A Vietnamese Montagnard Christian has been sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for charges of ‘succession and incitement’ due to his prayer meetings held at home.
Nay Y Blang, a 48-year-old member of the Central Highlands Evangelical Church of Christ, was convicted on January 26th. Local media reported that Mr. Blang was denied legal representation and found guilty of inciting others to ‘infringe upon the State’s interests.
This is not the first time Mr. Blang has faced punishment for practicing his faith. In April 2005, Phu Yen province sentenced him to five-and-a-half years for ‘undermining the unity policy.’ In September 2022, the People’s Committee of Song Hinh district fined him four million Vietnamese Dong (approximately GBP 130) for ‘abusing democratic freedoms and belief freedoms.’
The Central Highlands Evangelical Church of Christ members belong to the Montagnard minority ethnic group, comprising around 30 indigenous tribes. Most Montagnards are Christians and reside in the central highlands of Vietnam. They have a long history of conflict with the Vietnamese government.
On January 22nd, authorities in the Central Highlands concluded a four-day trial that resulted in the conviction of over 100 Montagnards on various terrorism-related charges. This trial followed an attack on provincial Communist party offices in Dak Lak, Vietnam, on June 11th, 2023, which resulted in the deaths of nine individuals, including local party officials and police officers.
Ten Montagnards were sentenced to life imprisonment, while other sentences ranged from three-and-a-half to 20 years in prison. Additionally, several Montagnard human rights activists who are based overseas were charged in absentia.
Since the June attacks, the Vietnamese government has been arresting Montagnard pastors, unlawfully seizing land owned by Montagnards, demolishing churches, and designating human rights groups like Montagnards Stand for Justice as terrorist organizations.