have been jailed for activities related to human rights, spreading Christianity or for fleeing to neighboring Cambodia, BosNewsLife learned from investigators, Thursday May 11.
The US-based advocacy group Montagnard Foundation Incorporated (MFI), which has close contacts with Degar Montagnard Christians in the Central Highlands, identified the victim as 62-year old Siu Lul.
MFI told BosNewsLife that his torture began April 20 when he was "denied food and water by Vietnamese authorities in Ha Nam prison who also commenced beating and torturing him." Lul, from the village of Ploi Kueng in Gia Lai Province, was "arrested, tortured and imprisoned at the prison facility in Ha Nam since 2004," for his Christian faith, MFI said.
"On April 24, 2006 he succumbed and died from the effects of torture and lack of water and food," the group said. MFI claimed the authorities wanted the family to take his body back to his village but because lacked the financial resources to pay for transportation he was buried near the prison facility of Ha Nam. Vietnamese officials did not comment on the case.
MFI said it remains concerned over the plight of "over 350 [other] Degar prisoners of conscience who remain imprisoned in Vietnam’s brutal prison system." The Degar, referred to by French colonists as Montagnard or "mountain people", are the indigenous peoples of the Central Highlands.
Most of the estimated 1-million Degar Montagnard people are Christians and have been accused of "following a Western religion" and of cooperating with American troops during the Vietnam War, according to human rights observers.
MFI said it has appealed to the international community, including the European Union, United States and United Nations, to pressure Vietnam to release Degar Montagnard prisoners "as none of them would be in jail if they had lived in a free society that respected human rights."
The group also proposed to make freeing the prisoners and other improvements of human rights a precondition for the Communist nation’s entry into the World Trade Organization. Vietnam has denied human rights abuses.
"The Vietnamese Government always respects and protects human rights including the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of press and freedom of religion and beliefs," said the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Le Dzung in previous statements when asked by reporters about persecution claims.
The United State Department however has continued to maintain Vietnam on its “watch list” of countries that it says are among the "worst violators" of religious freedom. (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from Vietnam).