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(Note: Translated from Ede, this December 2001 petition was written prior to the outbreak of unrest in the Central Highlands in February 2001. The names of the village and the petitioners have been withheld to protect the security of the sources.)

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A Report of the Cruel Action against the Tribal People in the Highlands

We represent the Dega people who are living in the collective village of X in Krong Ana district, Dak Lak province. We would like to report all the oppressive policies of the Hanoi government against our people, the Dega, as follows:

I. Summary of the lives of the Dega in X village-under the rule of the South Vietnamese government from the Presidency of Nguyen Van Thieu to the current government of the Vietnamese Communist.

1. Educated persons: The Hanoi regime sees educated Dega people as a real threat to their government so that they always look for an appropriate excuse to destroy them. During the French Indochina Colonial Government, the Vietnamese officials executed several of our educated people. Among of them were Mr. Y and Mr. J. These are the only true leaders we have ever had. But both of them were brutally killed at the hands of ethnic Vietnamese people.

2. After South Vietnam was overthrown by the Hanoi Regime in 1975, the Hanoi Regime established a systematic plan to oppress the Montagnard people in many ways. For example, the Hanoi government put all the Dega intelligentsia in jail, tortured and even killed them secretly in many places. Only a few of these prisoners of war were released. But after returning home, the prisoners of war only lived one or two years, then they all died unexpectedly. Others suffered from paralysis because they had been abused with poisonous injection during their time in the communist prisons.

Those who have worked for the former government of South Vietnam or served in military of the South Vietnamese government or were involved in the FULRO movement received especially bad treatment by the Hanoi government. At that time, some of the Dega also were put in jail just because they were suspected of having associated with the FULRO members. Actually, the Vietnamese people just hate our people without any reasons.

In dealing with those Dega who worked for their government, the dictatorship of Hanoi designed a clever plan for early retirement. They encouraged many of the Dega officials who had been actively working for them to receive an early retirement plan. But in reality, the Hanoi regime was only attempting to get rid all of the Dega leaders from their government system because they knew that sooner or later the Dega leaders would discover the inhumane policies the government had towards the Dega. As we have stated, all these Dega retirees were suffering from paralysis diseases. The Hanoi regime has no plan for caring for the health of these retired people.

They feel lonely and go on suffering in their own lives. They really have no future. As a result, all of these retired persons have passed away with pitiful and regrettable lives. Among of these retired persons were Mr. L, Mr. T, and Mr. R. They were the most outstanding teachers we have ever had and they contributed a great deal to the education of the Montagnard people today. But all of them have passed away secretly, including the case of Ama N, who served many years with the local police department.

Others great hero leaders such as Major General B and Major General N were also suffering from the disease of paralysis. And others such as Dr. N and Dr. K, they both have passed away because of suffering from serious ulcers. Today our Dega people have lost all of their most of the admirable and respected leaders. But we have never seen that Vietnamese leaders who has passed away for the same reasons.

3. Concerning the Montagnard students: After graduating from the same college or university with the Vietnamese students, Dega students have not been allowed to apply for any jobs in the government or apply for positions in their fields of study, because most of these Dega students belonged to the Protestant religion. They were also suspected of having associated with the South Vietnamese government or being related to the FULRO movement. So they were denied the rights to participate normally in any activities in the Vietnamese society.

In order to cover the true face of discrimination, the Hanoi government did appoint some of the Dega people, people who had a little schooling, to work for them. They trained these Dega workers just to give them just enough background of understanding so that they can easily handle and control them. They were not equipped with the real skills that they needed. It was possible to say that the Hanoi government verbally dominated and publicly eliminated our culture from the Vietnamese educational systems. The Dega students who were over the usual school age, were not allowed to enroll in the school even though they had a good relationship with their local government. As a result, there were more than 80 per cent of the Dega students who could not go to the school. This policy brought deep despair to the Dega students because they had no other place to go. The Hanoi government kept watching over the Dega students all the time.

4. Child birth issues: The Hanoi government has used false propaganda in talking about birth control with the Dega. They strongly encouraged our people to participate in birth control plans so that they can destroy the life of the baby and also to exterminate the whole of the Dega population. By doing this, they hope that they can have more land to occupy. As a result, those who participated in birth control programs, they have suffered too much pain and dizziness. Their bodies no longer functioned as they used to function, and the government did not pay any attention at all to their health.

5. Concerning the resettlement issues: Recently the Hanoi government resettled tens of thousands of the Vietnamese from the North. They occupied all of our land throughout the areas. There was nothing left for our people to live on. Therefore, the Hanoi government attempted to cover up this matter by introducing many projects.

First, they built a vocational school, a school of education for levels II and III, and colleges and universities everywhere in our land. Then they recruited just as many of the Vietnamese students as needed, but no Dega students.

Secondly they opened as many farm camps and the schools of forestry with the hope that they can:

a. occupy all the fertile land.

b. settle as many of the Viet people from the North as possible.

In 1985, the Hanoi government has opened as many farm camps and recruited as many of the Dega Montagnard workers, because most of these lands were owned by the Dega people. Therefore, during the seasons of planting and growing, the Hanoi government provided very little fertilizer to care for the crop and also provided only a few old tools to cultivate of the land. As a result, they could not receive good fruits from their labors. The coffee trees and the plants could not develop properly as expected. Therefore, the government decided that the Montagnard workers did not know how to take care of the crops.

Eventually, the government took all the lands back from the Montagnard workers and gave it to the Viet workers. Moreover, the government collected very high property taxes on the Montagnard landowners too. As a result, the Montagnard workers/owners felt like they could not afford to own the land any more.

In order to secure of all the land area, the government forced the Montagnard people to sign a release contract with the government by saying, "I will not take the land back and if I break my promise, I will be charged as a criminal for violating the laws of the land." Since that day, the government freely cultivated all the land as needed. As in the case of Y Village, more than ten of thousand Viet people from the North came to occupy the land around the area of that village. This new influx produced dozens of new villages. Under the policies of the resettlement in 1983 and 1984, the Hanoi government promised to establish a new area for the Montagnards of Village Y, but when this was completed they allowed the Viet people only to move in this new area, not the tribal people.

In the year 2000, the Hanoi government opened many new villages in the areas of Dak Mil and Dak Nong. The conflict over the land between the Viet people and the tribal people became more intense than ever. The tribal people have sent complaint letters to the local government officials but they were simply ignored. Instead of solving these problems, they sent these letters back to the Viet people. As a result, the Viet people from Nam Ngai came to settle in the land of Y and Z villages and the government also took all the land at Village D to build the School of Forestry Products. Then the government also confiscated a large cemetery of ours so that they can make up a lake in order to provide water to the coffee and rubber plantation areas.

On December 27, 1982, Mrs. Q wrote a letter complaining about her land of 3.45 hectares that had been taken over by the local government. Again, the government continued to ignore the complaint. The government built a camp at T, and put more Viet workers in this camp. These new settlers exploited all of the forest products in the area. They did not care whether or not the land already had the owner. These abuses resulted in fighting between the Viet and the tribal people of Village Y.

6. Concerning the Protestant religion: The Protestant faith is the only religion that is not allowed to be practiced by the tribal people. The Hanoi government is strongly opposed to the idea of worshiping God. No Protestant churches were allowed to be built. From 1975 until now, the Dega believers suffered far too much from persecution at the hands of the Hanoi government because of their deep belief in God. The church has been completely closed and has not been allowed to evangelize and spread the Word of God to the Dega people. They only allowed us to worship our God in our own heart, but not conduct meetings within the form of a church. As a result, when we got caught by the local government, we had to pay a penalty of one cow of for each individual believer at the meeting. Therefore, we had to hold secret meetings in our own houses.

As we reported, there were several times our believers were caught and punished by sending them to a hard labor camp. After completing the hard labor sentence in a camp, the government refused to issue us a release paper because they were afraid that we would show the letter to foreigners. They also called our pastors and church leaders to their offices regularly for interrogation.

They also brought us to stand in front of our people and forced us to make a public commitment that we would not continue to practice our religion any more. And if we did continue we would be expelled from the village. So, we attempted to ask the question as to why the government was so angry with us. But they only answered us that it was the laws and also the order from the central government.

In the case of Mr. H, when he listened to the preaching of the Word of God from the Bible broadcast from Manila, Philippines, the government took away his radio and did not return it. That really made it difficult to understand why the Vietnamese government was so strongly opposed to our religion and us. We did not do any thing wrong. People preach the word of God to us to give us new hope in our life, and they teach us not to provoke people and kill each other.

So we hope you will help us find out if there are any special laws provided to the Vietnamese people, that give them the right to continuously oppose our Dega Christianity. Please help us in this matter.

Written in Village X on December 15, 2000

Prepared by:

[Signatures and names of eight villagers follow]

508 Original Ede-language document, obtained by Human Rights Watch in July 2001, is on file at Human Rights Watch.

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