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Vietnam jails 100 for deadly attack on police station

Attack followed complaints of persecution against Christian Dega people
Activists hold banners during a demonstration against alleged human rights abuses to the Dega people (Montagnard hill tribe community) committed by the Vietnamese government, in front of the White House in Washington, DC, on July 10, 2023.

Activists hold banners during a demonstration against alleged human rights abuses to the Dega people (Montagnard hill tribe community) committed by the Vietnamese government, in front of the White House in Washington, DC, on July 10, 2023. (Photo: AFP)

Published: January 22, 2024 03:48 AM GMT
Updated: January 22, 2024 05:37 AM GMT

A Vietnamese court has jailed almost nearly 100 people after they were convicted on terrorism-related charges following attacks in June last year on a remote police station in the country's Central Highlands that left nine people dead, state media reported.

The People’s Court of Dak Lak sentenced 10 of the defendants to life imprisonment for “terrorism aimed at opposing the people’s administration, terrorism, organizing illegal exit or entry for others, and harboring criminals.”

Five defendants were jailed for 20 years and another two for 19 years on terrorism charges while other defendants, including six who are believed to have fled abroad were sentenced to between nine months and 18 years, Vietnam Plus reported.

Ninety-two defendants were ordered to pay compensation to agencies, and individuals who suffered “material and mental damage” and the official Vietnam News Agency said that a total of 100 people had been put on trial.

Prosecutors had recommended the death sentence for the group’s ringleaders.

The court heard that early on June 11, 2023, two groups of armed people attacked the headquarters of the People's Committees of Ea Tieu and Ea Ktur communes, including communal police offices, in Cu Kuin district, killing nine and injuring two.

Of the dead, four were police officers, two were commune officials and three were local people. Another two police officers sustained serious injuries. Police later confiscated 23 handguns and rifles, two grenades, more than a thousand bullets and other explosives.

However, sources outside of Vietnam said at the time of the attacks that the insurgents were Christian Dega who were protesting repressive tactics by local authorities which included the destruction of a church. A crackdown followed and the situation escalated.

Video sent to UCA News showed soldiers armed with semi-automatic weapons firing at will into compounds from where insurgents appeared to be firing back after they stormed police and political offices on motorbikes.

The court also ruled that most of the defendants committed their crimes due to a “lack of understanding” and this was blamed on “US-based reactionary groups” for attempting to lure, threaten or force them into launching the attacks.

Dega people are considered a part of the Montagnard hill tribe community who fought alongside the US and allied troops during the Vietnam War.

Many converted to Christianity and have complained bitterly of repressive state policies like religious persecution and expropriation of land by local officials.

The North Carolina-based Dega Central Highlands Organization had claimed Montagnard people had little choice but to demand their rights and interests, “as they could not bear further suffering,” adding: “They are suppressed, beaten, arrested and cornered daily.”

Vietnam is officially an atheist state.

Often, the Montagnards seek sanctuary during times of trouble in neighboring Cambodia but then Prime Minister Hun Sen was less than welcoming and expelled all Montagnards who had sought refuge after the violent clashes erupted.

Hun Sen also warned all organizations based in Cambodia against contacting the rebels adding they would face dissolution if found to be involved with the groups.

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