At last, Dan was about to leave for a country which was supposed to offer him a haven.   

21 May 2019

Amnesty International Thailand

Dan (a pseudonym), a 15-year-old-boy, has eventually brought himself to leave his hometown for Thailand as pleaded by his parents. His father, a Christian leader in his village, was being subject to persecution and harassment by the Vietnamese government being accused of a “threat to national security”.   


At last, Dan was about to leave for a country which was supposed to offer him a haven.   


The 15-year-old-Dan decided to flee from his ethnic Montagnard village of Central Highlands in Vietnam to Thailand in January 2015.   


Dan continued to perform his religious practice on Sundays at the church together with other ethnic Montagnards who resided in a province in Thailand. 


Upon his arrival in Thailand, Dan took up construction work, road cleaning, and coconut shelling to eke out his living. Two years later, he got to study English with a volunteer in a community and began working as a paralegal for a refugee relief organization in Thailand. 


Dan has now been granted a refugee status and his dream of securing a safe refuge looks more imminent.   


My father was subject to torture by the Vietnamese authorities, a few months after I was gone  


July the same year that he had decided to flee, Dan was informed by his family that his parents were summoned to the police station. As his mother was later released, his father was put into custody and subject to torture for eight months. He was forced to confess to committing a crime against national security as alleged by the Vietnamese authorities. He has been in jail until now. 


His father was not the first victim in his family, though. It has happened with his uncle and grandfather before. After being discharged from the prison in 2007, his grandfather told him that he had been charged for conspiring to overthrow the Vietnamese government simply because he was a missionary teaching religion to the children in his diocese.   


The Christianity adhered to by the ethnic Montagnard is viewed as a ‘monster’ by the Vietnamese authorities. 


The problems stem from the attitude of the Vietnamese authorities. It has been taken for granted for so long that Christianity is a ‘foreign religion’ and the Vietnamese government has been upholding the policy to restrict religions which are perceived as being ‘the path of the devil’ including Christianity held onto by the ethnic Montagnard for a long time.   


The Vietnamese government has been targeting Christians alleging that they are part of a political movement and is involved with a hostile act against national security.   


From 2014 to early 2015, the police and other authorities have summoned and held in custody a number of ethnic Montagnards for their investigation on activities related to Christianity and politics as well as their plans to flee from Vietnam. Many are put into custody for months and during the interrogation, they have been either slapped or punched in their faces by the police officers.  


“In Vietnam, we never felt safe while being in the church. We were saying pray while always terrified. We had to stay alert all the time. It robbed us calmness when concentrating on the worshipping of God. We were scared. But for people who have fled to Thailand, they could manage to find such calmness. They need not stay alert while singing or saying prayer. Some even broke down overwhelmingly. Dan told WAY Magazine in February 2019. 


Amnesty Pressures Interior Ministry to Release Montagnard Refugees 

In September 2018 Amnesty International submitted an open letter to Thailand’s Interior Minister in calling for the release of at least 168 Montagnard refugees and other refugees whom Thai authorities raided and arrested at their residence in Nonthaburi province.