Y An Hdrue and another member of the Evangelical Church of Christ were forced to sign confessions.
RFA | 2022.12.27
The police in Dak Lak province detained religious freedom campaigner Y An Hdrue and a fellow worshiper as they tried to attend a Christmas service at the Evangelical Church of Christ.
The Protestant church is not one of the country’s approved religions and does not belong to the State-linked Vietnam Fatherland Front.
According to the Montagnard Stand for Justice Facebook page, early on Sunday morning, Y An Hdrue, 52, and fellow worshiper Y Pok Eban, 37, traveled to Cuor Knia 2 village in Buon Don district’s Ea Bar commune to attend a Christmas service at the invitation of the church.
The traffic police stopped them when they arrived, demanding to see their vehicle documents and driver's licenses.
Y An Hdrue is a former prisoner of conscience who served four years in prison for demanding religious freedom and fighting land grabs.
“Going to the gas station near Cuor Knia village, the traffic police and security forces stopped our motorbike and asked to check our papers,” he told RFA. “After checking our papers, they said they were fake."
Even though Y An Hdrue told them he had passed his driving test and been given a license by the police the two men were forced to go to Ea Bar commune’s police headquarters.
“They forced us into the commune. We were held from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. before we were allowed to go home,” he said.
During the 10 hours, a group of five to six plainclothes policemen took turns questioning the two men, Y An Hdrue said. The officers refused to give their names, positions and places of work.
The police confiscated the men’s phones and searched through the files on them. Y An Hdrue told RFA his phone contained the International Human Rights Law and Vietnam's Law on Religion and Belief as well as some documents reporting human rights violations in Vietnam that he had collected and sent to foreign human rights groups.
Before they were released the two were forced to sign confessions.
Y An Hdrue admitted to storing information about human rights violations in Vietnam on his phone. The police then returned their papers and ordered them to drive home, keeping their phones.
Speaking from the U.S., Pastor Aga of the Central Highlands Evangelical Church of Christ told RFA followers in Dak Lak province had planned to celebrate Christmas at the house of Ea Bar commune vice president Y Kreek Bya.
He said members of the congregation told him the police warned them not to attend the service.
“The Provincial Police called to threaten them, saying that if they left their homes to go to Cuor Knia village where Y Kreek Bya was, they would be sent to prison, making them very scared and confused,” he said. “Some people still went and some had their phones and motorbikes confiscated.”
Pastor Aga said some followers hung a celebratory banner written in the Ede language at Y Kreek’s house but local authorities sent someone to take it down.
Even after harassment by the police and local authorities, he said many believers from Ea Bar commune still attended the Christmas service.
RFA called the police in Buon Don district and Dak Lak province several times to try to verify the information, but no one answered the phone.
The Vietnamese government has repeatedly accused the Central Highlands Evangelical Church of Christ of being reactionary and anti-State.
In January the People's Public Security newspaper published an article on its website accusing the religion of gathering dignitaries and ethnic minority followers in the Central Highlands and the U.S. "to establish their own religion and ethnic minority state in the Central Highlands," a claim the Evangelical Church has denied.
On Dec. 2, the U.S. State Department included Vietnam in the group of countries on its Special Watch List for religious freedom.
The State Department said there are not enough violations of religious freedom to label Vietnam a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) which is the highest level of censure for countries that violate religious freedom. However, it said it would monitor the government closely and add it to the CPC if there was no improvement.
Translated by RFA Vietnamese. Written in English by Mike Firn.
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