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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Chronology for Montagnards in Vietnam

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Date(s) Item
Dec 1990 The movie "Vesting of Honor" is based on a veteran's trip back to Thailand fifteen years later in order to honor a promise he made to the Montagnards, the hill peoples who supported the Americans during the Vietnam War and were left vulnerable once US forces withdrew. The movie was made as an Occasional Series to be telecast on Sunday on CBS. The co-producer of the movie, Michael Gross, a businessman involved in serving the Vietnam war said "This is one of those Vietnam stories that has yet to be told, really. The dislocation of their lives is still going on. One of their fervent desires is to be reunited with their families, and they hoped that this movie might help...I sometimes feel that if you want allies, you treat your old allies well and people form alliances with you because they trust you".
Sep 1992 Many American Vietnam veterans are trying to persuade the Bush Administration to bring Montagnard guerrillas in Cambodia to the United States. The Montagnards fought alongside Americans during the Vietnam war and the veterans want the US to repay them for their wartime loyalty (Philadelphia Inquirer, 09/20/92).
Oct 1992 Montagnard guerrillas who fought on the side of the US in the Vietnam war ended their long war against Hanoi and left their forests. Six MI-26 helicopters airlifted the guerrillas and their families -- 398 people altogether -- out of their sanctuary in Mondolkiri province in Cambodia and took them to UN protection centers in Phnom Penh for resettlement in the West. Before boarding the choppers, the last 15 armed guerrillas of a force of about 250 handed over their aged weapons to Uruguayan soldiers of the UN peace-keeping force. Colonel Peng Ayun, leader of the remnants of the United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races, a Montagnard guerrilla group better known by its French acronym, FULRO, then handed their flag to UN peace-keepers and renounced the war against Hanoi "We the Montagnard people ...have today put down our arms and have agreed to dismantle our military and political movement", said a handwritten statement issued by the group's leader. The Montagnards began their battle in 1964 and were later armed and trained by the CIA and US Special Forces to fight the Vietnamese communists. Indochina expert Nayan Chanda in his book Brother Army said FULRO received material support from the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s (AFP, 10/11/92). The UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia made contact with the Christian Montagnards in June at their stronghold some 40 km. from the border with Vietnam. The group, regarded with hostility not only by Hanoi but also by Phnom Penh, wrote asking for protection and to be moved from the forest. It later requested refugee status and resettlement in the US or France, an UNHCR official said (AFP, 10/11/92).
Nov 1992 Montagnard guerrillas from Vietnam came to the US for an emotional reunion with friends and families; old allies from an old conflict have been reunited.
Dec 1992 Several hundred refugees, relief workers and Green Beret Army veterans gathered during a weekend in mid-December in Greensboro, NC for a unique reunion. At center stage were the remnants of the Montagnard guerrillas. They were among America's most loyal allies in Vietnam and paid a heavy price -- US officials estimate that at least 200,000 Montagnards died in the war. Thousands more were executed or imprisoned after the communist takeover of South Vietnam in 1975. Some however, continued to fight the communists from jungle hideouts until just a few months ago. Now social workers are busy helping the Montagnard survivors get settled into apartments and communities. But the Montagnards say that they are haunted by memories of loved ones back in their homeland. Several hundred thousand, perhaps a million or more remain in Vietnam and still suffer at the hands of the Vietnamese, according to these refugees (National Public Radio, 12/17/92).
Apr 1993 Two Montagnard fighters on a months-long patrol into Vietnam returned to find their camp deserted. Four of their colleagues had been killed in a shootout with Vietnamese troops. The Montagnard fighters were told that their families were in America. Arrangements have been made by UN peace-keepers for the last two FULRO fighters to travel to the US to join their families.
Jun 1993 A two-year $100,000 anti-malaria education project for Vietnam's ethnic minorities was signed between CARE International and Vietnam's Ministry of Health (MoH). Most of the people living in malarial areas are ethnic minority groups, according to MoH. The project is designed to collect information on the knowledge, behavior, and cultural and social factors that affect the anti-malarial fight among ethnic minorities living in mountain provinces (Vietnam Investment Review, 06/21/93). The Deputy Mayor of Gia Lai stated that, "The life of the ethnic minorities has always been difficult, more so than for the ordinary Vietnamese" (Bangkok Post, 08/10/93).
Feb 1994 US President Clinton has lifted the long-standing trade embargo against Vietnam. The embargo was imposed in 1975 after the fall of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City). The move is seen as a first step towards the full normalization of relations (New York Times, 07/12/95)
Aug 1994 Reports indicate that the highlands (the area of residence of the Montagnards) have been demographically altered as the Vietnamese government has moved large numbers of lowland Vietnamese to the minority-dominated areas. Occasional skirmishes have been reported in the highland areas. No further details were available (International Defense Review, 08/01/94)
Sep 1994 The Montagnards that remain in Vietnam continue to live independently of mainstream Vietnamese society. They still maintain their own dialects and writing systems and most do not learn Vietnamese. They appear to exist on subsistence agriculture (New York Times, 09/04/94).
Jul 1995 Full diplomatic relations have been restored between the United States and Vietnam, twenty years after the pullout of the last American troops from Saigon. The establishment of diplomatic ties follows US President Clinton's 1994 removal of trade sanctions against Vietnam (New York Times, 07/12/95).
Nov 1995 Authorities indicate that there are 185,000 drug addicts in the country, up some 35,000 from 1993. Most of these are reported to be members of ethnic minorities who reside in the mountainous regions of northern Vietnam. Vietnam has emerged as a major transit country for drug traffickers moving heroin from the Golden Triangle area of Laos and Burma to markets in the west. Vietnam is cooperating with other regional and western states to reduce the traffic and it is also concentrating on diminishing the production of opium in its own country. These efforts have led to opposition from hills peoples who burnt down the home of a government official last year. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 11/25/95)
Mar 10, 1998 Information released during a hearing in the Senate indicated that as a result of Montagnards’s anti-communist struggle and their association with the US during the war in Vietnam, Montagnards continued to experience difficulties in everyday lives. The Vietnamese government, it is reported, interferes with the Montagnards applying for permission to emigrate to the US and restricts humanitarian assistance agencies from reaching the people who live in the highland of Vietnam. It is said further that Montagnards are forbidden to use the mail system, and they are denied access to jobs, housing and education. Discussion in the U.S. Senate reveals that the US administers a refugee program for Vietnam, called the “orderly departure program” (ODP). 486,000 Vietnamese have been processes directly from Vietnam to this program. Currently, there is a caseload awaiting processing which includes four categories of people, one of them being Montagnars.(Federal News Services)
Feb 2001 Montagnards demonstrated against the government asking for more land rights and religious freedom. (Human Rights Watch. 2002. "Human Rights Watch World Report 2002-Asia: Vietnam.")
Apr 10 - 16, 2004 Thousands of Montagnards staged a protest against the government during Easter week to demand religious freedom. Some demonstrators were arrested, beaten or killed in the violence stemming from the police response to the protest. (Human Rights Watch. 04/14/2004. "Vietnam: Violence against Montagnards During Easter Week Protests.")
Jul 20, 2005 101 Montagnards were repatriated to Vietnam from Cambodia, after being deemed political refugees by the UNHCR. (Japan Economic Newswire, 07/20/2005, "Montagnard asylum-seekers repatriated to Vietnam from Cambodia")
Apr 20, 2006 Police arrested two Montagnard students. They were detained for 18 days and were beaten, interrogated, and accused of sending lists of political prisoners over the internet (Human Rights Watch. 12/31/2006. "Essential Background: Overview of human rights issues in Vietnam." Human Rights Watch World Report 2007.)

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Information current as of July 16, 2010