De Oppresso Liber
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Provide humanitarian assistance to Montagnard asylum seekers and refugees who have fled persecution in Vietnam. We also support Montagnard orphans in Kontum, Vietnam, and develop community programs to engage the future Montagnard leaders of tomorrow through projects such as Habitat for Humanity.
The indigenous peoples of Vietnam’s Central Highlands are often referred to as “Montagnard” or Mountain People. Other tribal names include, “Anak Cu Chiang” or “Dega” referring to the “Original People” of the Central Highlands. Their ancient peoples inhabited the coast of Vietnam and later migrated to the Central Highlands region where they lived for centuries. Their tribes speak Mon Khmer and Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian) languages. The ancient Malay Polynesian groups migrated from Polynesia and Indonesia, with the Mon Khmer speaking tribes migrating from Burma (Myanmar.)
The Malayo-Polynesian languages are spoken by the Rhade, Jarai, Chru, Rai (Seyu), Roglai, and Hroy. Mon Khmer languages include those spoken by the Bahnar, Rengao, Sedand, Halang, Jeh, Monom, Koho, and Chrau, Katu, Phuang, Bru and Pacoh.
Prior to 1800, the Central Highlands tribal peoples lived isolated in a highlands existence under a feudal system of government living peacefully with their own customs, culture and traditions in a village-centered society. They were separated from lowland cultures, and their spiritual life was rooted in their relationship with the land; the rivers, lakes, and forests. The life of the Montagnard “Anak Cu Chiang” peoples revolved around nature; the seasons, family, and village. Their weapons were crossbows and spears for hunting. For our transportation, they used horses and elephants.
There are over 28 tribal groups with the five major tribes being: Bahnar, Jarai, Rhade, Koho and Mnong. The early peoples believed in nature spirits and the divine, “Ae Die” (Grandfather Sky / God) was present in all creation.
In the last 200 years, the outsiders- the French, Vietnamese, Americans and present day Vietnamese government, used our ancestral land. Their land became a battlefield for over thirty years. During the French-Indochina and Vietnam wars (1945-1975), the Montagnard Indigenous Peoples were used as a tool of the war and their people became victims of the conflict on their ancestor’s land. As a result, more than a million Montagnards were killed and eighty-five percent of their villages were destroyed or abandoned. The Montagnards fought and died for France’s interests in Vietnam, for America, and especially for the dream of freedom which today, benefits all Vietnamese people in Vietnam.
April 30, 1975 until Present
After the North Vietnamese Communists took over South Vietnam; the Montagnard Indigenous Peoples who had survived the war continued to die under the Vietnam communist regime. Thousands of Montagnards were captured and executed by the Communist regime, or died in “re-education” prisons.
Over 12,000 Montagnards who escaped to the jungles of Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand continued fighting the Vietnamese Communists for 17 years from 1975-1992 with the name, “Front de Liberation des Hauts-Plateaux Montagnard (FLHPM). Of this group, only about 600 survived, the rest having been killed in military actions, eaten by tigers, snake bites, disease or starvation.
Today the Montagnard people have lost more than any other group in Vietnam. Human Rights Watch has produced several reports over the past 5 years, and they agree that the Montagnard Indigenous peoples of Vietnam are some of most “marginalized” people in that region of the world. They have had their ancestral lands literally stolen from them by the Vietnamese government. They hacve also lost their language, the right to have home churches, the right to access international scholarships for education and travel, and the right to operate traditional courts.
They are on the brink of losing their entire culture. Traditional ways of life have been systematically abolished. Development assistance, education, and humanitarian aid continue to be blocked and international observers are restricted from the Central Highlands. The Central Highlands has become a kind of prison for the Montagnard people with the Communist system of internal security and secret police. The Hanoi government considers the “Anak Cu Chiang” Montagnard indigenous peoples as a long term historical enemy. A campaign of “Vietnamization”, assimilation and “ethnic-cleansing” has continued to this very day. Many of the refugee’s and asylum seekers in present day Thailand and Cambodia were imprisoned for organizing house church services, and many of them were tortured repeatedly until they either renounce their religion, or they become so physically broken that they are then returned to their village to die.
In 2015, “Vietnam’s official media made it shockingly clear that persecution of religious minorities is state policy,” said Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) Asia director, Brad Adams, after the advocacy group released a report on Friday (26 June). Compiling interviews with Vietnamese ethnic Montagnards seeking asylum abroad, the report reveals the government’s deliberate actions to persecute the ethnic minority because of their desire to follow Christianity.
Finally, American’s have a very special responsibility and debt to these former allies who sacrificed so much because of their loyalty to our Special Forces units, other U.S. Army units, as well as the CIA. Over 50% of their military age men were killed during the Vietnam War working with us, and estimates are that over 200,000 innocent men, women and children were killed by the Viet Cong and NVA. When we abandoned these faithful allies in 1975, we left them all behind to suffer the wrath of the communist government. We owe them our very best efforts to help in pressing the Vietnamese government for changes in their policies of discrimination to the indigenous Montagnard peoples of the Central Highlands. We also have a responsibility to give assistance to the many asylum seekers and refugees who still are hiding in the jungles of Cambodia and Thailand, fearing the retribution of the Vietnamese government.
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