April 8th, 2021
Dear Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh,
We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, are writing to urge the Vietnamese
government to take responsibility for, and to work diligently to resolve, the dysfunctional
statelessness and lack of educational opportunities for the Montagnard and Hmong Christian
The Hmong and Montagnard Christian population predominantly resides in Vietnam’s
mountainous Northern and Central Highlands. There are approximately 300,000 Hmong
Christians out of the 1 million ethnic population. These 300,000 Hmong Christians, as well as
many Montagnard Christians, have been religiously targeted and persecuted by the Vietnamese government for years. Due to the widely dispersed nature of the Montagnard Chrisitan population, there is no accurate count of the total Montagnard population in Vietnam. According to Vietnam’s Law on Belief and Religion, which was implemented on January 1, 2018, religious organizations must register to be recognized. While The United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief has stated previously that registration “should not be a precondition for practising one’s religion, but only for the acquisition of a legal personality and related benefits,” the government has persistently violated this principle in its behavior towards many governmentally unacknowledged religious communities such as the Hmong and Montagnard Christians.
For example, the government has consistently intimidated and even oftentimes resorted to
physical harassment and forceful removal of these ethnic minorities. Those who refused to
renounce their religious faith have often been expelled from their villages. Additionally, the
communist government has actively organized raids, physically denied the right to essential
documents such as birth certificates, household certificates, marriage certificates, ID registration, and contributed to the withholding of basic human rights. The cumulative effect of these actions is to render the victims functionally “stateless”.
The 2019 USCIRF Annual Report affirms that there are an estimated “2,000 Protestant Hmong and Montagnard households—approximately 10,000 individuals—in the Central Highlands” that are experiencing this persecution. These are 10,000 human beings being denied their fundamental rights, 10,000 lives being marginalized, and 10,000 Vietnamese being shunned by their own government. There are children among these 10,000 who are being directly and severely affected by these executive decisions. Without access to many of these primary documents they are prohibited from receiving an education, and because their parents are deniedthe means to earn a livelihood their hardship is further exacerbated Ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands region have the highest rates of illiteracy in the nation, and many students drop out before the seventh grade level. In the classroom, there have been cases where instructors line up the students, questioning their religious beliefs. Those whoare assumed to or admit that they follow a religion that is not accepted by the government risk having their families taxed and billed higher rates for tuition. These fees, in addition to the increasing school fees as students progress through the grades and the inability of the students’ families to work, make it impossible for students to pursue higher education. Since many a families are eventually unable to cover these added costs, their children have no choice but to drop out. In comparison to urban schools, ethnic minorities have far fewer instructional hours:
“Many schools in the highlands typically close at noon, which means that in order to get a good education, highlanders would need to pay for extra classes provided after hours by school teachers, who take on extra jobs offering tutoring or special classes for extra fees.”[Human Rights Watch]
In November 2020, a small measure of incremental progress was achieved when the ID
requirement to attend school was waived for three Hmong students in Area 179, Liêng Srônh
Commune, Đam Rông District, Lâm Đồng Province, Vietnam. It was a step in the right direction, but there are still thousands of school-age youths who are unable to attend school. With the coordinated voices of all the undersigned organizations below, we urgently call for the Vietnamese government — and especially you, Mr. Prime Minister, to take the next step to make ID cards and education accessible to all Hmong and Montagnard Christians. The provision of these essential documents will help to ensure that these students and families can receive their rightfully deserved basic human rights and live fruitful lives.
NextGen for a Better Future