By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife)– A young Montagnard Christian man has died in a Vietnamese prison because of torture and abuse, the latest in a series of attacks on Christian prisoners in the communist-run nation, representatives said Wednesday, April 28.
The Christian, identified as Christian named 31-year-old K’pa Lot, died March 11 but details only emerged much later, suggested the Montagnard Foundation Incorporated (MFI), which represents the predominantly Degar-Montagnards, an ethnic group living mainly in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
“Security officials have long hid the abuse and attempted to cover-up the circumstances surrounding his death,” said MFI.
K’pa Lot, from the village of Plei Thoh in Gia Lai province, was detained in May, 2007, for “publicly supporting religious freedom” and moved to a prison in Phu Yen province MFI said.
After a period of abuse there and “on the verge of death from internal bleeding, K’Pa Lot was taken to a hospital in Pleiku city on March 9” shortly before he died, MFI said.
“When Lot Kpa’s family saw him, they could not recognize him. He was swollen and bruises were all over his body and face. He could not move, eat, and could barely speak. Security forces stood guard during the family’s visitation. K’Pa Lot whispered to his wife
in his native language and told her about how he was regularly tortured inside prison,” MFI told BosNewsLife in a statement.
“He stated he was mistreated and beaten on a daily basis by the authorities. He said they beat him with whatever they had in their hands as if they wanted him to die.”
MFI said that the “beating sessions were kept secret.” The Christian was allegedly kept apart from the rest of the prison population “and hidden whenever community and international agencies came to monitor prison conditions.”
When he eventually died on March 11, at 10am local time, “security officials forced the family to quickly bury his body…saying that he needed to be buried soon because of his sins. The family cried and pleaded with the security forces to allow them to take the body home for a proper burial, but the security officials refused,” MFI added
The next day, K’Pa Lot was reportedly buried with seven security forces surrounding the site.
“Security officials were very careful to prevent any evidence from being obtained regarding their abuse of K’pa Lot.” K’Pa Lot is survived by his wife, H’Nguen and two children, H’Danh and Y-Ly, MFI said.
Vietnamese officials have not commented on the latest case. However previously Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry said MFI “noisily exaggerated so-called ‘demonstrations of the ethnic minority people in the Central Highland against religious repression and land confiscation’.
Several rights groups, including Amnesty International, have also expressed concerns about the treatment of Degar-Montagnards. MFI said is has urged the US State Department, European Commission, United Nations, Red Cross and other international humanitarian agencies “to investigate K’pa Lot death and do everything in their power to prevent the hundreds of other Montagnards in prison from suffering a similar fate.”
The Communist government of Vietnam has allowed some evangelical meetings including in March when American evangelist Luis Palau visited the nation, however church groups say a crackdown continues in other areas of the country.
Local authorities view the uncontrolled spread of Christianity, especially among ethnic minorities, as a threat to their power-base, according to rights activists.