- We are called Montagnards (mountaineers), a name given to us by the French.
- We are called “Yards” by the American who fought with us in the Second Indochina War.
- We are called “Mọi”, or savages, by the Vietnamese.
- We are called “Người Dân tộc” by the Vietnam government.
- We call ourselves Degar, a name coined by those who fought in the forest for their freedom.
- We are the Indigenous People of Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
The French who were first to colonize our territories from 1895-1954, called us “ Montagnards”, which means mountaineers, because over the centuries we were driven from our fertile coastal areas to the mountains of Southeast Asia by invading Cham and Vietnamese peoples. Our ancestors thus settled in these mountains – an area now known as the Central Highlands. To their credit however, the French recognized our rights to these lands on which we were born, which our ancestors had occupied for thousands of years. France defined our borders and formalized our right to our own nation in 1946. They called this land the “Pays Montagnards du Sud Indochinois”, the Montagnard country of South Indochina, and we had high hopes of continuing our development among the other free nations of this earth, as a peaceful agricultural society of hunters and farmers.
The Vietnamese who invaded our coastal areas, and took over the “colonization” of our lands (after the French left in 1955) called us “ moi”, which means savages. Their desire to exploit our country began with this attempt to dehumanize us, as is the custom of nations who declare war on their neighbors. By this process, their soldiers might feel justified to slaughter us like animals, take our land and property, and deprive us of those human rights, which many citizens of this world take for granted. In this way, we have suffered a fate similar to the Native Americans, Australian aboriginals, African Bushmen and other original inhabitants subjected to invasion and exploitation by outsiders.
The American soldiers, who fought by our side in the Second Indochina War often called us “ Yards” – a simplification of the French term “Montagnard.” When we met the American soldiers in our homeland, we discovered in them the same open, honest nature, which we had come to expect of our own people. Therefore, we trusted and supported them, as they helped us to defend our land.
We, the indigenous hill tribe people who have been struggling to survive and who today cry for freedom, call ourselves Degar, which means all of our tribal peoples who live in the former country of Montagnard in South Indochina, called P.M.S.I. (Pays Montagnard du Sud Indochinois). Degar means “Sons of the mountains”. The Degar race was the first peoples to inhabit this region and we are the rightful owners of the land the world knew as the Central Highlands of Vietnam during the Second Indochina War.
The Degar population once numbered over 3 million during French colonialism. Today our race has dwindled to only a few hundred thousand survivors. The remaining tribes are Bahnar, Jarai, Rhade, Koho, Sedang, Bru, Pacoh, Katu, Jeh, Cua, Halang, Hre, Rongao, Monom, Roglai, Cru, Mnong, Lat, Sre, Nop, Maa, Stieng, etc. There are more than forty distinct and recognizable aboriginal groups that inhabit Central Vietnam. Their languages are derived from the Malayo-Polynesian and Mon-Khmer families.
More than two thousand years ago, our people were in possession of most of south Indochina. These lands stretched from what is now the 17th parallel in the north of Vietnam to the tip of Ca Mau in the south; and from the eastern coast to the mountains with their fertile valleys. In 192 AD, the ethnic Vietnamese occupied the Red River Delta along the coast while the Cham people were found in Hoanh Son spur. At this time, the Vietnamese were under the domination of the Chinese. When the Vietnamese gained their independence from the Chinese in 939 AD, their southern border would extend to the Hoanh Son mountain spur with Champa in the south.
As time passed, the Chams migrated south and established their kingdom in 875 AD at Indrapura in what is now Danang province. By the year 1069, however, the Vietnamese conquered and took these lands extending to the coastal plain north (which is the present city of Hue) from the Cham peoples. In 1306 Vietnamese control was extended to the Deo Hai Van region just above Danang. Following their crushing defeat of the Chams in 1471, the Vietnamese swept southward to the coastal plain just south of Qui Nhon. Between 1611 and 1697, the remaining Chams were pushed to Bien Hoa and into Cambodia. Ever since, the Vietnamese descendants of Annam have illegally occupied our coastal regions. We – the Degar peoples who were living in the coastal plain — were forced to join those who had been living in the mountainous areas. During this period however, they never ventured into our mountain retreat (the Central Highlands) until after the French had colonized our territories.
The renowned anthropologist Dr. ld C. Hickey stated in his book titled, Sons of the Mountains, “At no point did the Vietnamese in the pre-twentieth century establish hegemony over the highlands”. Historically the Vietnamese also believed the mountains were the abode of evil spirits and the upland streams held the dreaded nuoc doc (poisoned water) that caused malaria. They had great fear to go to the Central Highlands and thus for a time we, the Degar people, remained insulated in the Central Highlands. Here our people felt safe and we remained for many generations in peace, tending our crops and livestock.
Historically, our world has revolved around small villages where resources are shared and kinship is important. Our leadership is well defined, and moral order is expressed in systems of education and justice that respect individual rights and dignity. Throughout our existence, we had been animists, although missionaries have converted many of us to Christianity during the past two centuries. Nevertheless, a common animist thread still unites all of our peoples, and we try to maintain harmony with our physical surroundings and the ancient deities. We farm the plateaus, the slopes, and the valleys of ancient mountains and rivers. We fish the streams and hunt the forests. Over the centuries, each tribal group has developed its own distinct and recognizable forms of art, architecture, music and dance. Our traditions have preserved a way of life that was rewarding and satisfying in the spirit of indigenous peoples and their love of the land.
Throughout our history the cultural enmity between our people and the modern world has taken a heavy toll. But nothing has wounded us more brutally than the last 50 years of war, brought to our homeland by outsiders who viewed the highlands as little more than an invaluable resource of hidden supply lines and nearly impregnable battlefield sanctuaries. It was after these wars that the Vietnamese invaders began extensive forced assimilation policies and genocidal practices against our people.
As the denizens of this once peaceful land, we the Degar people were recruited and attacked by both sides of the Viet Minh and the French in the first Indochina war. Later both North and South Vietnamese governments would do the same in the second Vietnam War. This resulting crossfire killed hundreds of thousands of us, and the period since the war has been no kinder. The war’s victors, the ancient cultural enemies of our people, have no interest in preserving us as indigenous people. They have publicly stated their intention to destroy our culture and continue to commit genocide against us. Our culture is suppressed, diluted and they desire to kill us off and erase us as a race of people.
Since the war, the Central Highlands has been virtually closed to foreigners; however, reports now indicate that only a few hundred thousand of our people still remain. These remnants survive there today, trapped by geography and politics in a cultural killing field where, unless the rest of the world intercedes, our people are sure to be buried forever.
THE TERRITORIES OF THE MONTAGNARD / DEGAR PEOPLE
Prior to the Chams and Annam peoples invading our coastal lands, our peoples in Southeast Asia were basically free to live in our peaceful village societies. When the French created the Federal Government Commissariat for the Montagnard People of South Indochina on May 27, 1946, they excluded however, our coastal region.
The borders of our territories were as follows:
To the North, limited by the 17 th parallel.
To the East, limited by the Annamitic Ridge (Chaine Annamitique).
To the South, limited by the Cochin China borders.
To the West, limited by the Laotian and Cambodian borders
The French government thus gave these lands to the Chams and Vietnamese peoples which historically had never belonged them.
A SYNOPSIS OF MODERN HISTORY
Pre-1800 – For over two thousand years – prior to the year 1800, we the Degar people lived freely and peacefully in our homelands of highland villages. We were free to farm, hunt, travel and to settle in our villages, free to believe and to worship as we wished. We were free to live and to die in peace until outsiders came to our homeland. Even the Chams who had invaded our northern coastal areas of Danang in 875 dared not venture into our Central Highlands. Our southern coastal region too remain untouched until after the Annam destroyed the Cham kingdom in 1471 and forced them to flee south to Bien Hoa and Cambodia in 1697
1815 – The European presence started in the Central Highlands when Father Buzumi, an Italian, and Father Carvalho, a Portuguese, both from the Jesuit mission in Macao, landed at Danang (Tourane). Later, Catholic missionaries established a mission at Kontum, in the heart of the Central Highlands. They were the first outsiders to set foot on our lands.
1876 – The French began to explore our homelands beginning in the territory of the Sedang tribe of Kontum Province in the north, the Rhade tribe of Daklak Province in the west, and in the south from Saigon to the Chrau tribe regions.
1883 – The French completed their conquest of Vietnam and began to move into the Central Highlands. When they first arrived in our mountain country in 1890, our people trusted the French and believed they would help them get back their coastal lands, which were taken by the Annam people. Most of our people welcomed them into our territories with open arms except for a few tribes that resisted this encroachment. After pacifying the Degar peoples, the French however, organized our diverse tribes into a cohesive political unit and gave us the name “Montagnard People of South Indochina.”
1895 – The French began their active colonization in our homeland. A small military administrative post was established at Ban Don on January 31, 1899. On November 2, 1899, the French created the autonomous administration for the Montagnard people at the province of Daklak in the country of the Rhade tribe. At this time, there was no Vietnamese living in our territories. It was 1918 when the French first introduced Vietnamese to our Central Highlands by way of their Vietnamese servants.
1914 – 1929 – Leopold Sabatier was assigned to Daklak Province and he began to launch ambitious development plans of the highlands. He built the town of Banmethuot, established schools, health services, agricultural services, and arranged the construction of roads, bridges, and airstrips.
1930 – Ho Chi Minh formed the Indochinese Communist Party, dedicated to the overthrow of French imperialism. This movement spawned the Pathet Lao in Laos and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.
1946 – The French High Commissioner, George D’Argenlieu, signed the Ordinance of May 27 creating the Federal Government for the Montagnard people of South Indochina.(See appendix A , the Federal Ordinance of May 27, 1946). At this time, our people were filled with joy and great expectations because we believed that the French were going to build our country and teach us to run our own government. Unfortunately, it was not to be and our people were recruited to serve in the French army – to only protect colonialist interests in Southeast Asia.
1950 – The Central Highlands were designated The Crown Domain of the Southern Highlanders Country and put directly under the control of Bao Dai, the last king of the Vietnamese to rule the court of Hue. On May 21, 1951, Bao Dai created a special statute guaranteeing the Degar “free evolution in accordance with our traditions and customs.” (See appendix B , a special statute of May 21, 1951). The French however, never consulted the Montagnard people when they submitted these lands to the control of Bao Dai. At this time our people could not resist this encroachment due to the domination by the French authorities. Degar lands were thus taken away and given to Bao Dai. Thousands of our young men also died in the French war, fighting the Viet Minh, Laotians, Cambodians, and Siamois. France would lose the war with Viet Minh and we would never understand why they let the encroaching Vietnamese destroy our people and homeland.
1954 – The Viet Minh defeated the French, and Vietnam was divided at the 17th parallel. Ho Chi Minh assumed leadership in the North, and Bao Dai assumed leadership in the South. In the general election of 1955, Ngo Dinh Diem was elected the first president of the Republic of South Vietnam. Diem then merged the Central Highlands illegally into South Vietnam by force. The Diem regime committed this seizure unopposed by other governments. Diem’s government also classified the Degar people as ethnic minorities in our own homeland in order to deprive us of human rights and rights to our land. Further they would begin to annihilate our people.
1957 – Diem launched a land development program that called for the resettling of 850,000 of Vietnamese refugees from the North into the heart of the Degar homeland. We were pushed off our lands. Later, many of these Vietnamese became Viet Cong forces that fought against the U.S. Armed Forces and murdered our innocent Degar people. Diem’s goal was to assimilate the Degar into the Vietnamese cultural sphere by eliminating our tribal courts, prohibiting our languages from school, expropriating our land, and denying us our ethnic identity. They used the word “assimilation” to camouflage the word “genocide.” The government of the United States provided the money for this project (which later became widely recognized as a failure and a culturally devastating policy). From the point of view of the Degar people, Diem’s forces and the Viet Cong created two competing forces, which resulted in a mutually reinforcing plan of genocide towards the Degar people. In self-defense, the Degar people formed the Bajaraka movement (a combination of the key letters of Bahnar, Jarai, Rhade, and Koho) to resist forced assimilation and to stop the genocidal policy of Ngo Dinh Diem. The goal of this movement was to make the P.M.S.I. (Pay Montagnard du Sud Indochinois) a separate nation with its own administration and army.
1958 – Under American support and military assistance, Diem crushed the Bajaraka movement and murdered its people. All of its leaders were imprisoned including Y-Bham Enuol, Y-Thih Eban, Y-Ju Eban, Nay Luet and many others. The U.S. government failed to intervene and stop Diem’s government from destroying our people, our villages, our culture and our homelands. The Bajaraka freedom fighters continued to struggle as a guerilla movement underground. Many others were deceived by the promises of Ho Chi Minh into aligning themselves with his cause. The leaders of North Vietnam, including Ho Chi Minh, had promised to return the Degar land to its people. At this time, the leaders of the Degar movement in the jungles such as Nai Der, Nai Phin, R’com Briu, Y-Bih Aleo, Y-Ngong Nie Kdam and many others had no choice but to accept the offer of Ho Chi Minh. Therefore, during the Second Indochina War, Ho Chi Minh had two fronts:
a) Mat Tran Giai Phong Mien Nam Vietnam means “The Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam”.
b) Mat Tran Giai Phong Tay Nguyen means “The Front for the Liberation of Central Highlands”.
Ho Chi Minh deceptively used the Front for the Liberation of Central Highlands (FLCH) to cheat and to force Degar people to follow him against the South Vietnamese. However, despite Ho Chi Minh’s promises, after their victory in 1975, the SRV expropriated the Central Highlands, placing all governance of these Degar homelands under their direct control and authority,instead of giving our lands back to our people as they had promised. The Degar people were denied their right to sovereignty, and were instead brutally oppressed by the Hanoi government. After the victory, most of the Degar leaders who were with Ho Chi Minh since the First and Second Indochina War were sent home for retirement. The reason given was because our leaders did not have the ability to work. The truth is that the government did not want our leaders to claim what Ho Chi Minh had promised them about self-determination and self-rule of our homeland.
1961 – The United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recruited the Degar people for a counter-insurgency war against the Viet Cong. Armed, trained and paid by the United States, the Degar people were injected into the middle of the conflict between the Viet Cong and the armies of both South and North Vietnam. Again, the Degar people were promised that they would regain their autonomous state, which had been granted by the French, the first colonizers of our homeland. After the French left Indochina in 1954, most of our young people did not want to join the South Vietnamese army. Further the Diem government had imprisoned our leaders and destroyed our movement for freedom. However, the Central Highlands was an important strategic location during the Vietnam War. The military planning of both sides agreed that, “he who gained the Central Highlands would win the war”. Therefore, most of the big battles took place in the Central Highlands and in turn over 200,000 thousand of our people were killed and 85% of our villages were destroyed during the war.
1964 – On September 20,the Degar people launched a military resistance called FULRO (United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races), led by a Rhade, General Y-Bham Eñuol, who was headquartered in Cambodia for security reasons. Mr. Enuol was the first to use our own word “Degar” to describe the name of our people at the Conference of Indochina Peoples at Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 1965. The FULRO’s goals were as follow:
The Degar people must be recognized as the legal and true masters of the Central Highlands.
The Vietnamese administration of these lands must be dismantled and their military forces withdrawn.
The Degar people’s sovereignty and independence must be restored.
1966 – The Ministry for Ethnic Minorities Development was organized to oversee social and economic programs for the Degar people. The government reported that, “Some progress was made, but the Vietnam War was spreading throughout the region, which made the South Vietnamese government’s goals unattainable.” The truth is that both North and South Vietnam wanted the Degar people to be destroyed in the war so that they could later take our land unhindered. Though the South Vietnamese government’s actions had indicated a clear predisposition to destroy our people, they continued with false promises for improvements in order to gain Degar support for their war effort.
1975 – South Vietnam’s collapse began with the rout of its defenses in the highlands. The war ended on May 1 with the victory of the North Vietnamese, and the Degar people suffered the consequences. Many of the Degar leaders and people were executed because the new government of Vietnam accused us of being the eyes and ears of the U.S. Armed Forces during the war, and also for being members of the FULRO organization. They convicted us as traitors because we were fighting for the U.S. We cannot however, be traitors against the Hanoi government when firstly we are not Vietnamese people. Even today, there are untold numbers of Degar people are still in prison for this reason. In addition, those who are lucky enough to be released die, usually within a year, under mysterious circumstances. It is well known that when a Degar is released from prison, it is the same as a death sentence.
After the end of the war, our political and religious leaders, civil servants, former military personnel and students were mercilessly jailed, confined to re-education camps, tortured and executed. Degar women have been raped and forced into prostitution to soldiers of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The public health system has been allowed to deteriorate, and is generally unavailable to Degar families. Tribal law courts have been replaced by a harsh system of “justice”, which is biased against the Degar people.
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam has closed all churches, and accused those Degar Christians of working for the CIA. Our children are excluded from higher education, and no schools are provided in areas far from the cities. Degar languages are prohibited in school. Even our graveyards have been desecrated and looted.
Private property and lands have been confiscated and distributed to ethnic Vietnamese. Forced labor and slavery have been imposed on all Degar people, regardless of age or gender. The Degar people have been forcibly evicted from their farmlands and moved to barren soil, which is poor and unsuitable for cultivation. They have been forced to work as slave laborers during the establishment of collective farms, which were then turned over to ethnic Vietnamese.
The victors, the ancient enemies of our people, are committed to that same policy of cultural genocide, which once ended the Champa civilization, many years ago. According to the testimony of Michael D. Benge a former P.O.W., and advisor to the South Vietnamese Ministry for Ethnic Minorities before the American Senate Finance Subcommittee on International Trade, the current Vietnamese government is practicing cultural genocide by breaking up the extended families, and placing all of the elders into so called retirement villages, where they have little or no means of support, or access to medicine. Degar farmlands have been taken away, and our people are allowed only a tiny piece of land on which to grow food. All vegetation, from the jungles to the mountains, is being wiped out a thousand times more efficiently by today’s current logging, than during the high point of America’s Agent Orange herbicide program.
In 1976, the “Ministry of Culture” of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam announced that it would be “necessary to eradicate all outmoded customs”, changing the culture of ethnic minorities. The program was called Dinh Canh Dinh Cu, which means, “fixed field, fixed residence”. In practice, it meant forcing the indigenous population into small controlled areas of poor croplands so that large numbers of ethnic Vietnamese could be settled on the greater part of Degar lands.
Mr. Benge further reports that the Montagnards are not permitted to maintain or construct Christian churches. If they are caught participating in services, they are heavily fined. He cites information that some American officials consider those who have been affiliated with the FULRO movement as terrorists, and decline to process their applications for immigration. They also refuse to qualify the Montagnards for immigration, who have served America for over five years in the Mike Force, Kit Carson Scouts, PRU’s, and the Truong Son Cadre program.These people risked their lives in rescuing pilots, and gathering intelligence that saved hundreds of Americans.
For eighteen years, the “Socialist Republic of Vietnam” closed the Central Highlands to all except a relative handful of visitors, and even then, their movements were carefully controlled and monitored by agents of the government. In the spring of 1993, perhaps in response to the meeting of the eleventh session of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous people in June of that year, visitors were again permitted in the Central Highlands. Those few visitors, who decided to test the government’s new policy of openness, were met with omnipresent signs in both Vietnamese and English that “prohibited entry”.
Reliable reports from the Central Highlands indicate that only a few hundred thousand of our people remain. These reports also indicate that food is scarce, and there is a severe lack of medical care. With grim determination, the few remnants of our ancient race cling to life defying the murderous intent of the occupying forces on our lands, defying those who are committed to the cultural genocide, in which our people and our culture are diluted by alien influences. We are trapped in the cultural killing fields of the “Socialist Republic of Vietnam”.
According to the figures of Dr. Gerald C. Hickey, anthropologist, over 200,000 of the estimated one million Degar populations have been killed, and 85% of their villages have been either destroyed or abandoned. It must, however, be a higher figure than that, because during French colonialism the Degar people were numbered at over 3 million persons, and now our population is around 500,000. Our world has been shattered, and the very existence of our race and culture is threatened.
In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge have enjoyed similar successes, having executed our leader Y-Bham Enuol with his wife and children, and over 100 of his followers and their wives and children. We are facing literal extinction. We desperately need humanitarian aid and political support to promote our organization in the international community to be able to save our homeland, our culture, and our people. A few of the survivors of these killing fields of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam fled into the jungle after America left Vietnam to continue the fight for the freedom and the independence of the Degar people.
1986 – Two hundred FULRO fighters made their way to a Thai refugee camp and eventually were resettled in North Carolina, USA.
1992 – Four hundred FULRO fighters and their families contacted the U.N. peacekeeping forces in the Mondulkiri province of Cambodia. With no help from the outside world, they were forced to end their 17-year military struggle. They requested political asylum, handed over their weapons, and accepted resettlement in North Carolina.
From the bottom of our hearts, we would like to express our deep appreciation and thanks to the people and government of the United States for providing a sanctuary for these remnants of our people, who found their way to the shores of our former ally. To those Americans who fought by our side, and to those who are now supporting our humanitarian goals, we wish to say: “Your bravery is only surpassed by your loyalty and compassion”. But, we cannot forget the land on which we were raised, where the remains of our ancestors are mute witnesses to the continued genocide of our brothers and sisters who remain behind, suffering the consequences of a war, whose origins and motives were never clear to them.
CONTINUING THE STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL
Representatives of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam once made promises of independence to those Degar tribesmen foolish enough to fight for their cause. The failure to implement these promises should be a warning to those nations signing treaties and other agreements with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. In view of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’s genocidal policy it appears the implementation of the hollowing FULRO goals offers the only chance for the survival of the indigenous people of Vietnam:
The Degar people must be recognized as the legitimate owners of the Central Highlands.
The Vietnamese administration of the Central Highlands of Vietnam must be dismantled, and the occupying military forces must be withdrawn.
The Degar people’s sovereignty over the Central Highlands must be restored, and the independence of the Degar people must be guaranteed by the United Nations.
These goals were established by the free representatives of the Degar people, and cannot be rescinded by any assembly, which is under the control of an occupying power. In the long run, peace and harmony cannot be assured to any nation, which threatens the culture and survival of another. However, it is the sincere desire of the Degar people to live in peace and harmony with their Vietnamese neighbors. The long history of the Degar people attests to the sincerity of that desire.
While our military struggle has ended, we the Degar people who have escaped the battlefield have rededicated ourselves to save, by peaceful means, the families and culture we have left behind. So, we earnestly ask the world community who care about human beings and who have compassion enough to save the Degar race, to please assist us in any way you can, or we will be completely destroyed.
In 1983 the General Assembly called for the recognition of the following basic rights of indigenous populations:
To call themselves by their proper name and to express freely their own identity;
To have official status and to form their own representative organizations;
To maintain within the areas where they live traditional economic structure and way of life; this should in no way affect their right to participate freely on an equal basis in the economic, social and political development of the country;
To maintain and use their own language, wherever possible, for administration and education;
To enjoy freedom of religion or belief;
To have access to land and natural resources, particularly in the light of the fundamental importance of rights to land and natural resources to their traditions and aspirations; and
To structure, conduct and control their own educational system.
All of these rights have been taken from the Degar people. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam owns all our tribal lands and Degar lives remain in their They can murder us at any time, and no one in this world dares to stop them. We have brought our cause to the United Nations Working Group for the Indigenous Populations since 1993 but no one has dared to mention the wrong doings of the Vietnamese government. As defenseless Degar people, we cannot understand why the world care about people in Africa, South and North America, Kosovo, East Timor, Cambodia, etc…but not the Montagnard of the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
Since 1954, we the Montagnard people have shown the world that we do not want to be under the domination of the Vietnamese since we know what then happens to our people and our lands.
But, we have been forced to live under their control against our will. During the first Indochina war, we the Montagnards could not fight the Vietnamese because of their relationship with France. It was the same during the second Indochina war – we could not fight the Vietnamese who encroached on our lands because of their relationship with the United States. With the departure of the Americans, our plight has become even worse. We no longer have benevolent outsiders in control of our lives and our lands. There has been nothing to prevent the Vietnamese Communists from pursuing a full-fledged campaign of cultural eradication and physical elimination of Montagnard ethnic autonomy and people.
The record shows that the Vietnamese government has forcibly dominated our territories since the French left Indochina in 1954. When the French left, we did not receive the right of self-determination. Moreover, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam joined the United Nations on September 20, 1977.
As a Member of the United Nations, the government of Vietnam must carry out all of the obligations that have been outlined in the Charter of the United Nations and especially the Article 73 of Chapter XI of the Charter that states as follow:
Members of the United Nations which have or assumed responsibilities for the administration of territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount, and accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost, within the system of international peace and security established by the present Charter, the well being of the inhabitants of these territories, and, to this end:
a) To ensure, with due respect for the culture of the peoples concerned, their political, economic, social, and educational advancement, their just treatment, and their protection against abuses;
b) To develop self-government, to take due account of the political aspirations of these peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions, according to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and their varying stages of advancement;
c) To further international peace and security;
d) To promote constructive measures of development, to encourage research, and to cooperate with one another and, when and where appropriate, with specialized international bodies with a view to the practical achievement of the social, economic, and scientific purposes set forth in this Article; and
e) To transmit regularly to the Secretary-General for information purposes, subject to such limitation as security and constitutional considerations may require, statistical and other information of a technical nature relating to economic, social, and educational conditions in the territories for which they are respectively responsible other than those territories to which Chapter XII and XIII apply.
Chapter II, Article 6 of the United Nations Charter states that:
A member of the United Nations which has persistently violated the principles contained in the present Charter may be expelled from the Organization by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam has consistently, deliberately, defied the moral and legal authority of the
Article 1 of Bao Dai’s ordinance stated “The non-Vietnamese populations living on territories called Montagnard country of the South P.M.S. (Pays Montagnards du Sud) receive, by this ordinance, a special statute to be destined to guarantee at the same time the eminent rights of Vietnam and the free evolution of these populations in the respect of their traditions and of their customs”.
As a Member of the United Nations, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam must respect the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples like the rest of the State Members of the United Nations. The Declaration declares as follow:
The subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights, is contrary to the Charter of the United Nations and is an impediment to the promotion of world peace and co-operation.
All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
Inadequacy of political, economic, social or educational preparedness should never serve as a pretext for delaying independence.
All armed action or repressive measures of all kinds directed against dependent peoples shall cease in order to enable them to exercise peacefully and freely their right to complete independence, and the integrity of their national territory shall be respected.
Immediate steps shall be taken, in Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories or all other territories which have not yet attained independence, to transfer all powers to the peoples of those territories, without any conditions or reservations, in accordance with their freely expressed will and desire, without any distinction as to race, creed or color, in order to enable them to enjoy complete independence and freedom.
Any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
All States shall observe faithfully and strictly the provisions of the Charter of the Unite Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the present Declaration on the basis of equality, non-interference in the internal affairs of all States, and respect for the sovereign rights of all peoples and their territorial integrity.
We the Degar people of Southeast Asia, plead with the United Nations to monitor and advise the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to follow the principles and rules of this organization, and to end the genocidal violation of the human rights, indigenous rights, and land rights of the Degar people in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam has also ratified both the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of the United Nation on September 24, 1982. Moreover, they ratified the International Covenant on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination on June 9, 1982, and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide on June 9, 1981. The provisions of the Covenants are binding on the States that ratify them. The rights they recognize are expected to be law in those States. For this reason, the Covenants contain “measures of implementation” – arrangements for international review of the way in which States carry out their obligations under the Covenants. Part 1 Article 1 of both ICESCR and ICCPR state that: 1. All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right, they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. 2. All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international law. In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence. 3. The States Parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of non-self-governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam has violated all of the provisions of these binding covenants. It has tenaciously resisted the granting of access to many humanitarian organizations that have asked to travel to the Central Highlands of Vietnam. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam has confiscated supplies distributed to the Degar people, as soon as the representatives of these humanitarian organizations had left the area.
In the light of all the facts above, the Degar people are subject to the colonialism of the Vietnamese. The Vietnamese government has assumed responsibilities for the administration of our territories since the French left Indochina in 1954. Our peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government; therefore, we deserve the support and assistance of the United Nations and the peoples of the world to liberate our homeland from this Vietnamese colonization. At the present time, unable to “fight” from within, we must turn to the outside world for help. So please help us before we are completely annihilated by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
The Montagnard Foundation, based in South Carolina, of the United States of America, was founded to protect those Degar people, who still remain in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, having survived over half a century of warfare and oppression. It is an organization dedicated to the peace, with which our people have always welcomed visitors to our country. It is an organization dedicated to the preservation of the remaining fragment of the Degar culture, in harmony with the objectives of the United Nations.
Mr. Kok Ksor, a member of the FULRO liberation movement since 1964, is currently The President of this foundation. Mr. Ksor was sent to the United States by the founder, and leader of FULRO, General Y-Bham Enuol, with a mission of gaining world assistance for the Degar people. He was directed and empowered by the General to explore every peaceful avenue for the reinstatement of the legitimate rights of the Degar people under international law.
The United Nations declared 1993 “The year of indigenous people”. In accordance with his mandate, Mr. Ksor brought the plight of the Degar people before the 1993 Human Rights Workshop in Geneva, Switzerland. For a brief moment, he asked the nations of the world to look at the Central Highlands of Vietnam. He asked his brothers and sisters on this small planet to look with compassion toward that remote corner of the world, where an ancient people is struggling against extinction under the heavy burden of an illegitimate occupation force. For a brief moment, he asked the delegates of this organization, in whose dedication to justice all of the nations of this earth place their hope, to listen to the words of that renowned anthropologist, Gerald Hickey, when he says: “One hopes against hope, but the inescapable conclusion is that the highland people, their way of life, and their world are passing into the strange twilight between zero and infinity”.
It is time again to look at the tragedy being played out in those ancient homelands of the Degar, the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Since the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has failed to do so, we call upon these United Nations to guarantee the survival, self-determination, and protection of our ancient indigenous and aboriginal people. It is time again to look at the Degar people, who have survived the battles of decades of destructive warfare. It is time to support those of us who have dedicated ourselves to save by peaceful means, the families and cultures that we were forced to leave behind.
In 1948, the General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The Convention, which became effective in 1951, declared genocide to be a crime under international law, whether committed in time of peace or war. All of the evidence from the Central Highlands of Vietnam points to the inescapable conclusion that the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has engaged and is continuing to engage in genocide against the indigenous people of that ancient homeland. We therefore ask the General Assembly of the United Nations to consider the Socialist Republic of Vietnam as one of the Country Specific Mandates of the United Nations.
We, the Degar people of Southeast Asia, cannot alone survive under the attempt of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to exterminate us physically and spiritually. We cannot survive the occupation of our farmlands, the destruction of our ecosystem, this slow and painful death sentence.
We say to the entire world, before this great, inspired organization dedicated to peace, to bring that lofty idealism, which remains the driving force behind the United Nations, to reflect on our desperate plight.
We call especially on those, who were indirectly involved in the conflicts raging over our land, to use their influence to help us. We call on the Peoples Republic of China, and the Russian Federation to use their good offices with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to moderate the harsh conditions under which we are forced to struggle for survival. We call upon the former members of the International Control Commission: India, Canada, and Poland, to support us in our humanitarian plea.
Most of all, we look to you, our former comrades in arms, to France and the United States of America. We call upon you to prove to your current allies, and to those nations with whom you might seek alliances in the future, that you will never abandon them to total destruction. We call upon you to show the world, that your allies can safely rely on your promises, and that they will not be doomed to extinction by giving you their trust.
It will soon be too late to help us in our struggle to survive extinction. Already, there are very few left of some of the forty distinct and recognizable aboriginal groups who flourished in Vietnam only a short while ago. Choose now, to help us in this hour of our desperate need. Choose now, to prove to your current allies, that your dedication to high ideals is no empty boast. Choose now, to show your present allies that your alliances are not one-way, deeds and streets.
We are facing extinction. We desperately need human rights, humanitarian aid and the support of those nations that truly believe in the divinely inspired mission of these United Nations. Grant us your help to save our homeland, our culture, and our people. It is not yet too late, but time is running out quickly. Those who do not help us now may one day, many years or centuries from now, face a similar, equally desperate challenge. What will the other nations say to you then, as you appeal to them urgently for help? As you sow in the present, so you shall reap in your hour of need.
The Montagnard people have lived in the Central Highlands for thousands of years. The Vietnamese moved one million persons into our lands from 1956-1975 and more than ten million after 1975. We welcomed them and helped them to survive. Why did they repay our kindness with genocide?
Our people fought and died for French colonialism and we treated them like brothers. Why did they, in turn, give their support to the Vietnamese? Why did the French give our land away and can they now repay us with help in our greatest hour of need?
We fought and died for the Americans as loyal allies and they also promised us our freedom. But they left our country and our people to be killed by both sides of the Vietnamese conflict.
Why do the people of the world choose to protect certain races and not others? Why are the Degar people not worth saving and European people and other countries are? Have we not proved our value? Many people are remorseful of the disappearance of Native American culture and deeply regret the atrocities dealt to them. They say that they wish they could only go back in time and change things. But here we are and this is the present. It is the same situation. Will anyone regret the loss of our culture a hundred years from now? What will they be able to do then? It will be too late. We are forbidden from building our longhouses, electing chiefs, wearing our traditional clothes, speaking our language, and participating in our ceremonies and festivities. We are not allowed to retain anything that is distinctly ours. We are dying at an alarming rate and our culture is disappearing. If the Vietnamese are not stopped, it is certain that this will be the last generation for the Degar culture.
We are the rightful owners of the land that the Vietnamese have taken. They have only lived there a short time. Why should anyone be concerned about the effects of dispossessing the Vietnamese who are foreigners and newcomers to our homeland, when no one cares about the effects of dispossessing our people who have lived there for thousands of years? We are on our hands and knees, begging someone to help us. We are only asking for what is rightfully ours. We just want to be allowed to live freely and peacefully. Is there any one in this world who will help the Degar people?