May 16, 2011

Hmong: Worst Ethnic Violence for Seven Years

Hundreds of Hmong people are still in hiding in north-west Vietnam a week after authorities clamped down on a religious gathering. 

Below is an article published by the BBC:

Hmong Pastor Thao A Tam said the security forces had arrested more than 100 people over the violence.

Officials said "extremists" had been detained - but gave no exact figures.

Thousands of Hmong people clashed with security forces in Dien Bien province last week, in the worst ethnic violence for seven years.

Pastor Tam said thousands of Hmong had travelled to a small area in Dien Bien province late last month because they had heard a rumour that the second coming of Jesus Christ was imminent.

But the Communist authorities sent in the security forces to break up the gathering, sparking days of violent confrontations.

Earlier reports said the protests by the Hmong were politically motivated, and that their demands included more religious freedom, better land rights and more autonomy.

Pastor Tam - one of the few outsiders to have reached the area where the violence broke out - said at least 600 people had fled into hiding after the unrest.

"There are people in hiding and I still don't know what needs to be done to persuade them to go home," he said.

He said many Hmong returned to their home villages to find that their houses had been looted.

"It will take at least six months for things to get back to normal," he said.

"The Hmong people are in a difficult situation now, especially when it comes to making a living."

The Hmong communities in Vietnam's mountainous north-west are among the poorest people in the country.

They have a relationship of mutual mistrust with the government.

Many of the Hmong fought on the side of the United States during the Vietnam War, and they feel they are discriminated against because of their past.