OPEN APPEAL FOR US CONGRESS TO BE AMERICA’S CONSCIENCE:
REMEMBER THE MONTAGNARDS – US FORMER ALLIES:
We are writing specifically to each and every member of the US Congress in relation to upcoming negotiations for granting Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with Vietnam and respectfully advise your office of the following.
Whereas; During the Vietnam War the indigenous Montagnard Degar Peoples were loyal allies to the United States and it is estimated that at any one time over 40,000 Montagnards served with their American brothers during that conflict. By the end of the war over a quarter of the Montagnard population, over 200,000 people died from the effects of the war. Upon taking over South Vietnam in 1975 the Hanoi government commenced another phase of persecution against the Montagnards in the name of revenge that involved a decades long policy of land exploitation, Christian religious repression, torture, killings and imprisonment. In September 2006 the US State Department has continued to maintain Vietnam on the “watch list” of countries that are the worst violators of religious freedom and Montagnard House Church Christians report to us today they are still persecuted for their faith. To date over 350 Degar prisoners remain in Vietnamese prisons for standing up for human rights, for spreading Christianity or for fleeing to Cambodia while the entire Montagnard population faces repression by security forces who commit regular human rights violations against them. The Central and Northern Highlands of Vietnam remains to this day isolated and is a vastly different region than other parts of Vietnam where the Hanoi government gets away with rampant human rights abuses.
We also note that the PNTR experience of China has not been particularly encouraging for human rights progress and thus wonder why Hanoi would act differently.
MOST IMPORTANTLY , before you and your colleagues decide on granting PNTR to Vietnam we ask you to remember the sacrifice of the Montagnard Degar people during the Vietnam War and that basic human rights for our people (and all citizens of Vietnam ) are directly linked as a “guaranteed precondition” to the US granting of PNTR to Vietnam . We fear such promises of improved human rights by Vietnam will only be abolished later by the Vietnamese government. Thus we appeal to the US Congress to consider the human rights conditions below.
Vietnam to release all of the 350 Montagnard Degar Prisoners from Vietnamese prisons. See Human Rights Watch report 14 June 2006 http://hrw.org/reports/2006/vietnam0606/.
Vietnam establish a permanent regime of indigenous lands rights protection concerning the Montagnards ancestral lands as this is one of the most crucial factors behind the continued unrest in the Central Highlands.
Vietnam permits a permanent humanitarian presence in the Central Highlands to monitor the human rights situation by US, UN and international agencies and international NGOs.
Vietnam legalizes all Christian house church activities regardless of denomination.
We are not asking the United States to abandon relations with Vietnam and we do not want progress between the United States and Vietnam to be stifled. However, on behalf of the indigenous Montagnard Degar Population in Vietnam ‘s Central Highlands we ask that preconditions and guarantees of human rights will be part of the Vietnam/US relationship. The fate of our people will be catastrophic if our future is left to face the Government of Vietnam without guarantees of human rights.
While our people inside are strictly harassed and monitored by security forces inside Vietnam their spirits would be uplifted to hear they are not forgotten by your office. Please remember us and feel free to contact our organization at any time.
Sincerely and God Bless,
President of the Montagnard Foundation