietnamese regime stop repressing ethnic minorities and religion, the "Coalition for Indigenous Peoples in Vietnam" was formed out of the Thai, Khmer Krom, and Montagnards after they combined forces against the Vietnamese.[162]

The Vietnamese brutally suppressed, imprisoned and tortured Montagnards after the Montagnards asked for their lands back during protests in Gia Lai province in 2012 so 85 of the Montagnards were forced to escape from the Vietnamese by going to Rattanakiri province in Cambodia. The religion and ethnicity of the Montagnards is distinct from the Vietnamese. Prospect of a new insurgency by Montagnards for independence were shot down by the Hun Sen regime in Cambodia which refused to aid them.[163]

During the trouble and chaos in the Central Highlands after the Vietnamese abused and jailed Montagnard leader Y'Soai Eban he managed to run away from Vietnamese custody. The Montagnards were subjected to genocide after the Vietnam War in 1975.[164]

Independence from the Communist authorities was desired by the Montagnards after the Vietnam War since they were killed, abused, discriminated against and jailed by the Vietnamese authorities so many of them were forced to run away from the Central Highlands as refugees. Cambodia and eventually the United States were their destinations.[165]

Obama, Bush, American business interests, and American liberals deliberately ignore human rights violations and persecution committed by the Vietnamese Communists against the Montagnards as the Vietnamese government's friendship to America is desired by Obama. Human rights organizations and reporters are forbidden to enter the Central Highlands by the Vietnamese. The Vietnamese have murdered, jailed, and tortured Montagnards in order to deny their religious rights and diplomatic cables from Michael Michalak, ambassador of the USA in Vietnam, which were released by Wikileaks, indicated that the United States cares nothing about and pays no attention to the persecution Montagnards suffer at the hands of the Vietnamese as noted by Scott Johnson. The reason for these actions by the United States is due to the desire for Vietnamese trade by American businesses and an anti-China policy that sought Vietnam as an ally by Obama and Bush. This meant that the United States administration shows no concern and pays no attention to the catalogue of human rights abuses which are recorded by organizations like the Montagnard Foundation since the impoverished Montagnards suffer from Vietnamese policies like deforestation, mining, plantation farming, slaughter, abuse, and jail after the takeover by the Vietnamese Communists in 1975. The desire for low cast Vietnamese scab workers by American businesses plays into the ignoring of Vietnamese discrimination and human rights violations in contrast to the intervention in Libya which was enthusiastically supported by American liberals.[166]

Death, torture, and incarceration were the punishments inflicted on Montagnards gathering in groups of three or more by the Vietnamese with their religion severely persecuted and repressed at the hands of the Vietnamese Communist regime since 1975.[167]

The United States State Department showed little concern at the plight of the Montagnards at te hands of the Vietnamese. A thirteen year old Montagnard girl Y Kang was severely assaulted, beaten and kicked along with 16 Montagnard women and men by Vietnamese police in Gai Lai province, Plei Ku city, district Mang Yang, commune H'ra in Buon Kret Krot village on July 7, 2011.[168]

Vietnam has jailed hundreds of Montagnards in addition to murdering, abusing, and discriminating against their religious beliefs.[169]

Death was a possible consequence of getting caught with a Bible. The Vietnamese regime claims that Montagnard separatism is conducted by religious matters and uses this as a reason to attack their religion. Montagnard land was seized by the Vietnamese government after the Vietnam War.[170]

In Gia Lai province, Chu Prong district in 2010 Montagnards were assaulted and detained by the Vietnamese. Parts of Vietnam like the Central Highlands are off limit to human rights organizations and reporters.[171]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Books[edit]

  • Sidney Jones, Malcolm Smart, Joe Saunders, HRW. (2002). Repression of Montagnards: Conflicts Over Land and Religion in Vietnam's Central Highlands. Human Rights Watch. ISBN 1-56432-272-6.
  • United States Congress. Senate. Committee on Foreign. (1998). The Plight of the Montagnards: Hearing Before the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Relations, Original from the Library of Congress [1].

Further reading[edit]

  • Condominas, Georges. We Have Eaten the Forest: The Story of a Montagnard Village in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. New York: Hill and Wang, 1977. ISBN 0-8090-9672-2.
  • Montagnard Foundation. Human Rights Violations: Montagnard Foundation Report, 2001: Report on the Situation of Human Rights Concerning the Montagnards or Degar Peoples of Vietnam's Central Highlands. Spartanburg, South Carolina: The Foundation, 2001.
  • Montagnard Foundation. History of the Montagnard/Degar People: Their Struggle for Survival and Rights Before International Law. Spartanburg, South Carolina: The Foundation, 2001.

External links[edit]