Vietnam sentences hill tribe villagers for protest
A Vietnamese court has sentenced four ethnic minority villagers to up to six-years in jail for staging anti-government protests, state-controlled media reported Thursday.
The villagers from the Central Highlands province of Dak Nong were given jail terms ranging from two to six-years at Wednesday's one-day trial, the Quan Doi Nhan Dan (People's Army) newspaper said.
The court found the men guilty of inciting protests and helping more than 50 people flee the country into neighbouring Cambodia last year, it said. Their acts "made some people misunderstand the (Communist) Party's leadership and distorted the social economic development policy," the newspaper said.
Court officials were not available for comment Thursday. After completing their sentences, two of the men will be placed under an additional three-years of surveillance.
The Central Highlands has a history of unrest among ethnic minority hill tribes living there and was the scene of massive anti-government protests in 2001 and 2004.
During Easter 2004, thousands of villagers _ most of whom are Protestant _ mounted mass demonstrations in the provincial capitals of Dak Lak and Gia Lai provinces, pressing for land rights and religious freedoms.
Following a military crackdown, thousands of Montagnards, as the hill tribes are collectively known, fled to Cambodia and hundreds have been given political asylum in the United States. Many of the ethnic minorities in the area served as allies to the US during the war with the US.
Dozens of the villagers have been given hefty prison terms in connection with the protests or for organising an exodus of refugees to Cambodia.
The Associated Press - August 9, 2008