[Congressional Record Volume 150, Number 55 (Tuesday, April 27, 2004)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E656-E657]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]



                       HON. CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH

                             of new jersey

                    in the house of representatives

                        Tuesday, April 27, 2004

  Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, Easter is usually a joyous time 
for Christians throughout the world. Unfortunately, that was not the 
case this year for many Montagnards Christians, ethnic minorities in 
Vietnam's Central Highlands. On Saturday April 10, more than a thousand 
ethnic minority Christians assembled in the streets of Buon Ma Thuot to 
protest ongoing religious repression and confiscation of tribal lands.
  Their peaceful protests were met with brutal force by the Vietnamese 
police, who attacked and arrested the protesters and sealed off the 
area to foreigners--much like the Chinese Tiananmen Square massacre in 
  Numerous reports state that hundreds may be dead with many others 
arrested, injured, and or in hiding. This follows years of ongoing 
persecution and a brutal crackdown in December of 2001, when the 
government also forcibly suppressed mass protests in the region, after 
which the Vietnamese government closed hundreds of Christian Churches.
  Religious persecution in Vietnam against Catholics, Christians, 
members of the Unified Buddhist Church, and members of Vietnam's 
indigenous religious groups has been well documented in the State 
Department's Country Reports on Human Rights and International 
Religious Freedom.
  Last year, the Commission on International Religious Freedom 
recommended Vietnam should be designated as a Country of Particular 
Concern for ``systematic, egregious, and ongoing'' religious freedom 
abuses. As if there was any doubt, the Easter crackdown confirms the 
fact that Vietnam should be designated as a Country of Particular 
Concern for violations in religious freedom. Protections and

[[Page E657]]

assistance for Montagnard asylum seekers should be provided also be 
provided by the Cambodian government and the UN High Commissioner for 
  Congress will continue to keep up the pressure on the regime in 
Hanoi. We will work to pass H. Con. Res. 378, a resolution calling for 
the release of Father Nguyen Van Ly, a prominent and outspoken Catholic 
priest, that was reported out of the House International Relations 
Committee and has nearly 90 cosponsors.
  And we will also work to pass H.R. 1587, ``The Vietnam Human Rights 
Act,'' which calls for careful monitoring of human rights in Vietnam. 
Similar legislation cleared the House 410-1 in the 107th Congress but 
stalled in the Senate.
  Mr. Speaker, I would like to submit the following articles by Human 
Rights Watch detailing the events of the Easter crackdown, to the 
Congressional Record.
  The United States and the world cannot turn a blind eye to this 
Easter crackdown and continual persecution of Montagnards and religious 
groups in Vietnam. We must take a stand.

                   [Article from Human Rights Watch]

  Vietnam: Open Central Highlands to International Observers Reported 
   Killings of Montagnard Protesters Must Be Investigated Immediately

       (New York, April 22, 2004)--Vietnamese security forces 
     appear to have coordinated with armed men in civilian 
     clothing to savagely attack Montagnard protesters at more 
     than a dozen mass demonstrations during Easter weekend, Human 
     Rights Watch said today.
       ``The international community must act now and insist that 
     Vietnam allow independent observers into the highlands to 
     conduct a thorough and impartial investigation,'' said Dinah 
     PoKempner, General Counsel for Human Rights Watch. ``We've 
     received alarming reports that scores of protesters were 
     wounded during the demonstrations, and that some protesters 
     were beaten to death.''
       Large-scale unrest involving between 10,000 and 30,000 
     indigenous minority Montagnards occurred in the Central 
     Highland provinces of Dak Lak, Gia Lai, and Dak Nong on April 
     10 and 11, according to Vietnam's state media and independent 
     accounts. Montagnard activists in Vietnam and abroad say that 
     their movement seeks to peacefully press for religious 
     freedom and return of ancestral lands in the Central 
     Highlands. The Vietnamese government has charged that ``anti-
     government'' and ``counter-revolutionary'' elements are 
     inciting the Montagnards to seek a separatist state.
       Human Rights Watch has received firsthand reports that 
     security forces and men in civilian clothing, armed with 
     metal bars, shovels, clubs with nails attached to them, 
     machetes, and chains, confronted Montagnard protesters at 
     more than a dozen locations leading into Buon Ma Thuot, the 
     capital of Dak Lak province, on the morning of April 10. 
     According to witnesses, the demonstrators were not armed, 
     although some defended themselves when attacked by throwing 
     stones at the police.
       In twelve eyewitness accounts obtained by Human Rights 
     Watch, sources from seven different locations in Dak Lak, Gia 
     Lai and Dak Nong provinces described seeing Vietnamese 
     police, and civilians working with the police, beating 
     protesters. Vietnam's state-controlled media reported that 
     two protesters were killed--one from rocks thrown by other 
     protesters and another who was run over by a tractor driven 
     by Montagnards. While it is impossible to confirm the numbers 
     of casualties because the government is barring outside 
     observers from the region, to date Human Rights Watch has 
     received credible eyewitness accounts that at least ten 
     Montagnards were killed--one from a gunshot wound to the head 
     and the others from beatings and hundreds were wounded.
       Clashes broke out at more than a dozen locations when 
     security forces and ethnic Vietnamese in civilian clothes 
     blocked demonstrators on roadways leading into Buon Ma Thuot, 
     including Phan Chu Trinh Road northwest of the city; at Ea 
     Knir Bridge on the road from Ea Kao commune, which lies east 
     of the city; and at three locations along the road leading to 
     Krong Pak district town, which lies northeast of the city, 
     including the Ea Pak and Krong Ana bridges. Particularly hard 
     hit at Phan Chu Trinh Road were 3,000 protesters from several 
     villages in Cu Mgar district, northwest of Buon Ma Thuot.
       ``The security forces were well prepared for the 
     protesters,'' said PoKempner. ``They had set up ambushes at 
     key places such as bridges and the main roads into the city, 
     and assembled people dressed as civilians holding crude 
     weapons to block the roads and attack the protestors.''
       Security officials confiscated and burned hundreds of the 
     farm tractors and makeshift trailers that many Montagnards 
     were traveling on, which had been packed with food and 
     supplies in preparation for several days of protests.
       In Gia Lai province, Vietnamese state media reported that 
     demonstrators from Ayun Pa, Cu Se, Dak Doa, Duc Co and Chu 
     Prong districts gathered at the provincial administrative 
     offices in Pleiku provincial town on April 10. on April 11, 
     Montagnards gathered to demonstrate in numerous communes in 
     Ayun Pa, Cu Se, and Dak Doa districts of Gia Lai. Human 
     Rights Watch has received reports of clashes in at least 
     seventeen locations in Gia Lai, with the fiercest incidents 
     occurring in Ha Bau, A'Dok and Glar communes of Dak Doa 
     district and Ia Tiem commune of Cu Se district.
       State media reported that the provincial hospital in Pleiku 
     received fifty-two injured people. The provincial hospital in 
     Dak Lak reported forty injured people on the night of April 
     10. Prior to a government-imposed news blackout on hospital 
     personnel, staff at Pleiku hospital told reporters that they 
     had received scores of wounded people on Sunday night, many 
     with deep gashes and head injuries, and that at least two 
     demonstrators died that night. Many other wounded 
     demonstrators, fearing arrest, have not gone to the hospitals 
     despite being in need of medical attention, Human Rights 
     Watch said.
       Witnesses said authorities quickly collected wounded people 
     and dead bodies from the Phan Chu Trinh area, and that within 
     days, the blood on the roadway had been washed away.
       Human Rights Watch stressed the urgency of an independent 
     investigation. ``We fear that a huge cover-up operation has 
     likely already taken place,'' said PoKempner. ``The 
     Vietnamese government needs to account for the large numbers 
     of people who never returned to their villages after the 
     demonstrations and are now feared to be dead or detained at 
     unknown locations.''
       Hundreds of Montagnards have fled their villages and gone 
     into hiding, Human Rights Watch said. In violation of 
     Cambodia's obligations under international law, Cambodian 
     security forces have been instructed to deport any 
     Montagnards who try to cross the border.

             Testimony: The Killings on Phan Chu Trinh Road

       A twenty-six year old Ede woman described a deadly incident 
     she witnessed on Saturday morning, April 10 when several 
     thousand Montagnard protesters, some riding on their farm 
     tractors, arrived at Phan Chu Trinh road, an industrial area 
     of machine shops and welding supply stores on the outskirts 
     of Buon Ma Thuot. Police had lined up students and ethnic 
     Vietnamese men in civilian clothing holding metal bars, 
     shovels, and machetes along the roadway, she said.
       ``They suddenly rushed at the unarmed crowd, beating the 
     demonstrators until many were lying in the streets,'' she 
     said. ``They chased demonstrators who tried to flee, 
     including children and women.''
       She and many other demonstrators fled to the coffee fields 
     behind the shops lining the roadway, chased by security 
     forces. She described what happened:
       ``A thousand people tried to get away from the slaughter by 
     the police and civilians. They were beating us with metal 
     bars and sticks. People were bleeding from their throats, 
     noses, mouths, and eyes. The villagers were crying as they 
     tried to get away from the slaughter by the police and 
     civilians. We were running helter-skelter. Those who tried to 
     hide in the coffee plantation were caught, beaten and killed 
     on the spot. Police, students, and Vietnamese threw rocks at 
     us. Many of us were bleeding from being hit on our heads with 
     rocks. Many people were injured and bleeding. We didn't have 
     any first-aid for their wounds. They were bleeding from their 
     throats, noses, mouths, and eyes. A blind woman sitting on 
     the farm tractor was killed on the road by a dozen Vietnamese 
     people, including police. They asked her to get down from the 
     tractor but she could not because she was blind. They rushed 
     at her and beat her until she fell from the tractor and died. 
     The police and Vietnamese civilians smashed and stepped on 
     our food, clothing and blankets we had prepared for a long-
     term peaceful demonstration asking for freedom and the end to 
     harassment of our religion and our Montagnard life.''