"Our brother Oi Kjoh, from the village of Buon Dang, was attacked by a Vietnamese security police who sprayed him directly in the eyes with tear gas," earlier this month, said Kok Ksor, the president of advocacy group Montagnard Foundation Incorporated (MFI).
Police, "shocked him with an electrical baton and mercilessly beat him from head to toe to unconsciousness. The police feared that they had killed him and immediately took him to a clinic close by in the district of Ia Hleo," Ksor added. "At this time his condition is unknown."
He was among Degar-Montagnards who gathered since April 11 in several villages of the region, including in Ploi Bang, Ploi Beng and Ploi Kom, where dozens of protesters demanded the release of demonstrators Puih H’Bat, Ksor Sim and Rahlan Don who "were unjustly arrested earlier that morning," said Ksor.
"They were confronted by hostile and aggressive security police denying them entrance into the communal office," he added. "When the protestors refused to leave the vicinity, the security police responded with the arrest two of our Christian brothers, Ksor Ien and Rahlan Toi."
The Christians were reportedly placed in a prison facility located in the district of Ia Grai. "The remaining believers who continued their protest were physically forced back to their homes at which time ending the protest...To prevent any further protesting, the villagers were then confined to their homes to such an extent that no one was allowed to leave for food or water," he added.
Other demonstrations have been held in Central Highland villages in the Cu Se area where hundreds of security forces and government supporters surrounded three Degar-Montagnard villages, according to MFI investigators. "They were fully armed with military war equipments which also included electrical batons, swords, and machetes..."Ksor said.
"The Vietnamese civilians, on the other hand, were carrying makeshift weapons such as metal rods, wooden sticks with protruding nails, bamboo sticks, shovels, machetes, swords and rocks."
Protests also spread to the commune of Ia Hleo, where hundreds of Degar-Montagnard Christians demanded the release of recently detained fellow known Christian protesters Puih H’Bat, Ksor Sim and Rahlan Don and the freedom for some 350 Christian Degar Montagnards "who are held in the brutal and inhumane Vietnamese prisons" many of them since 2001, Ksor said.
Demonstrations have also focused on the "freedom to worship their God and manage their own independent churches," outside the Communist-backed denominations. They also demand the "right to their ancestral lands and manage their own local business among themselves to control their own lives," Ksor told BosNewsLife.
Among others detained was Christian Siu Bhiao, 22, from Buon Dang village, who MFI said "was attacked by a Vietnamese security police who wacked him on the head with a sword. His injuries were so severe that he required immediate medical attention in the district of Ia Hleo." In addition, Un Adrong, from the same village "was wacked with a machete to unconsciousness by the Vietnamese security police. They also took him to a clinic in the nearby district of Ia Hleo."
Another demonstrator, Siu Thai, from Buon Sam village, "was sprayed with tear gas in his eyes and then violently and brutally beaten with a police baton, wooden stick, and stock of a rifle until he fell to the ground unconscious," before being hospitalized, according to MFI accounts. Fellow villagers Nai Moi, Ro-o Blol, Siu Hlor, Ksor Jak and Ksor Mrak were also beaten or attacked with a knife, suffering serious injuries, MFI said.
36-year-old Siu Luang, from Ploi Mnang village in Gialai province was attacked while he was helping fellow injured protesters. A woman, 53-year-old Siu H’Ngoi from Buon Sam village experienced a similar treatment. The precise number of casualties remain unknown as protesters are reluctant to seek medical treatment, amid fears of "being poisoned and murdered by Vietnamese doctor and nurses," Ksor claimed.
The reported government crackdown on Degar-Montagnards have been linked to the spread of Christianity among this group, and their support for United States troops during the Vietnam War. Vietnamese officials have denied rights abuses and accuse MFI and other groups of spreading propaganda. (With BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos).