Bloodshed crackdown against Hmong Christians in Dien Bien
Philip Blair5/8/2011

Thousands of Viet-Hmong Christians, who are staging mass protests demanding religious freedom and land reforms, have been attacked by Vietnam and Laos security forces. Dozens were killed and more were wounded with hundreds went missing.

“At least seventeen Viet-Hmong Christians were killed and 33 wounded on May 3rd in the Dien Bien Province, and Dien Bien Phu, areas of Vietnam bordering Laos in attacks by Vietnam People's Army military forces. All of these people were independent Catholic and Protestant Christian believers,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) in Washington, D.C.

“Additionally, eleven independent Viet-Hmong animist believers were also known, and confirmed, to have been killed on the same day by Vietnam People's Army forces,” he added in the Press Release of CPPA on May 6th.

Local Catholic sources in the diocese of Hung Hoa told VietCatholic News that “mass protest broke out on April 30th, with some 7,000 Viet-Hmong believers marching on the provincial towns of Mường Né to demand the return of their lands and religious freedom.”

“In response, the government launched an aggressive crackdown on May 3rd, dispatching military and police units to seal off the region and attacking peaceful protestors,” the source continued emphasizing that military units from Laotian provinces of Xieng Khouang, Khammoune, Luang Prabang were sent to the area to arrest all those who try to flee to Laos from Dien Bien province.

“Even ground attack helicopters have engaged to hunt, arrest, and kill those who are trying to flee from the unrest regions.” the source added.

“39 people were killed and hundreds missing,” the latest report from local Catholics on May 7 stated.

Mùa A Sơn, chairman of the Dien Bien Province, blamed the incident for “hostile forces infiltrated to illegally preach and incite the people to join an independent movement calling for the establishment of a separate kingdom of Hmong people.”

On Friday May 6th, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga gave another account of the incident saying that an illusory religious quest and unhygienic conditions killed the Hmong, not her government. “Hmong people had gathered since early May and camped in unsanitary conditions believing that a ‘supernatural force’ would arrive to lead them to ‘a promised land’,” she said.

Countering government claims, Catholic sources pointed out that the incident was an inevitable result of a series of violations of land ownership and religious freedom. “Companies owned by Armed forces Chief of Staff of Vietnam, General Tran Quang Khue and other generals who dominate the politburo in Vietnam have been driving local Hmong communities out of their home lands,” a source said.

“Additionally,” it went on, “there is a rampant growth of persecutions which range from forcing Christians to undertake corvée labour on Sundays, thereby preventing them from fulfilling their Mass obligations and attending worship services; to coerce them into renouncing their faith.”

Vietnam government prohibits foreign journalists from traveling freely to the area (actually any sensitive areas outside of Hanoi). Nga blamed poor weather and said the road to the affected district of Muong Nhe is "very bad".

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