Ethnic Hmong whose protests have led to a deadly crackdown by Vietnamese troops are followers of two messianic cults, one of which believes the world will end this month, it is claimed. The protests began in Dien Bien, a remote mountainous area in north-eastern Vietnam, which has been sealed off by troops, with people prevented from entering or leaving and electricity and telecommunications were cut. The US advocacy group Centre for Public Policy Analysis said 63 people have been killed and hundreds wounded since the trouble started on April 30 when about 8,500 Hmong gathered in the border town of Muong Nhe to pray and protest. Most reports said the protesters were Christians, but the London-based rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said yesterday many were followers of the US-based Harold Camping cult, which – having originally said the world would end in 1994 – now believes it will happen on May 21. In addition, it said, two men claiming to be “Messiah” figures have appeared. Many Hmong have travelled to the area from other parts of the country, some from as far away as the Central Highlands, to follow the cults’ teaching, it added. Hmong mythology suggests that a Messiah will appear and establish a pan-Hmong kingdom. CSW said restriction of religious freedom imposed by the Vietnamese on the Hmong, including restricted access to conventional theological training and refusal to allow a Hmong-language Bible to be printed, means such cults spread easily. CSW’s advocacy director, Andrew Johnston, urged the Vietnamese authorities to show restraint and protect minority rights, including the right to religious freedom. “It is in their best interest to allow ethnic minorities better access to training, literature and legal Bibles so that they can protect themselves from cult teaching,” he said.